On Cruising the River Danube: Part 4 of 4

This is the last installment about the cruise we took on the Danube River this past summer. It was a fabulous trip. Besides recommending it, we look forward to our next river cruise (whenever and wherever it may be).

When moving downriver from Germany, changes in socio-economics in easily seen. Especially in Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania. However, these countries also offer many wonderful sights to visit. This part travel from Belogradchik to Bucharest

 

Belogradchik, Bulgaria

Located atop the foothills of the Balkan Mountains, Belogradchik is a small town with two unexpected sites: interesting natural rock formations (Belogradchik Rocks) and an ancient fortress built within the rocks (Belogradchik Fortress).

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Cetate, Romania

Describing our several hours in Cetate is difficult. Listening to the poet who was a dissident during Romania’s Communist era was enlightening. To me, the part of Cetate that we saw felt like a commune – but it isn’t. They grow many of their own crops, nurture their own livestock, make wine from their organic groups, and promote their own art. Here’s Cetate’s website.

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Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

We spent the day on a bus trip into Bulgaria from Rousse. As the City of the Tsars, Veliko Tarnovo is home to castle of Bugarian kings. After lunch, we hiked up to the castle for wonderful views of the city and surrounding region.

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Arbanassi, Bulgaria

Located above Veliko Tarnovo, Arbanassi is a village with an old church that has unique frescos. Because photography was not permitted inside the Church of the Nativity of Christ, click here for a link to Google Images search result.

 

Bucharest, Romania

After disembarking the ship in Oltenita, Bucharest is about a 90-minute bus ride. As Romania’s capital and largest city, Bucharest is busy. To me, it’s a big city without much to offer. Sure their is the second largest Parliament building in the world, the Avenue of the Fountains, old palace, and a vibrant Old Town sector, but our highlight was the food tour we took in the evening through a local neighborhood.

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Hope you enjoyed the 4-post trip down the River Danube. I don’t know if I’ll return to Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania, but I’m very glad that I got there at least once.

Previous Posts

Part 1 (Prague to Linz)
Part 2 (Melk to Budapest)
Part 3 (Budapest to Iron Gates Gorge)

On Cruising the River Danube: Part 3 of 4

 Please excuse the interruption, but a beach walk will return next week. 

………..

Because we cruised 75-80% of the Danube, parts 3 and 4 of this series features the lower Danube -downriver from Budapest  through Hungary to Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania. This portion of the river is less travelled by river cruisers.

 

Budapest, Hungary

As I mentioned in the previous post, Budapest was our halfway point. We hiked the top of a hill on the Buda side for an awesome view of the city. Visited the nearby Cave Church. The view of Budapest at night is spectacular, and a must-do for visitors.

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Pecs, Hungary

Located about a 40 minute bus ride from our dock in Mochas, Pecs (PAY-ch) is Hungary’s fifth largest city. It’s early Christian necropolis is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the location of interesting archeological excavations.

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Belgrade, Serbia

I recall Belgrade as the capital of Yugoslavia. Although not dominated by the Soviet Union, Marshall Tito had a different view of Communism – so Yugoslavia remained an arm-length from the USSR. Belgrade pleasantly surprised me.

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Donji Milanovac, Serbia

This small town served as a base for the 20-minute bus ride to an archeological site (Lepenski Vir) dating back to 6000 BCE. That’s old! Thought is that the culture worshipped the mountain. Before docking in the town, the ship passed the museum. The actual site is now well below the water level.

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Iron Gates Gorge

The Iron Gates is a spectacular natural beauty separating Romania and Serbia. From the time we entered the region at 7 AM, there’s no better view than from the ship’s top deck. For me, this region served as one of my top highlights of the trip.

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Previous Posts

  • Part 1 (Prague to Linz)
  • Part 2 (Melk to Budapest)

On Cruising the River Danube: Part 1 of 4

Our first river cruise was a good one, so thought I’d share a bit of it with you. My first thought was 2 posts: the Upper and Lower Danube – but those posts would be too long with too many pics in each post. (That’s a self-imposed standard.)  So, I’ve decided to spread this trip over 4 posts, but in order of occurrence. This post features Prague to Linz.

 

Prague, Czech Republic

Although not located on the Danube, Prague is a common beginning (or end) point for Upper Danube cruises. We first visited Prague last year at the start of our Rick Steves tour. Because we loved it this city by the River Vltava , we didn’t mind returning. For more details and images of Prague, here’s a past post.

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Terezin, Czech Republic

Until last year’s trip, I had never heard of Terezin until our guide mentioned it. After reading about it in Madeleine Albright’s Prague Winter, and then watching a documentary on it, I couldn’t pass a tour opportunity to visit. Terezin served as a town and a military installation. The Nazis took it over and turned it into a “model city” for interned Jews. It is an interesting, yet horrific, story. I’ve very glad I visited.

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Regensburg, Germany

A bit more than a two-hour bus ride from Prague (and before boarding the Avalon Passion), we spent the afternoon in Regensburg. Because it wasn’t bombed in WW2, it’s medieval city is still intact – and vibrant!

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Passau, Germany

Our first cruise stop was Passau. This city of three rivers is where the Danube, Inn, and Ilz rivers meet. Interesting how the Inn’s murky water affects the Danube from this point and beyond. (From here down, it’s not blue.) Someone saved a young Adolph Hitler from drowning in the Inn.  After an Old Town tour, we hiked up to the castle for a scenic view.

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Linz, Austria

Linz is one of the larger cities in Austria. Although not one of my favorite stops, my dad was part of the army that liberated Linz in WW2. From Linz, some passengers went to Salzburg. Because my wife is a mega Sound of Music fan, she wanted more than a couple of hours.

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On Returning from Blog Break Summer 2019

 

Greetings! For whatever reason, this song popped into my mind while preparing this post – so hey – why not use it!

Image from 123vectors.com

Hoping everyone is in good health and spirits as we continue on the trek toward fall. Then again, those in the southern hemisphere are moving toward spring! I missed everyone – then again, I continue to embrace Blog breaks are good as an important mantra. Time to hit the Play button.

I’ll be back in the blog saddle for about 5 weeks because something expected popped into my life that requires a 2-3 week hiatus. Thankfully, not a serious concern.

To celebrate a return, let’s jump into a Weekend Concert featuring songs by the King of Pop. Michael Jackson takes the stage this Saturday (7 September) at 1:00 AM (Eastern US). We’ll go back-to-back weekends with a 14 September concert. (Act TBA).

Contrary to Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends, something has been on my mind for most of 2019. As I mentioned several months ago, I’ve been contemplating stepping away from my little corner of the world. Without any fanfare, 28 August marked my 11th anniversary, so I’ve been blogging for some time. Although I still have the energy to host and post, my interest in rebuilding readership and reciprocating is waning – and the latter is very important to me.

During the recent blog break, I drafted my closing “retrospect” series. Because writing the closing felt right, the time may be right – but not right now! I foresee early 2020, but time will tell. Meanwhile, I will carry on by cleaning out the closet by finishing posts that I never finished.

We planned the recent break more than a year ago. Last year we took a fabulous Rick Steves tour to Central Europe that included Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, and Slovenia. So a perfect sequel would be our first-ever river cruise on the Danube that included Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania. A great trip into the part of Europe visit the least – and only Prague and Budapest were duplicates from last year.

 

Travel posts as I’ve done in the past will not happen. Remember – I’m phasing out! Besides, I posted very little about our spring cruise from San Diego to Miami through the Panama Canal. However, I may do a summary post or something about river cruising – but no promises. However, feel free to ask questions.

Meanwhile, back to my regular routine. Golf league will continue well into September. I’m already back to working at the course. Ballroom dance continues. September means be beginning of handbell choir and ushering the new season of plays. Fall means football season, something I enjoy watching, but it doesn’t consume me. I’ve returned to a casual fantasy football league, which should be fun. There’s plenty to keep me busy!

I’ve used this song on multiple occasions after returning from a blog break. For me, it still fits. Have a good week!

On Trip Tidbits: The Shoes on the Danube

Watching the 2-minute introductory video is important.

 

My original thought was to include this place in a collection with other tidbits; but on second thought, it deserves to stand alone.

There’s a small, but powerful memorial located along the Danube on the Pest side of the river. It’s simple – 60 pairs of shoes of men, women, and children from all walks of life are made out of cast iron.

60 pairs of shoes facing the river.

60 pairs shoes symbolizing a sense of abandonment.

60 pairs of shoes serving as a memorial to victims of horror.

60 pairs of shoes reminding us of something that humanity shouldn’t repeat.

Around December 1944 and January 1945, members of Hungary’s fascist Arrow Cross Party militia police took Jews from Budapest’s Jewish Ghetto to the river. The militia ordered the people to take off their shoes and face the river. Then the militia shot the people so the bodies fell toward the water.

Just another horror that I knew nothing about until this trip.

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On Budapest (Hungary)

Click for some background music while you look and read, enjoy Hungarian Dance No. 5 (Johannes Brahms)

 

BUDA-pesht – is how they pronounce it – not BUDA-pest

Budapest – the capital of Hungary with a vibrant population approaching two million. It was also a co-capital of the Austria-Hungary Empire.

Although we hear about the Danube separating Buda and Pest, we forget that Óbuda was the third city joining in the union forming Budapest in 1873.

The Buda side of the river is hilly and Buda Castle (Royal Castle) sits atop a hill along with Matthias Church and Fishermen’s Bastion. These structures and a few statues and monuments amplify the skyline. Buda’s streets are narrow and the buildings echo with history.

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The hills of Buda offers wonder views of the Danube and Pest.

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The Pest side of the river is flat, newer, vibrant, and a grand display of architecture of Art Nouveau, Baroque, Classical, Neo-classical, Romantic, and Renaissance providing a grand visual treat. St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Parliament, Hero’s Square, Liberty Square, National Theater, Great Market Hall, parks, spas, shopping, entertainment, and more. Numerous pedestrian-only streets make Pest very walkable.

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Hero’s Square celebrates 1000 years of conquest by the Magyars. Whereas the other countries on the tour were Slavic, Hungary is not – and it’s language is more similar to Finnish and Estonian instead of being close to any of its neighbors. Before this tour, I had no clue about this. Hero’s Square celebrates the seven Magyar tribes of Central Asia that came to the region. The square includes statues to labor, war, knowledge, and glory along with a few early national heroes.

 

A short walk beyond Hero’s Square, Varosliget (a 302 acre city park) also celebrates the 1896 millennium with galleries, museums, a thermal spa, and more in a beautiful park setting.

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If you visit Budapest, make sure you take a night-time cruise on the Danube River because the city lights provide a great show.

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Of the places we visited on the tour, Budapest was the biggest and the grandest. It’s a vibrant, beautiful city and worth at least at least 3 days – if not more. The excellent 6-minute video below showing Budapest is done by a group of travelling friends. Enjoy

Next Stop: Plitvice National Park (posted)

Next Post: Rovinj

Click here for past posts of this tour.