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Vantage Cruise Lines 7th Presidents River Cruise

Budapest to Prague

June 14 - 29, 2004

For my first international travel of 2004, I elected to

sail on the Danube River from Budapest to Passau. 

The trip ended with a four day stay in Prague.  Each year

Vantage Cruise Lines has a President's cruise on the

Danube River.  This year's cruise was outstanding in

every way.  For me it was doubly pleasant as I was

joined by my California friends from the Normandy

and Seine River cruise of last summer.  It was great to

be traveling with the Gerszewski's, Jayaram's

and the Tangedal's. 

My trip started with flights from Binghamton to Philadelphia and

then Washington, lastly an over night flight to Frankfurt and

then finally arriving in Budapest late morning.  I was anxious to

visit Budapest again due to the fact I was sailing on the Danube River

when 9/11 occurred.  Some things had changed while in

general everything else was the same.

 The first stop in Budapest was at the Marriott hotel for a rest

and lunch break before boarding the River cruiser.

Budapest is a busy city with lots of people shopping and sightseeing.

Buda Castle dominates the scenery across the Danube River. 

The along the River and its surrounding area offer many spots for great photos.

At two p.m. we were bussed to the River Navigator which would

be my home for the next 12 days.  It is the same ship I sailed on three years ago. 

We were docked on the River for three days in Budapest.  On day one,

we were bused to Holloko, a village on the UNESCO World Heritage list. 

We were given a tour and had an opportunity to see native homes

and dancing by local residents.  The native costumes were very colorful. 

The day was completed with a home hosted lunch in one of the homes. 

A display of local dancing in the village.

We were docked near the Market Hall which was a wonderful

place to visit and shop.  There were fruit stands, meat markets,

bakeries and many places to buy Hungarian souvenirs.  You could

also buy a great local beer in the hall.

On the second day in Budapest, I select a tour that took me to

Castle Vajdahunyad, the Royal Palace, Europe's largest synagogue

and lastly a visit to Hero's Square. It was a long morning of touring

and we had the afternoon at leisure.  This is a shot of Budapest

and their famous Chain Bridge in the foreground. 

Budapest is a beautiful city and there is a great deal to do and see. 

Unfortunately two days for sightseeing do not due the city justice. 

On day four we sailed at 5 p.m. for Visegrad arriving at 8 p.m. 

It was a short sail but we were able to have one last look

at the beautiful sights of Budapest.

This is the Hungarian Parliament building from the Danube River. 

Our Day Five stop, we started the morning with a tour of Szentendre,

a village with many churches and shops.  They are famous for

garments made with their deep blue dye as shown outside

this small shop.  We sailed at 1:00 p.m. to Esztergom on the

other side of the River a short distance from Visegrad.  The city of Esztergom

is the capital of Hungarian Catholicism. 

Their large cathedral

dominates the view of the city from the River. 

It is a beautiful structure with a large organ inside.  

We were treated to an organ recital during our visit to the cathedral. 

It was a stirring performance of sacred music. 

Esztergom Cathedral from the Danube River.

This is a beautiful statue of the Crowning of Saint Stephen

is placed on the bluff overlooking the River next to the

Saint Adalbert Basilica.

We sailed overnight to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.

We toured the city with stops at St. Martin's Cathedral, Bratislava Castle

and the Government Palace.  This is a shot of the new

Parliament building for the country.  We had a walking tour

of the city after our bus tour.  We saw the Dom of St. Martin,

the main square and other interesting places.  

While visiting the main square, the Slovenian Military Band

played a concert.  It was fun to hear American

hit tunes played by a band.

After the military band came a one-man band who was pretty good. 

The soldier's clapped loudly for his performance.

There was some neat statutes in the main square. 

I am posing with a new found friend who was pretty quiet.

This is a church building with figures painted in windows. 

The story goes that the church did not have money to

make repairs and pastor decide to use this window treatment

to protect the building until it can be repaired.

This shot is taken in front of the National Museum of Slovenia. 

Time to move up River!  Our River cruiser sailed from

Bratislava at 5:00 a.m. bound for Vienna. 

We docked at Vienna at 11:00 a.m.

River traffic was plentiful as we sailed up River. 

Lots of barges hauling cargo like stone and gravel.

Our first River lock, we will go thought several more

before we leave the River at Passau.  Our ship is

waiting for the gates to open so we can sail on to Vienna.

 The afternoon was spent in touring Vienna with stops in

the inner city and at St. Stephen's Cathedral.  It was a rainy

day that was not great for pictures.  This is my fourth visit to Vienna

and to take more pictures of the same scenes was not a high priority.

The next day the sun came out and it was a great day to

tour this beautiful city.  No visit to Vienna could be complete

without a stop in the park where Mozart in gold waits to play! 

After a strenuous day of sightseeing, I made a stop with traveling

friends at the Sacher Hotel for a snack of one of their

famous Torte's.  It was delightful and fattening.

This is a statue found in Albertina Square that remembers the

treatment of the Jewish population during World War II by

the Nazi troops.  This man denotes the fact that the Nazi's

made the Jew's clean the streets with tooth brushes. 

It is a very moving spot in this popular city.

The monument opposing War and Fascism located in the Albertina Square.

The River Navigator docked at Vienna.

The evening of our second night in Vienna, we had Gala-Night dinner

and concert at the Palais Ferstel in downtown Vienna.  The music was

by the Wiener Residenzorchester with included dancing into the evening. 

It was a wonderful affair with a well served delicious meal.  This is a

photo of the reunion group of California friends I was traveling with. 

On our last day in Vienna, we had a morning trip to the Vienna Woods. 

We bussed through the town of Baden with its many spas and hot bathes. 

The Cistercian Abbey of Heiligenkreuz in the Vienna Woods was

our first stop to the morning.  Our tour took us through the

beautiful Helenental region of Austria.

 This is a beautiful statue found in the courtyard of the Abbey. 

It was a most beautiful spot to visit. 

Our second stop on tour of Vienna Woods was at the Mayerling. 

This is the hunting lodge of Crown Prince Rudolf who committed

suicide after shooting his 17 year old lover, Baroness Mary Vetsera.  

After their deaths the hunting lodge was turned over to the nuns

and the room where the tragedy occurred is now a chapel.  Today the

site has a very pretty church that is now a strict Carmelite Convent. 

Our last stop before returning to the ship was in the village of

Gumpoldskirchen to visit a local winery.  The wine sampling

was very good and it was a good rest stop during a busy morning. 

This picture is of the local church in this community.

It is time to continuing to sail up River.  Our River cruiser left Vienna at 1:00 p.m. 

We had a pleasant afternoon on board with sightseeing

along the River the order of the afternoon.

Heading for another lock!

Low bridges ahead so the cabin on deck is folded down to

make the clearance necessary.  The ships control cabin is on

hydraulic jacks so it drops down into the deck also. 

It was a beautiful day to enjoy the scenery along the River.

We have sailed into the center of the Wachau Valley, a favorite

resort area.  I am in the cellar cave of a local winery at Spitz.  We

have docked here for the morning and the group was off on a winery tasting. 

The Weinkolleg Spitz winery was interesting but the cave was very cool. 

After the winery, I had a chance to walk around this quaint Austrian village.

There was no bridge across the River at Spitz so the locals

use this ferry boat to cross the River.  It was secured to a large

cable to guide it across the River which had a

strong current in area.

A monastery located on the River.  It was a beautiful River scene.

The boat landing at Melk.  This was the port where we were

docked on the day of 9/11.  A  P.A. announcement was made on

ship about 4:30 p.m. on that fateful day.  Needless to say our attention

from that point on was focused on the events in USA.

A view of the famous Melk Abbey from the River.  In the 11th century King

Leopold III handed the castle over to the Benedictine monks. 

They converted it into a fortified abbey. The abbey has a notable

collection of 80,000 books.  The chapel of the

abbey was very beautiful.

Inside the Melk Abbey chapel.  It was ornate and beautiful.

The abbey offered many places for excellent photos. 

This is the courtyard leading to the entrance to the abbey.

After our visit to the Abbey, we were bussed to the Castle Artstetten

for a late afternoon reception with the Princess Anita Von Hohenberg. 

The castle is located about 30 minutes from Melk.  I am standing

on the hill before the castle.  We had a chance to chat with the

Princess and then toured the castle museum and crypt.

After our visit to the Castle Artstetten we returned to the River Navigator

for dinner and an on- board classical music recital after dinner.  Thus

ended day 10 on the Danube River cruise.

We sailed away from Melk the next morning at 5:00 a.m. 

Our next stop was Linz at 1:00 p.m.  The afternoon program

was a tour of Linz and a visit to a local brewery located outside of town.

As we sailed on to Linz, a floating gas station joined us to fill the Navigator's tanks. 

They were tied to us for over an hour. 

The main square in Linz.  There were many shops and cafes around the square.

Standing by the fountain in the main square of Linz.

The Hofstetten Brewery located just outside of Linz. 

We sampled some of their bucket beer which was cloudy in color but very tasty. 

This was a very pretty location to visit. 

This was the end of Day 11 and we had our traditional Farewell Dinner

on-board this evening.

The next morning we left Linz for a bus tour to Salzburg. 

I elected to take a special Sound of Music & Salzburg tour.

This is the church at Mondsee where the wedding

scene in the movie Sound of Music was filmed.

.

The gazebo on the grounds of Hellbrunn Castle that was

filmed for a key movie scene in the movie. 

That is not Julie Andrews heading for the gazebo!

A view of Salzburg Castle (Hohensalzburg) from Mirabell Gardens

downtown Salzburg.  The gardens were

beautiful in spite of the overcast day.

The yellow is Mozart's birth place in downtown Salzburg.

After our stay in Linz and our Salzburg tour, we sailed on to

Passau for our last port of call on the Danube River.  This photo

shows the Inn River entering the Danube. 

Like all our other city stops along the River we had a walking tour of Passau. 

This stop included a visit the mighty Dom (Cathedral) with its large

church organ (17,000 pipes)  and 231 stops. 

The cathedral is dedicated to St. Stephen. 

Fortress Oberhaus, built in 1219, rests high above Passau. 

Unfortunately our time schedule did not permit us to visit

the fortress.  This is our last stop on the River.  We boarded busses

in late morning for a drive to Prague with a lunch stop

in route.  It was a beautiful drive.

This is a nicely decorated cow in front of our Marriott hotel in Prague.

There were decorated cows all over downtown Prague.  These cows

were to be auctioned of with the monies going to various charities. 

Prague was a beautiful city with many neat buildings

and a lot of churches. 

A beautiful clock on one of the earlier town halls.  This was near the main square.

One more decorated cow.  This one is labeled "Going to Hell",

so I thought I would help.  I normally would not get

this close to this end of a cow!

In spite of a drizzle and clouds, it is impressive to view Prague Castle

in the distance.  We have a tour tomorrow that will take us to the castle. 

This evening I joined some of our tour group to attend an

evening concert at Salvador Church with the

Prague Dvorak Symphony Orchestra.  It was a superb

event and the music of Dvorak's New World Symphony

was very well performed.

The sun is out and some local musicians are playing for

tips at Prague Castle.  There was great view of Prague from location. 

We visited the Cathedral of St. Virus located at Prague Castle. 

 

A view of downtown Prague from the Castle. 

In the right foreground is the famous Charles Bridge. 

Suddenly our 16 day travel adventure was over.  Tomorrow we all fly in our

different directions home.  It was a great trip and I would

recommend this travel itinerary to anyone who

wants to visit this section of Europe.  

 

This sampling is but a fraction of the photos I took on the trip. 

Digital photography allows me to take a great many shots and

then select the best or most interesting to share. 

I hope you enjoy seeing my pictures of this trip.