Viking River Cruise-Apr./May 2013 (8)

Outside The Opera House, Budapest

Outside The Opera House, Budapest

Sunday, April 28-Day 9

Today, we knew, would be our musical interlude day. We, Don and Lynore, breakfasted with some good folks from Summerland B.C. who arrived on the ship yesterday. After breakfast we took a stroll around the deck or got ready to leave and at 10.30 our taxi driver was waiting for us at the reception desk. After a quick , 10 euro rip-off ride, we were at the front of the Opera House. Lynore had booked seats for us to see the Puccini Opera, Tosca. (If you’d care to watch the movie, and have the time, click here.)

Within minutes we were inside and impressed already. The lobby was gorgeous and we paused to take it all in as attendees streamed past us up to the balconies. Lynore had good seats as we were six rows from the front in, more or less,  the middle. We, like many others, took pics of the house and oohed and aahed in all the right places.

Waiting For The Start

Waiting For The Start

The opera began, and the 60+ piece orchestra pounded out the overture. There was no doubt we’d be able to hear well! The opera set was magnificent as were the voices and within minutes we were spellbound. Cynthia assured me we had seen La Boheme in Cardiff while in school in Wales, but I had no recollection of that…this was my first opera, and I was loving it.

Three hours later, apart from two 15 minute breaks for set changes, we exited the Opera house. Rather, three of us exited while Lynore floated down the staircases, still swept up in the performance. It was magnificent.

We crossed Andrassy Ut and strolled down to Franz Liszt square, named in honour of the great composer. On the way, Lynore told me that Liszt caused a stir among performers as he was the first to play recitals WITHOUT music. The square was lovely in itself, and full of energy as people buzzed through it. There were many sidewalk cafés so we piled into one and ordered goulash soup for lunch. It was full of meat, veggies and potatoes, a meal in itself. After a brief stroll three of us took a cab back to the ship while Don went walkabout again.

Vendor Selling Pastries, Strudels On the Riverbank

Vendor Selling Pastries, Strudels On the Riverbank

As the weather is so beautiful and the temp about 25 degrees. Cynthia took her book on deck to read as did Lynore.

The ship left Budapest around 9.30 pm. We went on deck to watch the departure but also to see the city lit at night. It was spectacular.

The Chain Bridge From The Sundeck Of Our Ship

The Chain Bridge From The Sundeck Of Our Ship

Goodbye for now and God bless, but before you go, if you’d like to hear some music from the great man himself, Franz Liszt, click here

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Viking River Cruise-Apr./May 2013 (7)

Cynthia At Heroes' Square, Budapest

Cynthia At Heroes’ Square, Budapest

Saturday, April 27-Day 8

Our ship, the Idun, docked in Budapest in the early hours of the morning. It still amazes me how the helmsman can raft our ship to another without us feeling the slightest bump.

Today was a very busy day for the staff. Many people (about 150 out of 186) were disembarking, leaving about 34 of us on board. We were to be joined by new passengers later in the day, to swell the ship to its capacity.

After breakfast, our bus took us on a city tour. My goodness, what a beautiful place Budapest is. From our vantage point on the river, we could see both the Buda and the Pest sides. If you were unenlightened, like me before we came on the trip, you may not have known there were two parts to the city.

Budapest is known as the “Pearl Of The Danube” and is the home to about 1.7-2 million people. Our Welsh ancestors, the Celts first established a town here, before the Romans ever came. The city was/is located on the Danube but also at a cross-roads between eastern and western Europe. Most people here are Catholics, Calvinists or Lutherans.

Our city tour took us first to the Pest (say Pesht) side. We traveled along Andrassy Ut, the Champs-Élysées of Budapest. What a beautiful boulevard it is, with the Opera House to one side and the Franz Liszt square on the other. It took us to Heroes’ Square, which was also flanked by the Museum of Fine Arts.

While we were wandering on the square, a huge parade of fire trucks and police vehicles of all shapes and sizes came down Andrassy Ut towards the square and us. It must have been Emergency Services Day, for each one of the trucks, vans, motorbikes etc had its siren and lights going full bore. The little kids on the square loved it!

Future Firefighter Enjoys The Parade

Future Firefighter Enjoys The Parade

The City Park area behind the square was the home of a man made lake (in summer) and a massive skating area in winter. It also house the Budapest zoo.

From the Pest side, our bus then took us to the Buda side which is home of the castle fortress. The Pest side was also very flat and the centre of commerce of the city, while the Buda side is more hilly and has more residential areas. We visited the beautiful church of St. Mathias , where every square inch of the interior is hand painted with some pattern or portrait.

We left the church and fortress and descended back to the river bank, over the Elizabeth bridge and to the ship for lunch.

New guests had begun to arrive and were familiarising themselves with the lay-out of the ship while their rooms were being finished.

We relaxed for a while, then Don and I went walkabout downtown while Cynthia and Lynore remained aboard. We found a beautiful square just one block back from the river and it was all pedestrian traffic only. People relaxed at small cafes and terraces in the sunshine, street artists performed. The atmosphere was relaxed and enjoyable. Later, Cynthia and I visited the same area as we’d heard there was a bank machine in the square which dispensed Euros. We found it and got some.

Vendor Selling Pastries, Strudels On the Riverbank

Vendor Selling Pastries, Strudels On the Riverbank

At dinner we met Bill and Gloria, a couple from Minnesota and spent an enjoyable couple of hours with them.

Finally, a walk on deck finished off a good day as we absorbed the beauty of Budapest lit up at night. It’s a gorgeous scene, night or day and a city which I’d like to re-visit some day.

Goodbye for now and God bless.

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Viking River Cruise-Apr./May 2013 (6)

Sir Donald On the Bridge

Sir Donald On the Bridge

Friday, April 26-Day 7

We made new friends at breakfast this morning, Richard and Nelma from New Jersey. Don shamed me by arriving at the table with a plate-load of fresh fruit. I was already woofing down my rashers of bacon, scrambled eggs and mushrooms. However, I thought my saving grace would come when Lynore prompted Don that he needed more protein. Ever prepared, Don calmly raised a few slices of cheese that he had hidden cunningly behind his slabs of watermelon!

We made our way on deck after our meal to join the line-up to meet the captain and tour the bridge. Now, as the bridge is a glassed in cube of about six square metres, only five or six were allowed through at a time. However, the ever efficient concierge Mercedes was handling the loading operation, so we were ushered through in no time. The line-up had also provided time for me to chat with Jim, a friend we’d made at the airport in Bucharest when he lost his suitcase and hence his clothes. (Eventually the bag was recovered but only after the ship was underway.) Jim had worked in a family business since he was fifteen. He and his brother eventually took over the business (dredging sand from San Francisco Bay) from their father, and Jim had eventually retired from it.

The tour of the bridge took about 10 minutes for our group and between them, the captain and Mercedes answered all our questions. I won’t bore you with all the details, but now I know why this vessel runs so quietly…it is fully electric. I had a lot more questions to ask but time was short on the bridge. I learned that the ship had back-up generators, but not things like, running time for the batteries, how many there are, etc.etc.

Mid-morning Vlad, our program director gave us a Powerpoint presentation on the history and function of the European Union. He did very well explaining what has become a very complex topic.

Lunch followed…eating again…and we had a light meal. Much appreciated was the hour which came next, as it was down time…enough to recover from breakfast and lunch before embarking on the next shore excursion.

At 2.30 we headed for the buses again as this time we were going to neighbouring towns called Kalocsa and Puszta. First stop in Kalocsa was at the church where we were treated to a pipe organ recital. The church, a Roman Catholic building was beautiful and the five pieces we heard sounded gorgeous on the organ.

At Puszta we visited a horse breeding farm or ranch and were treated to a wonderful display of horsemanship in a very big riding arena. It was hot, dusty work for the riders and the animals but the show was great. We also got to try local foods and of course…some kind of brandy. This one had enough oomph to fuel a small plane I think.

Soon it was time to return to the ship and about 30 minutes later we were boarding. We had a brief time only to get a wash and brush up before it was in to dinner. It was dinner with the captain night, as some of the crew and many of the passengers will be leaving tomorrow as we dock at Budapest. It’s at this point that I can tell you something I forgot to include in yesterday’s post…we managed to get the only vacant room available on the ship. This means that we will be staying on to Amsterdam with our friends Don and Lynore, instead of getting off like most people and making our way back to Amsterdam on our own and under our own steam. We are very happy about this, and will remain happy even though we have to change rooms tomorrow as others come on board.

The evening was rounded off by the playing of a Hungarian gypsy band. Actually I felt sorry for them, for even though they were very good, many people were too tired to watch and listen to them. Some people also had to get up very early tomorrow too, to disembark. When you put these reasons together, it didn’t make for the best audience for the band and their dancers. Ah well!

It’s closing in on 11pm here so goodbye for now and God bless.

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