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June 26th: Hollókó, Hungary

I had a wonderful day trip to a UNESCO Heritage Village, Hollókó, Hungary, in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains on the Slovakian Border. It was a fairly long drive, but the countryside was magnificent, with fields stretching into the distance and a view of the foothills.

 

When we arrived in Hollókó, we were greeted  by a group of women dressed in traditional embroidered clothing, who served us a piece of Hungarian Cheesecake, and shot of palinka (the national Hungarian alcoholic drink, with at least 37% alcohol content, and made of plum, peach, pear or cherry.)
They sang a couple of folk songs for us, then danced a simple step dance around the square.

They even dressed one of our group up as a “bride” for one of their dances, and  many of us joined in.

Following the performance, we had a walking tour of the town, which is very hilly, with cobblestone streets, but which earns its UNESCO designation due to the preservation of the medieval nature of the houses and streets. The post office had a delightful little museum – and anyone over 5′ tall had to duck to get into the front room.

Once we made it back up the hill, we were driven to a more modern part of town, and given a wonderful home-hosted meal. About 46 of the 120 passengers went on this excursion, and we were split into groups of 11-12 for the lunch. (Each home served the same meal.)

My group was with a delightful woman named Margaret, who immediately adopted all of us.

Our lunch started with another shot of palinka (of course!) We were then served a delicious chicken noodle soup, with homemade angel-hair noodles and large slices of vegetables and chicken in a delicious broth, and then a succulent chicken paprikash served on home-made spaetzle, served with home-made wine. We finished with apple and cherry strudels.

The house was quite modern, as I said, but the kitchen was very small, and the stove top seemed quite inadequate to the wonderful meal Margaret served us.

Today was the end of the first portion of the cruise (Bonn to Budapest), and we lost 42 passengers, and took on 38 new ones for the cruise from Budapest to the Black Sea.

The day ended with another repositioning, back to the city center, during which the captain took us on a full harbor tour to have another look at the night lights of Budapest again.

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June 25th: Budapest, Hungary

 

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We arrived in Budapest in the wee hours of the morning, and woke to find ourselves parked alongside several other cruise ships, with a very long gangway to the shore. The wharf was very old, and obviously not designed for the  type of river traffic that it has these days.

Following breakfast, we once again gathered in groups for our 3 hour bus/walking tour of both Buda and Pest.

There is much to see in this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site, and I tend to take pictures at every opportunity, but I will just add a few to the mix, with a small photo tour.

First, we did a bus tour of the flat Pest side of the city,

with a stop at Hero’s Square.

Then we crossed the river and climbed up to the Buda village to see the St. Matthais Church, and the Fisherman’s Bastion.

The day, however, was not yet done. In the afternoon I joined an optional tour to see a Hungarian Horse Show.  We drove to the beautiful Equestrian Park of the Lázár brothers, who have won several world championships in carriage riding. Dashing Hungarian horsemen welcomed us, and gave us a piece of bread, and a shot of and the famous Hungarian “pálinka” (brandy).

The horse show featured varied styles of horsemanship – including using the horses as beds! The horses are trained to not flinch at all when whips are repeated cracked. With this, they could go into battle and not be disturbed by guns.

After the show, we visited their small petting zoo, a riding museum, the stables, and then enjoyed a scenic carriage ride through the surrounding area.

Today was the last day for the passengers that were only on the first half of the cruise, so the ship did a repositioning upriver, to allow for easier debarkation.

The captain did the reposition after dark, however, to allow us to see the beautiful night lights of Budapest along the shore.

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June 22: Wachau Valley Scenic Cruising

This morning we cruised the Danube River through the scenic Wachau Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Landscape. With commentary from our cruise director, we were able to locate many castles on the hill tops, including Dürnstein, where King Richard the Lionheart of England was imprisoned in the castle above the town. We also passed Willendorf, where the Willendorf Venus was found.

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I do not have all the names sorted out yet, but with this montage, you can cruise the Danube with me, through the Wachau Valley!

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June 21: Passau, Germany

We saw some lovely houses and churches along the Danube on our way into Passau.

And it’s always fun watching the captain search for a parking space, and seeing one of the crew haul the heavy hawser ashore to tie us down.

I skipped the walking tour of the old town today, because I was exhausted, and, since it was Sunday, the organ concert we were to have seen was canceled.

I did, however, go ashore in the evening with some other passengers to a lovely beer garden, and saw some of the old town on that walk.

As we left Passau, we passed a point where 2 other rivers, the Inn and the Ilz join the Danube:

And then I sat on the deck and enjoyed more beautiful sights along the Danube, until we reached yet another lock, and it grew too dark to take any more photos.