Danube River Cruise 2022

Amadeus Cara on the Danube, Vienna 


The Misadventures of an Old Duffer Abroad

Amadeus Fleet MS Cara
9-16 July 2022


Much as I enjoy Jane McDonald (and lately Susan Calman) travelling the world on giant cruise ships, no way would you get me on one, it's my idea of hell. But how about a river cruise, visiting cities I'd never been to but wanted to? Before lockdown for example I was planning a trip to take advantage of free travel for pensioners in Hungary. Then, I saw that Oysterband were planning such a journey down the Danube to Budapest, and so, after paying a deposit to Harmony Voyages, I sought the advice of The Man in Seat 61 to plan the rail journeys there and back.

Now, I don't like getting up early, so it was the 15.04 Eurostar to Brussels, a night at the Ibis Gare Midi, then on to Passau - the start of the cruise - via Frankfurt Airport ( this duffer managed to get off a stop too early - at Plattling - but it allowed me to have a pint of dunkel and a pretzel waiting for a local train.) I'd booked a night in the Art Hotel because I thought it was near the station. Wrong! It was quite a walk, and as a conversion of an old house, there were many creaky wooden steps to ascend! Luckily a couple had arrived same time as me and gave me a hand. The 'private bathroom' was a disappointment too, being at the end of a long corridor.

Organ at Dom St Stephan, Passau

A highlight of Passau is the second biggest organ in the world, at the Dom St Stephan, and there is a recital at noon each day. Wonderful! So, after that experience, it was onto the boat and I must say for the following seven days everything about it was pure luxury (except no BBC on the TV). We had cocktails with the captain and the first of the sit-down four-course meals, and the Austrian red wine kept coming. We were however meant to travel up to Regensburg, but there was not enough water in the river.

The sun deck of Amadeus Cara

Now, no matter how well you pack you always forget something. This time it was the USB to tiny USB cable used to charge my battery pack. Luckily the sound guy on the boat charged it up for me. Two other annoyances were dodgy GPS roaming on my phone which meant I couldn't play Pokemon Go or use maps to find out where I was, and the pin on my Halifax Clarity card was not being accepted. Santander card did come to the rescue but watch out for transaction fees!

On Day 3 of the cruise (11 Juy) we called at Linz and took a ride on the steepest friction tram outside of Portugal (and maybe San Francisco). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C3%B6stlingbergbahn

The Pöstingbergbahn Linz

Days 4 and 5 we docked at Vienna. But it was a long walk to the tram stop on the D line - apparently Viking Cruises had nabbed the closer berths! My plan was to navigate the Ringstrasse by tram, which I did most of, I think! 

Day 6 (14 July) Bratislava. I thought I'd take a tour of the city on a Dotto train or army truck, but had half an hour to wait so jumped on a tram - and got lost! No, I didn't go up the 'flying saucer'. 

Flying Saucer, Bratislava

What I found out about the  tram network is that if you miss your stop and jump off next stop to get a tram going back the other way, it won't necessarily follow the same route! Thankfully a young couple put me on the right track after a detour down some tunnels under the castle! Earlier a young lad who spoke English helped me navigate the ticket machine. Thea Gilmore and her talented son tonight. 

Freedom bridge, Budapest


Day 8 (Saturday 16 July) after breakfast we were set adrift in Budapest and a taxi to my T62 hotel opposite the Eiffel designed Nyugati Station.

Gyermekvasút ( Children's Railway) Budapest

The plan was to ride the Children' Railway - to get there: Tram No 61 at Szell Kalman ter to Varosmajor stop then change to the Cog Railway (Service No 60) and ride it to the end. It was very popular with cyclists with a whole carriage dedicated to mountain bikes. So, it was up a path and into the booking office for a ticket, but... they didn't take cards and they didn't take euros! I had no Hungarian money, so that was that - it was diesel anyway. So a pint and catfish soup at a local bar and it was back down the cog railway.

Cog-wheel railway, Budapest

That evening, searching out Ruin Bar Szimpla Kert, I came across an Apple shop so asked a young Genius how come I wasn't receiving internet on my phone? A few clicks later it was all working. Asking how he did it, he shrugged and said it was something to do with the carrier. I was no wiser but at least maps were working, for now! A ruin bar BTW is a cross between  a 1980s warehouse party and a farmers market. A bit too busy for me!

Szimpla Kert Ruin Bar Budapest

BTW, none of the staff at the Apple shop had heard of ruin bars! So it was on a busy tram back to the hotel, only it wasn't -  it turned a few corners, stopped and chucked everyone off to make way for a huge demo to walk past! Lost again, so I walked until I recognised a landmark, the Opera House and the Basilica, I'd been heading completely wrong direction! Fortified by a beer at Captain Cook's pub, I tramped back to the T62 and a whiskey.

Hungarian Railway Museum Magyar Vasúttörténeti Park Budapest

Hungarian Railway Museum Magyar Vasúttörténeti Park 

Had a ride on a miniature railway and a quick pint in the restaurant and I was shown to the secret station and a quick route back to Nyugati Station.

Day 12 Monday 18 July
Budapest to Prague (with replacement bus!)
Budapest Nyugati 09.40 to 37/36
Prague Hlavni 16.42
Hotel EXE City Park Prague

Day 13 (Tuesday 19 July) 
Prague to Brussels 
DB had been sending me emails that there could be possible delays on this service and lo and behold on the Czech/German border we all had our passports checked by the German Border police. Then further along the line, instead of proceeding to Regensburg the train turned back, we were thrown off and had to await a local to take us there.

At Frankfurt Airport however the train to Brussels had a big X by it on the departure board. The DB man said no more trains tonight but, if I got myself to Cologne I was entitled to  a free hotel room - which I didn't want cos I'd already paid for a hotel room at the Ibis in Brussels!. At Cologne there were two DB staff trying to deal with an angry mob of irate passengers. I was told to wait with a Swiss family and eventually we were led off to a taxi which took us all the way to our hotels. It was midnight when I got there, but I got a Chimay from the bar and so to bed. The lad with the family had been watching the clock, which ended up €400.

Day 14 Wednesday 20 July
Brussels 12.56 to London 14.00
St Pancras - home
What a day! My watch strap broke at Brussels Midi (rescued the watch) , my suitcase lost a handle screw (luckily I had cable ties) at St Pancras, so when I got to Brighton I thought hurrah I was home... err not quite! Because of the woman’s footy at Falmer, the trains had extra carriages so although my one stopped at London Road, I couldn’t get off, so... I went on to Lewes and up the slope and down the lift  thence a stopping train to the afore mentioned LR, helped off the train by a couple of our finest riot policemen, and down the hill . A cunning way to avoid the dreaded LR steps maybe? House still here thanks to Susan Sainsbury for keeping an eye out. A can of porter from the fridge, and telly to catch up on... life is good.., come on England (spoiler alert! they won)!

The Danube, near Vienna

The Blue Danube! More photos on Flickr 

Danube River Cruise

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