Thoughtfully curated, our week-long journey encompassed four countries, three capital cities and breathtaking tucked-away towns we would never have discovered on our own.
Our Arrival into Luxury
Our experience could not have started off better. Our travel advisor had booked our flights through AmaWaterways, which meant we were welcomed by AmaWaterways staff at the airport and whisked away on our included transfer* from the airport to the ship. This was our first taste of the upscale service in store for us throughout our week-long river journey.
We arrived at the beautiful AmaSerena in Budapest, Hungary around 11 am and were able to drop off our luggage and go exploring on our own. Tracing my husband’s Hungarian-Jewish heritage, we headed to the Jewish Quarter, the Great Synagogue on Dohány Street and the Holocaust Tree of Life Memorial, where we were treated to a free performance by a local klezmer band. On our way back to the ship, we were tempted by the enticing aroma of chimney cakes at every turn – we settled on sharing one as we certainly didn’t want to spoil our appetite for the wonderful multi-course dinner that was awaiting us.
Brilliant Budapest, Hungary
After a refreshing night’s sleep in our comfortable stateroom, we woke up ready for our hike through Budapest, which was absolutely spectacular. Our guide led us to Fisherman’s Bastion, which transformed the city into an absolute fairytale with its gorgeous turrets, as well as St. Matthew Cathedral, with its impressive mosaic roof, and across the grand Chain Bridge. Having missed the opportunity to see The Shoes on the Danube Holocaust memorial the day before, we were relieved we had the chance to pay our respects during our included excursion.
But nothing compared to the magnificent sendoff we had as we sailed past the Hungarian Parliament Building illuminated against the night sky on our way to Bratislava, Slovakia. It was a romantic moment and truly felt unreal – what a way to cap off the first full day of our journey!
Vienna, Austria: A Wonderful Surprise
I did not anticipate the joy this lovely city brought me. On our walking tour, we discovered St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the beautiful façade of Hofburg Palace. We were enchanted by the sound of horses’ hooves clip-clopping against the cobblestone as carriages trotted through town, momentarily transporting us back in time. Wandering just a block or two away from the iconic cathedral, I was taken aback by how quiet and secluded Vienna felt, as though we had the city all to ourselves.
My husband and I then ventured off in search of our Cruise Manager Mariana’s favorite Wiener schnitzel restaurant, where we enjoyed the local culinary specialty before indulging in a little souvenir shopping. Vienna is where my cherished collection of miniature hand-crank music boxes began. We found them in almost every European city after that – much to my delight!
Tucked-Away Towns: Weissenkirchen and Dürnstein, Austria
We woke up early to enjoy a delicious breakfast before experiencing our approach into this postcard-perfect hamlet. It was breathtaking and most people were up on the Sun Deck taking pictures. This was one of the highlights of my river cruise—watching Weissenkirchen come into view as we sailed down the Danube River.
We also loved our hiking tour in nearby Dürnstein. Our guide, Stephen, was very animated and kept us entertained with delightful stories on the history of Richard the Lionheart’s imprisonment at the fortress and more. Every time we stopped to take a picture, from the cobblestone lanes to the storied dirt path on our ascent, he assured us there would be an even more spectacular view once we reached the top. He wasn’t wrong – the thrilling scenery of the castle ruins, green vineyards, blue Danube, red-roofed buildings and AmaSerena docked below are now seared in my memory forever. The Dürnstein Fortress hike is a fantastic excursion that, for us, culminated in a tasting of apricot wine and other delights at a local winery on the town’s main lane.