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May 5, 2022
Budapest, Hungary: A Sensational Sail-in

The sail-in to Budapest

Today we arrived at our last port on our two-week Grand European Tour: Budapest, the capital of Hungary. But before we docked, we spent a good half-hour up on deck 4, watching in stunned awe at the magnificent sail-in. Once again the weather reports were wrong, and we had a beautiful clear morning as we sailed down the Danube River to our final destination.

Budapest used to be two different cities, Buda and Pest, on either side of the Danube. In 1849, the Chain Bridge was built across the Danube, the first permanent bridge to connect the two cities. In 1873, Buda and Pest were officially merged, and Budapest became a co-capital of the great Austro-Hungarian Empire. Following World War II, Hungary became a Soviet state until the dissolution of communism in the 1990s.

As you sail downstream, hilly Buda is on your right, while flatter Pest is on your left. There are seven bridges that span the Danube River, each with a different look and personality. (Unfortunately, the famous Chain Bridge is closed, undergoing renovation this year.) The architecture along both sides of the river is absolutely stunning, with landmarks such as the Parliament Building, Buda Castle Hill, Matthias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion and the Liberty Statue.

On the Pest side, the magnificent Parliament Building (the third-largest Parliament Building in the world)

On the Buda side, Castle Hill with Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion (about two-thirds toward the right side of the photo)

Budapest’s own “Statue of Liberty”

Today’s included excursion was “Panoramic Budapest,” which explores both Buda and Pest. We preferred the optional “Budapest Castle Hill City Hike,” which took us on foot rather than bus up to Buda Castle Hill. We were pleasantly surprised when our guide also took us on both the public streetcar and the underground Metro system, giving us a taste of how the locals get around.

A terrific example of Soviet-era art

Matthias Church on top of Buda Castle Hill

Approaching Fisherman’s Bastion

Fisherman’s Bastion is named after the guild of fishermen who were in charge of defending this section of the castle walls during the Middle Ages

Chain Bridge, currently undergoing renovation

The streetcars carry passengers short distances above ground

The clean and safe Metro system carries passengers longer distances underground

In the afternoon, we split up for some optional tours.

Russell opted for “Hungarian Horsemen.” Guests took a 50-minute drive to rural Domonyvölgy, where they visited Lázár Equestrian Park. There, they were treated to a snack of palinka (Hungarian fruit brandy), a live horse show, a horse-drawn carriage ride, a museum and a small zoo.

The Lázár horse show

The famous image of a single rider driving five horses (while standing up)

Gail and Cameron opted for “Life Behind the Iron Curtain.” Guests took a short drive to Memento Park, an open-air museum dedicated to Hungary’s Communist period, and the Budapest Retro Museum. But the highlight was being able to drive an actual Trabant, a tiny Eastern Bloc car produced during the Cold War. It was the first time Cameron has ever driven a stick-shift automobile.

Memento Park

A display of Soviet-era technology in the Retro Museum

Cameron drives an actual Trabant car (he didn’t find out until afterward that the seat can be adjusted back)

In many ways, it feels like this cruise saved the best for last. We really enjoyed Budapest, the sail-in, and our various excursions. Tonight, we had our “last supper,” then spent the evening packing. Tomorrow morning, we will say “goodbye” to the Viking Vili, as we disembark for the last time. We will also say “goodbye” to Cameron, as he flies back home to California and we continue with an extended hotel stay in Budapest.

Cameron on Vȧci utca, a modern shopping avenue

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