Tina Ediss travels with Titan Travel
It’s early when I wake. I’d slept with my cabin window open, lulled by the gentle lapping of the river against the ship. The only sounds are the birds singing their welcome to a new day.
From my bed I watch the river Danube as it meanders lazily through deep forests and picturesque countryside.
Totally relaxed I doze off for a while, then wake disorientated. All I can see is a grey concrete wall that robs the morning of daylight. I realise we’re at the bottom of a lock. It’s a tight fit, the wall just fingertips from my window as the water below us lifts us up and up and up until we emerge back into sunshine.
A masterpiece of engineering, the lock is just one of the surprises on my first ever river cruise. I am on MS Discovery II for Titan’s Melodies of the Danube tripfrom Budapest to Munich.
I’ve been on many ocean cruises and admit it takes embarrassingly little to make me feel sea sick. On a river cruise thankfully, stormy seas are not an issue. The ships often moor in the city centres so getting ashore is simpler and you can explore without the need for costly excursions.
In Budapest I stroll ashore and take the short walk to the Grand Market Hall. Then I wander back to the ship, put my goodies in my fridge and make time for a cuppa up on deck.
Ashore again, I walk along the River Danube. Budapest is made up of the old cities of Buda, on the west bank and Pest on the east.
Dominating the Buda side is the Royal Castle which sits very prettily on Castle Hill. It’s been re-built and re-purposed many times since it was first built in the 14th century so has lots of stories to tell.
Across the river, the Hungarian Parliament Building is mirrored in the water so the grand gothic building appears in duplicate. Standing near the water’s edge are the Shoes on the Danube. Sixty pairs of cast iron shoes pay tribute to men, women and children shot here in the closing stages of the Second World War. Their bodies were swept away by the Danube, their shoes left behind. The memorial is heartbreaking in its simplicity.
The Slovakian capital of Bratislava is our next stop. As capital cities come, Bratislava is tiny, the Old Town and its tangle of cobbled lanes are just a short walk from our berth. Despite its beautiful old buildings, Bratislava has a young feel with students and visitors enjoying the sunshine in pavement cafes; conversation and laughter fill the air.
There’s humour on the streets in the shape of quirky statues erected in 1997, there’s Cumil, a leering workman emerging from a man-hole and a Napoleonic soldier leaning on a bench. I walk up to Bratislava Castle which stands on the highest ground and look down at the Danube, and the Discovery, both waiting to take us on to Vienna.
After Bratislava, Vienna seems huge and very grand. The main sites are too far to walk so a guided coach tour is laid on. The Ring Road, Ringstrasse, is a grand boulevard that circles the main attractions, state buildings and palaces with an impressive amount of pillars, columns, and gold topped statues.
Vienna is an elegant city, the expensively dressed women and the queues outside the Cartier store shows how affluent it is. I love the Rose Garden, Volksgarten, where thousands of roses create a colourful, fragrant tapestry.
Titan had arranged an evening of music at the Kursalon Concert Hall. Classical music is not my thing but I find myself enjoying a rousing evening of music that included, of course, Strausse’s Blue Danube Waltz.
Our next stop, the tiny Austrian town of Durnstien, is a complete contrast to Vienna. We follow our guide through ancient streets overlooked by the ruins of Durnstein Castle where Richard the Lionheart (our King Richard I) was imprisonment in 1192. Our visit ended with a tasting of local wines and a walk back to the ship passing the vineyards that drape the hillsides.
River cruising is a totally relaxed way to travel, the ships are not as big or as crowded as some ocean going ships and I love watching the countryside unfold as you float along the river. Most evenings, after the entertainment, I sit up on deck, gaze at the stars and feel very content to go with the flow.
Titan Travel offers a 8-day ‘Melodies of the Danube’ river cruise from £1,849 per person (2022). The tour includes 7 nights’ on-board MS River Discovery II on a full board basis with drinks included during lunch and dinner, and 3 excursions. The price also includes Titan’s VIP door-to-door travel service, services of a Titan cruise director, tour manager, and entertainer as well as return international flights from London Heathrow. 2023 departures also available. Call 0800 412 5678 to book and for more information.