Here is the final part of our fantastic cruise on the Emerald Star. This might be the longest of my reviews as we visited many places on this final leg which, for me, was the best bit. I had enjoyed everything about the cruise but the Danube and its sights were magical and I would go back to many of the places in a heart beat (finances allowing).
Kelheim and Regensburg
We were taken by coach to Kelheim and the Benedictine monastery, Klosterschenke Weltenburg.This monastery is noted for its brewery and after a tour of St. George Church with its beautiful interior including what looks like a domed ceiling but is actually flat, we were treated to a beer and a large pretzel. I must say it’s a bit weird drinking beer at 10 am but very tasty! We then boarded a local pleasure boat for a very pleasant sail through the Danube Gorge. Back to the coach and we were taken to the Hall of Liberation at the top of Michelsberg Hill which is a memorial to celebrate Napoleon’s defeat by Germany. After lunch on board we sailed to Regensburg for a walking tour. Regensburg means Rain Town and apparently lives up to its name.There we saw next to the oldest bridge in Germany was the oldest sausage kitchen in Germany. Because of it’s close to the river, it is the first building to be submerged when the river floods. Regensberg is a lovely town with its Gothic cathedral of St. Peter with its beautiful stained glass windows.
Passau is on the confluence of 3 rivers, the Danube, the Ilz and the Inn and like so many of the towns prone to flooding and they record the highest water marks on walls throughout the town. The 2nd highest recorded was June 2013. One of the highlights here is the wonderful St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a Baroque cathedral which houses the world’s largest cathedral organ. It has 17974 organ pipes, 233 stops including 4 carillons. There are 5 parts to the organ throughout the cathedral, all controlled from one console either individually or simultaneously. After lunch on board there was free time to explore some more before sailing onto Linz. As we sailed we passed the mouth of the Ilz and then the point where the Danube and the Inn join. It is a truelly beautiful stretch of water.
Arrived here late afternoon and walked into the town. This is the only place we visited without a guide and we soon realised how wonderful they had all been as we really didn’t feel we appreciated Linz without them. It was very pleasant walking around but not really knowing what we were looking at. We were moored opposite the new Town Hall which was rather impressive during the day but more so at night when lit up.
Melk and Durnstein
We docked in Melk during breakfast and at 10am we travelled by coach to Melk Abbey as although a short trip is uphill. The Great Hall has the most impressive vaulted ceiling but, again, is flat. The illusion is best seen directly underneath but when you walk to the edges of the room, the pillars no longer seem straight. The Abbey’s chapel is accessed by a beautiful spiral staircase which has a mirror placed at the bottom so you can see the effect. Back on board for lunch and the ship sailed down the Wachau Valley and during this we had a talk on the produce of the Valley. They switched from vines to apricots when 95% of the vines were devastated by an insect infestation although the vines are making a comeback now. We had a great tasting of lots of the products made from apricots:- liqueur, brandy, jm (more like a puree), pieces covered in dark chocolate and a bbq sauce. Nothing from the apricot is wasted even the pips are roasted and covered in salt and taste delicious.
Durnstein is a small charming and very pretty town. During our walk around we came across a sign saying ‘Sanger Blondel’ which I found exciting as my maiden name is Sanger and I knew we originated from south Germany/Austra in 12th/13th century (apparently mentioned in the Magna Carta). Blondel was King Richard the Lionheart’s vassal who helped free the King when he was imprisoned in Durnstein during his 3rd crusade. Sorry just a little history lesson. When we returned to the ship, my husband decided to try out one of several bicycles held on the ship for passenger’s use as the cycle path went along the river before turning inland to the vineyards..
Vienna was the first of 3 capital cities in 3 days we were to visit. Vienna looks and feels a large vibrant beautiful city and well worth spending longer here to fully appreciate it. Our tour started with a drive around the Ring to give you an orientation of the city. Various buildings such as Imperial Palace, Opera House, Parliament building and city hall were pointed out. We eventually stopped at the Imperial Palace for a short walking tour and then we were left with free time. During the evening there was an optional extra tour to go to a Strauss and Mozart concert.
We knew nothing about this city before visiting and what a hidden gem it was! We tied up right in the centre and our local guide gave us a wonderful insight into the history and the buildings. Many composers had either lived here or gave concerts here including a 6 yr old Mozart. There are reminders of WWII with the Holocaust monument and many statues including Hans Christian Anderson. The most popular and photographed is the ‘man at work’ peeking out of a manhole to look up the ladies’ skirts. After lunch we were taken by coach inland to a small village where, in small groups and an interpreter, we met a local family. Eva and Milan, our hosts, were wonderfully welcoming and this was definitely another highlight of our cruise.
We tied up under the watchful eye of the Church of St. Matthias but the view from our cabin’s window surpassed it. We had a coach tour of Buda, starting at the top of hill at the Church of St. Matthias, next to the church is the Fisherman’s Bastion with fantastic river views. We then went to Gellert Hill for a view of the chain bridge. Later we then crossed over to Pest side after visiting the Parliament building, we drove past Heroes Square which unfortunately was closed off as they were preparing it for a horse race. After lunch more free time to explore. In the evening, we had traditional dancers and after this we went up to the sun deck for an evening sail along the Danube. Budapest is wonderful in the day time but, at night, all lit up as you sail along to the sound of Strauss waltzes, it is magical. This made a beautiful finale to a wonderful experience.
Thanks to Emerald Waterways, it certainly exceeded our expectations.
“Emerald Star – Part 1: The Rhine”:http://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/cruise/158161-review-emerald-star
“Emerald Star – Part 2: The Main”:http://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/cruise/158274-review-emerald-star