This past October I had the opportunity to travel to an area, that up until twenty years ago, was closed to normal tourists since 1939! I flew into Bucharest, Romania and was impressed at what had been accomplished in 20 years. Still visible were some of the horrible things that Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife had done to the city of Bucharest and the country as a whole (ex. horrible orphanages). I took the side trip offered to Transylvania (part of Romania) and went to a castle supposedly where Dracula was held prisoner. It was up in the mountains and it had snowed the night before, what a beautiful area.
After two days in Bucharest, it was time to get on the Uniworld Duchess. Very nice boat with wonderful crew and they took care of me for the next 10 days. The food was way too good but I managed not to gain weight but had to give up the wonderful desserts! The cabin was spacious enough and the bathroom was adequate. The Australians were the majority on this cruise and they did the full four weeks and continued past Vienna up to Passau, then the Main River and to the Rhine to finish their cruise in Amsterdam.
The boat crossed the Danube from the Romania shore to the Bulgarian shore and from there the buses took us to the Black Sea. It was quite stormy that day so the scheduled trip out to sea was cancelled and instead a short trip on the inland waterway which still managed to get a few people feeling queasy. A great lunch was served at one of the local restaurants and then to a museum that formerly was a French boarding school for girls.
The Bulgarians were very gracious and very proud of what they have accomplished since the end of the Iron Curtain. The boat continued up the Danube to Serbia and Croatia where remnants for their struggle is still evident. There were still fields in Croatia that had land mines not yet discovered, scary! Uniworld had arranged for the guests onboard to visit a typical family in Croatia and the family I went to served lunch and most everything served was grown in their own back yard including live stock.
Back onboard, the boat continued up the Danube to my favorite city, Budapest! The boat got in after dark and the captain cruised on past the landing spot so that we could get a look at the city with all the lights etc. It was magical to say the least. The next day there was a tour of the city and then into the country side to see a farm where horses similar to the Lippanzer Stallions are trained. It was very impressive.
The next stop was Bratislava in Slovakia and again very impressed with this city that saw so much history of fighting in the past forty years. From there the boat headed to Vienna.
Magical city but no so much so in the RAIN!!! St Stephen’s was dry and as beautiful as ever.