Out of the blue, I was asked one day, “Would you like to go to a promotional talk about River Cruising?” It sounded interesting. I said yes. It was exciting, and the slideshow pulled us right into the dream gliding along the large rivers of Europe. The promotion was for a cruise between Amsterdam and Budapest, along the Rhine and the Main River through Holland and Germany, the canal connecting Main and Danube to Austria and Hungary. We were impressed, and – you guessed it, we booked. It was expensive, but the price included all tips, excursions and even drinks. Drinks? Hahaha! It started with champagne at breakfast and choices of red or white wine for lunch and dinner harvested in the country we traversed as was the food. Mind you, you could have any other drinks – I was sorry I am not into alcohol.
We were keen to start in Amsterdam. Since that sailing was sold out we had to fly to Budapest and do the cruise in reverse. We were lucky to have enough frequent flyer points for business class, but could not get a flight for the day we needed to meet the ship. We arrived three full days early. I did not like it. I remembered the years after WWII, the times under harsh communist rule, the Hungarian revolution in the fifties, and I couldn’t fathom what we could do there. Was I ever wrong!
Budapest is like another Paris. Believe it or not! We loved it. We were happy we had the extra three days after all. The people in the Marriot Hotel were super friendly, the typical Hungarian restaurants delightful, the street vendors just a little pushy but otherwise, everything was more than we could have imagined. Budapest was re-built in the old style, clean with beautiful shops and bistros along the walkway following the Danube for miles. The weather was great. Budapest is actually a twin city, Buda and Pest, divided by the great river. Buda, across the river from our hotel with mighty fortress walls and towers was especially intriguing. A photographers dream! We walked more than 10.000 steps a day, and we didn’t see it all.
The second part of the adventure began when we boarded our ship, Scenic Ruby, on the third day in the late afternoon. We were in Hungary; the reception on our floating hotel was as if we were family. The display of typical Hungarian food heated our saliva to almost one hundred degrees.