Report from the river in June-July 2023

Back on the Danube

A view of the boat's lounge sometime near the start of the cruise. This is where Susan and I gave our presentations and where the evening entertainment took place. Oh, and yeah, the bar is here too. Photo: Mark Baker
My partner-in-crime for the trip: Nat Geo photographer Susan Seubert (www.sseubert.com). She taught me some iPhone tips with 'Portrait Mode' and I decided to try them out on her. Photo: Mark Baker
My cabin, room 220, was on the boat's second level. That means I had my own small viewing terrace, with chairs and a table. The cabins are surprisingly roomy and comfortable. Photo: Mark Baker
The long, narrow corridor from the lounge and dining rooms back to my cabin on the second level. Photo: Mark Baker
One of the highlights of Budapest is the hike up (or bus ride) to the Hungarian Castle on Buda Hill. I took this view out over the Pest side of the river from near Fisherman's Bastion. Photo: Mark Baker
Our time in Budapest coincided with a worldwide Harley-Davidson meet-up in the city. I can't remember the exact number of bikers but something north of 20,000 riders turned up. They were everywhere. Photo: Mark Baker
The view from my cabin's terrace as our boat moved north of Budapest on the second day. This quiet stretch of river is one of my favorite spots along the Danube. Photo: Mark Baker
Another view from my cabin window. This is Bratislava's 'UFO' bridge as the sun set on day 3 of the trip. Photo: Mark Baker
While in Bratislava, Nat Geo photographer Susan Seubert and I took the opportunity to visit the Hotel Devin. I hadn't been back since 1989, when the Czechoslovak secret police set up a sting operation for me here. Not much had changed. Photo: Susan Seubert.
Another photo from the Devin. It felt very strange to be back there after so many years. The trip was one of those 'when worlds collide' moments for me. Photo: Susan Seubert.
Here, our boat passes through one of many locks on the river. This photo shows how narrow the passageways are and how close the boat actually comes to the concrete edges. Photo: Mark Baker
In addition to the normal lunches served in the dining room, we had the daily option of having burgers in the lounge. They were surprisingly good. I'm happy to report I only opted for this two times during the week ... Photo: Mark Baker
The food on board was very good bordering on excellent most days. One of my favorites was this fish dish served toward the end of our journey. Photo: Mark Baker
This was an outstanding shrimp and risotto appetizer -- though it was so good that I can't remember the rest of the meal. The trick with cruises is to pace yourself with food. Portions are on the large side and you can eat as much as you want. Photo: Mark Baker
Those who know me, know that I eat gluten-free. The only time this usually proves to be an issue is during dessert. Fortunately, the cooks turned out some amazing ice cream concoctions. First time I'd had sprinkles since I was a kid. Photo: Mark Baker
Back in the 1980s, when I lived and worked in Vienna, I would pass by the Karlskirche and this Henry Moore statue every day on my commute to work. Both are still there and looking good. Photo: Mark Baker
We had the option of taking a bicycle trip on several days. This was our boat's first cycling outing, in Vienna, where we started out in a driving rainstorm. Hey, my weather app said almost zero chance of rain! The rain eventually stopped and it was a lot of fun to ride again in Vienna. Photo: Mark Baker
This photo is from our outing to Schönbrunn Palace, just outside central Vienna. We toured the interior and then had some free time to scramble around the gardens. Photo: Mark Baker
We stopped in the Austrian town of Grein to tour Greinburg Palace, owned by the ducal Saxe-Coburg and Gotha families. I loved this view out one of the windows toward the town and Danube. Photo: Mark Baker
The entryway to Austria's splendidly Baroque, admittedly overblown Melk Abbey in Austria's Wachau Valley. Photo: Mark Baker
A typical view of Austria's Wachau Valley from the sun deck. It's mostly rolling hills, vineyards, apricot orchards and the occasional castle ruin. Photo: Mark Baker
One of the highlights of these Danube river cruises is the chance to go cycling in Austria's Wachau Valley. We got some fantastic weather on the day of our ride. Photo: Mark Baker
A group photo of our Wachau Valley cycling trip with the Melk Abbey in the background. I'm standing second from the right.
Oddly, our boat stopped and toured the industrial city of Linz. It wasn't the most awe-inspiring of tours (much of the city was leveled in World War II), but I liked this view over the river from what survives of Linz's old town. Photo: Mark Baker
Although the Czech town of Český Krumlov isn't actually on the Danube, it's close enough to Linz so that passengers can hop over on a bus. I've been to Krumlov many times, but it's always fun to watch the expressions of first-time visitors. Photo: Mark Baker
Our trip ended in the small town of Vilshofen, Germany, where the town and AMA treated us to an impromptu 'Oktoberfest' -- complete with Oompah music and a beer tent. Photo: Mark Baker

Comments

  1. This was great trip. It was nice to have met you and I’m anticipating your book in English.

    Javier

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About the author

Mark Baker

I’m an independent journalist, travel writer and author who’s lived in Central Europe for nearly three decades. I love the history, literature, culture and mystery of this often-overlooked corner of Europe, and I make my living writing articles and guidebooks about the region. Much of what I write eventually finds its way into commercial print or digital outlets, but a lot of it does not.

And that’s my aim with this website: to find a space for stories and experiences that fall outside the publishing mainstream.

My Book: ‘Čas Proměn’

In 2021, I published “Čas Proměn” (“Time of Changes”), my first book of historical nonfiction. The book, written in Czech, is a collection of stories about Central and Eastern Europe in the 1980s and early ‘90s, including memories of the thrilling anti-communist revolutions of 1989. The idea for the book and many of the tales I tell there were directly inspired by this blog. Czech readers, find a link to purchase the book here. I hope you enjoy.

Tales of Travel & Adventure in Central Europe
Mark Baker