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Great adventures aplenty on tour of dramatic Danube

13 May 2020

Cruising like a king on the Amadeus Queen, Chris Page enjoys a first class trip to explore Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Germany.

Aunique passage of discovery, awash with right royal quality, awaits anyone opting to take cruise control aboard a boat where true new friend-ships are forged.

Adventures aplenty lurk behind Danube bends - courtesy of a relative novice in this travel sector. New kid on the dock is none other than Great Rail Journeys, whose impressive reputation rises with every sail.

Enjoyable, escorted, exploration for the more mature traveller is ensured at every turn, fittingly first class, courtesy of the Yorkshire-based specialists whose train transport track record remains second to none after 45 years' experience.

And, water way to launch its debut five-star voyage, along the most scenic sections of route, from the Black Forest to Black Sea.

The transnational trip seamlessly samples Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Germany throughout eight great days and magnificent seven nights.

Quality cabins belie "the more you pay, more you sway" misnomer, this quality floating hotel offering superior spacious accommodation, while gourmet catering comes second to none from bountiful breakfasts to dinners that digest fine dining. Some 50 staff, representing ten nationalities spanning the globe, are consistently efficient and entertaining in equal measure, while fellow guests prove personable and convivial company.

Day 1

The Hungarian capital - and George Ezra hit song title - is the first port of call , Budapest bisected by the body of water Johann Strauss II, immortalised with 1866 "blue" waltz. The highlight was a truly illuminating evening spectacular where amazing architectural landmarks could be viewed in a new, awe-inspiring, light.

Day 2

Having slept like a captain's log, this most majestic of cities becomes available via coach tour. Opera House, Parliament Building, Széchenyi Chain Bridge, St Stephen's Basilica and Castle all underline why Bude and Pest combined are correctly acclaimed the "Gem of the Danube".

Day 3

The Slovak capital, surrounded by vineyards and Little Carpathian heights, boasts Michalska Gate, Main Square, Old Town Hall, Primatial Palace, Reduta, Cathedral of St Martin and a reconstructed castle, which overlooks beautiful pedestrianised central cafes and bars.

Day 4

Vienna sees us transported back in time to days of decadence, exemplified by Ringstrasse's finest building blocks, impressive State Opera, monumental Museums of Fine Art and Natural History, as well as neo-classical Parliament, acclaimed City Hall and Burgtheater. A fitting finale to my Viennese whirl came in the stylish shape of the Philharmonic Orchestra quartet, whose lounge recital of Mozart and other classics rocked the Amadeus under the star-spangled nocturnal skies.

Day 5

The Danube, snaking its interminable way along Carlsberg of scenic vistas, tips us up amid a valley of vineyards at the delightful Dürnstein's monastery and castle, before upping anchor again and heading for Emmersdorf.

Day 6

Packed lunch and electronic guide gizmo in hand, we head for the hills, sampling the spectacular scenery, speckled with various lakes. On to UNESCO-listed Hallstatt, whose traditional pastel-shaded houses, perched on a precarious plain between crags and water, makes this settlement a picture-postcard photo opportunity.

Day 7

If it's mid-week, it must be Regensburg. Medieval to its historic core, built around the 12th century Stone Bridge, it also boasts a cathedral, one century younger, standing as a twinspired Gothic landmark and home to the globally-renowned Domspatzen choir.

Day 8

Suited and booted gala dinner enjoyed, a little too much by some - we know who we are! - the last day dawns. We visited Three Rivers City in the shadow of Veste Oberhaus, a 13th century hilltop fortress housing city museum and observation tower.

The Old town offers up new revelations including St Stephen's Cathedral, featuring distinctive onion-domed towers and organ, sporting just shy of 18,000 pipes. What's not to like about unpacking once, only to awake refreshed daily in new cities, nay countries? I rest my case. And you can yours...


Author - Chris Page

Journalist of 42 years' standing, life-long JPIMedia staffer Chris Page is content editor, also specialising in travel writing, the 61 year-old's other passions ranging from family, friends, food and drink to Leeds United, mod culture and Nordic Noir.