Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on LinkedIn

Budapest is one of those places that I hadn’t gotten enough of the first time around, so I was delighted that my Viking River Cruises Grand European Tour would end in the city that is often described as the Paris of the East. There was much I hadn’t seen two years earlier, but my most glaring omission had been not visiting any of the famous thermal baths in Budapest, and I was determined to rectify that situation.

Time would not allow me to visit all seven of the facilities in the city, so I focused on the three most famous: Rudas, Széchenyi, and Gellért, all of which have thermal baths and swimming pools. Thousands of articles have been written on Budapest’s thermal spas, so there is little I can add to the conversation, except to describe my personal experience at each and provide my opinion as to which is best.

Enjoying the day at Szechenyi Baths, one of the most famous thermal baths in Budapest, with my friends, Agi and Dessy

Enjoying the day at Szechenyi Baths, one of the most famous thermal baths in Budapest, with my friends, Agi and Dessy. Photo courtesy of Agnes Lovas.

For my visit to the Széchenyi Thermal Baths, I joined friends Agi and Dessy. Initially I had suggested we just meet at the bath, but Agi, who used to live in Budapest, advised otherwise. “I tried that once with other friends and spent the entire day looking for them.” Instead, we met at the Metro station and went as a group. Once inside, I understood what Agi meant. The facility is immense. After hours of snooping around, I still hadn’t seen everything Széchenyi had to offer. Read More

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on LinkedIn
Typical street scene in Krems an der Donau, a small town on the Danube River at the eastern end of Wachau valley in southern Austria

Click on above photo to view it in large format: Typical cobblestone street in Krems an der Donau, a small town on the Danube River at the eastern end of Wachau valley in southern Austria. One of the many gorgeous sights seen during my Grand European Tour with Viking River Cruises.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on LinkedIn
The town of Durnstein in Lower Austria was named for the Medieval stone castle, now in ruins, which overlooks it

Click on above photo to view it in large format: The town of Durnstein in the Wachau Valley of Austria was named for the Medieval stone castle, now in ruins, which overlooks it. One of the many beautiful sights seen during my Grand European Tour with Viking River Cruises.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on LinkedIn
Melk Abbey, which sits on a rocky promontory above the town of Melk, was founded in 1089 when King Leopold II of Austria donated the land to Benedictine monks

Click on above photo to view it in large format: Melk Abbey, which sits on a rocky promontory above the town of Melk, Austria, was founded in 1089 when King Leopold II donated land for the monastery to Benedictine monks. One of the many magnificent sites seen during my Grand European Tour with Viking River Cruises.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on LinkedIn

The English historian, Edward Gibbon, once remarked that, “According to the law of custom, and perhaps of reason, foreign travel completes the education of an English gentleman.” Gibbon might well be considered an authority on the issue. In 1763, he embarked on a tour of continental Europe. A year later, while sitting amid the ruins of Rome, he conceived the idea for a book which later became The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: 1776–1788. Gibbon was following in the footsteps of aristocratic young European men, for whom education was not complete without a Grand Tour of the capitols and cultural centers of Europe. Though the Grand Tour ceased to be an element of the educational landscape in the mid-1800’s, the tradition is still alive and well, as I discovered on my recent Viking River Grand European Tour.

For hundreds of years, these windmills in Kinderdijk, Holland drained lands that lie more than 20 feet below the water level

For hundreds of years, these windmills in Kinderdijk, Holland drained lands that lie more than 20 feet below the water level

My cruise began at the waterfront in Amsterdam, where Viking Skadi was docked. We sailed just before midnight, heading south to Kinderdijk, the largest remaining collection of windmills in Holland. By morning, we were anchored on the shores of the Lek River, looking down upon a landscape where 19 historic windmills stood more than 20 feet below water level. It was easy to imagine that this area had once been an uninhabitable swamp. The ingenious Dutch, however, made these low-lying lands safe for human habitation through the use of windmills. Read More

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on LinkedIn
Exquisite Japanese Gardens at Melk Abbey, a Benedictine Monastery in the Wachau Valley of Lower Austria

Click on above photo to view it in large format: The Japanese Garden at Melk Abbey, a Benedictine Monastery in the Wachau Valley of Lower Austria. One of the many exquisite sites seen during my Grand European Tour with Viking River Cruises.