By Cele & Lynn Seldon
Explore the historical highlights & profound portraits.
When it comes to European travel, Western Europe typically gets all the attention. It’s certainly the more popular side of the continent, with the iconic sights, wines and foods of France, Italy and Spain being typical tourist draws. However, Eastern Europe offers up a rich history and cultural significance made up of different traditions, ethnicities and languages, all while offering a glimpse into communist life before the fall of the Iron Curtain. With so many countries that are part of the Eastern European landscape to choose from, a “Highlights of Eastern Europe” or “Portraits of Eastern Europe”
itinerary with Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection takes away all the guesswork.
The 10-day “Highlights of Eastern Europe” starts out with two days exploring Romania’s capital city, Bucharest, before setting sail on the 152-passenger S.S. Beatrice or the 130-passenger River Duchess through five countries before disembarking in Budapest. The 19-day “Portraits of Eastern Europe” also starts out in Bucharest and follows the same itinerary on the S.S. Beatrice. However, it continues on after Budapest through a total of eight countries along the Danube River before disembarking in Nuremberg, Germany and spending two final days in the dynamic city of Prague, Czech Republic. Both are overflowing with UNESCO World Heritage sites, magnificent capital cities, quaint villages, inspiring architecture, majestic cathedrals and the diverse cultures and people of this resilient region.
The adventure starts in Romania’s bustling capital city of Bucharest and its Belle Epoque architecture and joie de vivre vibe with a two-night contemporary hotel stay. Explore the Ceausescu Mansion, the opulent 80-room residence of former Romanian communist President Nicolae Ceausescu. Visit Revolution Square, where the National Museum of Art of Romania, the ornate Romanian Athenaeum concert hall, the University of Bucharest Library, the notorious Athenee Palace hotel, and the Memorial of Rebirth, which pays homage to the victims of the Romanian Revolution of 1989, and more reside. Or head to Lipscani, Bucharest’s restored old town that houses beer halls, antique shops, bookstores, posh hotels, trendy restaurants and bars and the 15th-century remnants of Old Princely Court, the residence of Vlad the Impaler.
After embarking on the ship in Giurgiu, set sail on the Danube to Rousse, Bulgaria’s largest port town. Called “Little Vienna” for its elegant 19th-century mansions and architecture, you can explore cave monasteries — one of which is still active, or the ruins of the Tsarevets fortress of the Second Bulgarian Empire in Veliko Tarnovo and the stone churches of Arbanassi.
Continue west on the Danube to the medieval town of Vidin, then visit the Stone Age archeological site of Lepenski Vir and the imposing Golubac Fortress on the Serbian side of the Danube before arriving in one of Europe’s oldest city and the modern-day capital of Serbia, Belgrade. See the city’s eclectic mix of architectural styles as you explore the Belgrade Fortress at Kalemegdan Park, the Karadjordjevic Dynasty Palace and the charming residential streets and café-lined boulevards.
The next stop is Vukovar and nearby Osijek, Croatia, for a deep dive into the history of the 1990s Croatian War of Independence and a taste of its local foods before arriving in Budapest, Hungary, for a two-day stay. Explore both the Buda and Pest sides of the Danube. Highlights include Heroes’ Square, Dohany Street Synagogue, the Hungarian National Museum, St. Stephen’s Basilica, Castle Hill, Szechenyi Chain Bridge, the stunning Parliament Building and the waters of the many thermal baths.
Guests who have sailed on the “Highlights of Eastern Europe” disembark on the second day in Budapest, while the guests of the “Portraits of Eastern Europe” still have plenty to look forward to as the ship sets sail for the grande dame of the Danube, Vienna, Austria. Home to Mozart, Beethoven, Klimt, Freud and many other artistic and intellectual legends, Vienna is a treasure trove of expressive architecture (Hundertwasser House), imperial palaces (Hofburg and Schonbrunn Palace), art museums and galleries (Kunsthistorisches Museum of Fine Arts and Weltmuseum Wien museum of ethnology), opera houses and theaters (Burgtheater) and whimsy (the Ferris wheel at Prater Park and tasty Vienna sausages, canapes and Viennese wine) for all to enjoy.
The awe-inspiring countryside of Austria’s Wachau Valley is the highlight after Vienna with miles of sweeping vineyards and tree-lined slopes of the Bohemian mountain foothills, storybook villages like Spitz and Engelhartszell and stunning castles dotting the landscape.
Sail into Passau, Germany — a literal crossroads where the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers meet. Spend the day exploring the cobblestone streets of this medieval town, the green onion domes of St. Stephen’s Cathedral or take a bike ride along the Danube and through the countryside.
Next up is the beautifully situated town of Regensburg where you can visit the 1,000-year-old, 500-room St. Emmeram Castle, the Princely House of Thurn and Taxis, with its mixture of opulent Romanesque-Gothic, neo-Renaissance and Rococo architectural styles, magnificent chandeliers, gold leaf and a spectacular collection of contemporary art. Or spend the day exploring German engineering at its finest at the state-of-the-art BMW factory.
More to Marvel
The journey from Regensburg to Nuremberg is a highlight of Eastern Europe. An engineering feat, the 106-mile canal features 16 locks linking the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers and allows ships of all sizes to cruise from the Black Sea to the North Sea. Enjoy watching the ship rise and fall more than 1,300 feet as it navigates the canal on its way to Nuremberg. Once in Nuremberg, immerse yourself in the history of the Third Reich with a visit to the Nazi Party Rally Grounds, Zeppelin Field and the Documentation Center before transferring by motor coach to Prague for a two-night stay at a luxury hotel.
Spend the final days of your Eastern European odyssey exploring Prague — the capital city of the Czech Republic — with its skyline of spires, storybook palaces, lush architecture and vibrant social scene. See the State Opera House, the National Museum, Wenceslas Square and the magnificent Prague Castle. Wander the winding lanes of the somber Jewish Quarter, marvel at the Astronomical Clock on the Old Town Square, cross the Gothic pedestrian Charles Bridge — stopping into one of the many cafes below the bridge — into the picturesque Lesser Quarter or explore the international food scene and elegant architecture of Vinohrady. Wherever you go, it’s a perfect ending to your Eastern European exploration.
Discover Eastern Europe with Uniworld and AAA! Call 800-750-5386 for details on all the exciting itineraries.
(Traveler — Winter 2020)