Bratislava to Vienna
A ‘sea day’
Those familiar with ocean cruising will know of the concept of a ‘sea day’, where you spend the entire day out at sea, and any activities for the day are therefore ship-based. On an ocean liner, this might mean you can visit the movie theatre, the pool, the casino, the salon, or any number of other facilities, however on a river cruise those opportunities are limited to say the least. So for today, we were pretty much confined to our cabin as we headed through Bratislava in the early morning and on to Vienna in the late afternoon.
Now let me say from the start that Scenic have been pretty darned good so far as tour operators, and at times we’ve been blown away by the service. I certainly don’t want to be THAT guy, who whines at the slightest of inconveniences. But let’s face it, if you were going to be confined to the ship for a full day’s cruising, this is not really the stretch of the Danube you’d choose to do it on. It’s pretty flat and featureless for most of the way, with poor to no internet coverage for long stints at a time.
A far better solution would have been to offer a coach trip from Budapest to Bratislava (a bit under 3 hours), followed by a tour & lunch in the Slovakian capital, and have the coach join the boat again at Vienna. This would not only give the paying customers something to do for the day, it would also free up those who really want to see Bratislava from having to miss out on the morning tours in Vienna the following day.
Having said that, the fact that there was nothing to miss out on actually proved to be a blessing in disguise, for Vanessa at least, as she had succumbed overnight to a lurgy that seems to have been circulating around the tour group, waking up with a sore throat and a chesty cough. So for most of the day she took advantage of the lack of activities available and stayed rugged up in bed.
For myself however, it was a frustrating day, as I tried to work around the numerous Wi-Fi blackspots to process the photographs from the previous evening’s trip out of Budapest and get them uploaded to the blog. Whenever there was no signal I would sit down with a pencil and some watercolours and attempt to do some painting, or I’d stand at the balcony window with my camera and try to pick out a few interesting features out of all the sameness.
When we reached Bratislava mid-morning, there was a brief period of more interesting sights to be seen, as the industrial outskirts gave way to the more architecturally scenic city centre. Apparently Slovakia has a very productive economy, with a huge Volkswagen manufacturing plant on the outskirts of Bratislava, and as such there seems to be a lot of building activity and renovations going on right along the river.
Pretty soon we were passing by the river in the same spot that we’d viewed from high up on the hill just a few days before. Bratislava Castle stood proud on the hilltop above us, its stark white walls visible from a great distance.
As someone who works in a parliament building, I’m always interested to check out the various other parliaments wherever we go. From what I’ve seen so far, few can rival the Hungarian Parliament building for sheer architectural splendour, but as far as the Slovakian Parliament building goes, what it lacks in beauty of design, it certainly makes up for with a view to die for, high on a hill looking over the Danube Valley.
The cruise through the Bratislava section of the river took a little over an hour, giving us a great view of the city & its hillside suburbs, before we returned to a more forested stretch for the majority of the afternoon.
A short time after leaving Bratislava, we passed the little town of Devin at the junction of the Danube and Morava Rivers, where the ruins of Devinsky hrad (Castle Devin) sit on top of a massive stone outcrop. The ruins have been partially restored and are a popular tourist spot for those who don’t mind a steep walk.
The rest of the journey towards Vienna was fairly featureless, although we were taken by the number of cool looking fishing shacks along the shoreline as we reached the outskirts of the city proper.
As we approached the last lock of the day, we passed under the main flight path of Vienna’s airport, and every few minutes the ship would vibrate with the noise of the jet engines passing above.
Suddenly all around us there were signs of life, and the last hour or so of the journey were spent watching the city skyline gradually come into view, while along the Danube the colour and movement of Austrians going about their daily business finally gave us something to break the monotony of what had been a long day.
We docked in Vienna at around 5:30 pm, and with Vanessa still feeling the effects of her head cold, we decided to forgo the evening trip to an opera recital and have dinner in our room instead. I headed off into the old town to have a quick look around and pick up a few supplies, on what should have been about an hour’s walk – instead it ended up being 2 hours, thanks to Google deciding that the way back to the boat should involve seeing as much of the sights of Vienna as possible, via the ‘scenic route’.