The final full day of our Viking Romantic Danube cruise started with a bus ride from just outside Budapest, traveling over icy winter roads. We saw more than one car that had slid into a ditch. Once in Budapest, Viking provided us with a whirlwind tour that hit the highlights of this beautiful city. Budapest is a destination where just hitting the highlights feels like going to a smorgasbord and coming back to the table with an empty plate, so I guess we now feel a hunger to go back sometime and see more.
Here were some of the highlights of the city tour:
Near Buda Castle we visited St. Matthias Church, next to the Fisherman’s Bastion, with its panoramic views across the Danube to Pest. By this time, Viking’s “castles and cathedrals” itineraries might have lead us to echo the British tourist’s “ABC” complaint – “Another Bloody Church.” Our attitude began to soften as we approached this striking church:
The tile roof was especially eye-catching:
When we went inside, we were completely charmed. Matthias was so different from any of the other churches and cathedrals we had visited in Europe. Unlike the nearly pure white interiors of some of the French and German medieval churches, Matthias was painted in elaborate patterns with bright colors. It seemed to have more of a Middle Eastern feel to it. We learned that while the Ottomans controlled Hungary in the 1500s and 1600s, Matthias was turned into a mosque and its walls were whitewashed. That change has definitely been reversed.
The patterns and colors were found on columns:
And basically on every surface:
We spent the afternoon on a food tour of Budapest’s Great Market Hall, which was decorated for the holidays and packed with shoppers buying their supplies for Christmas, which was only three days away.
Our tour included many samples, including wine and liquors, honey, sausage, and pickled peppers. Of course, we stocked up on hot and sweet paprika.
The next morning we had a very early flight home, flying from Budapest to Amsterdam and on home to Boston. It was a good thing that we could snooze a bit on the plane, since we had to get home for a Christmas party that night!
As I write this, it’s been nearly three months since we returned from this cruise. We think that it’s time to get serious about booking another cruise – maybe to the South of France!