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Christmas Markets along the Danube

Budapest to Vienna

sunny 36 °F

We left Budapest just after noon for the 28 hour transit to Vienna against a strong current. The highlight of the early evening was passing by Esztergom Basilica. It is the largest church and the tallest building in Hungary. Its inner area is 5,600 m². It is 118 m long and 49 m wide. It has a reverberation time of more than 9 seconds. Its dome, forming a semi-sphere, is situated in the middle, and it has 12 windows. It is 71.5 m high inside, with a diameter of 33.5 metres, and is 100 m high from outside, the stairs count 400 steps counted from the crypt. The altarpiece (13.5 × 6.6 metres, depicting the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, by Girolamo Michelangelo Grigoletti) is the largest painting in the world painted on a single piece of canvas. The basilica is also known for Bakócz Chapel (named after Tamás Bakócz), built by Italian masters between 1506–1507 out of red marble of Süttő, its walls adorned with Tuscan Renaissance motifs. It is the most precious remaining example of Renaissance art in Hungary. The huge crypt, built in Old Egyptian style in 1831, is today the resting place of late archbishops, among others, József Mindszenty, famous for his opposition to both Nazi and Communist rule. After dinner the guests decorated the Christmas tree. We finally arrived in Vienna at about 3:30pm after transiting the Vienna Locks, and took a modified walking tour through the old city of Vienna and the Maria Theresa Christmas market. the Gluhwien was excellent!

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Posted by rpickett 09:38 Archived in Austria Tagged danube Comments (0)

Christmas Markets along the Danube

AMAMagna

rain 35 °F

At was a foggy and drizzly day in Budapest today, so we decided to forgo the city tour, which we had done before. Also, Budapest does not have one big Christmas market, but smaller ones spread around the city. Instead I chose to stay on board and take some pictures of the ship, which has been stunningly decorated for the Christmas season. From the AMA web site: "As imagined by AmaWaterways’ Co-Founder, Co-Owner and President Rudi Schreiner, the “Godfather of River Cruising,” the AmaMagna is twice the width of traditional European river ships and offers more personal space, more unique dining venues and more leisure opportunities, redefining the river cruise experience! Most accommodations are spacious suites measuring 355 to 710 sq. ft. with full balconies. In addition to the Main Restaurant and The Chef’s Table, AmaMagna introduces two enticing new dining venues: Jimmy’s, a family-style restaurant named for AmaWaterways’ late Co-Owner Jimmy Murphy, and the Al Fresco Restaurant, with retractable windows and outdoor seating. Both a sun-deck pool and whirlpool invite guests to refresh and enjoy the views. AmaMagna’s Zen Wellness Studio is an expansive space with a fitness center, two massage rooms and a refreshing juice bar. And finally, The Marina opens to reveal a Sundowner boat upon which intimate river excursions take place."

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Posted by rpickett 02:54 Archived in Hungary Tagged amamagna Comments (0)

Christmas Markets along the Danube

Budapest

sunny 40 °F

We arrived in Budapest at about 4:30pm, long after the sun set at about 3:45pm. Our driver met us at the front of the train and we headed from Pest to Buda to the Hilton Budapest on Castle Hill. Castle Hill is a kilometre-long limestone plateau towering 170m above the Danube. It contains some of Budapest’s most important medieval monuments and museums and is a Unesco World Heritage Site. Below it is a 28km-long network of caves formed by thermal springs. The walled area consists of two distinct parts: the Old Town to the north, where commoners once lived, and the Royal Palace to the south, the original site of the castle built by Béla IV in the 13th century and reserved for the nobility. The oldest part of the present-day palace was built in the 14th century by Stephen, Duke of Slavonia, who was the younger brother of King Louis I of Hungary. Only the foundations remain of the castle keep, which was known as Stephen's Tower. The Gothic palace of King Louis I was arranged around a narrow courtyard next to the keep. We ate a wonderful dinner at a Michelin rated restaurant, which I had made a reservation for before we left. There is a beautiful Catholic Church next to the Hilton, Mátyás Templom, which celebrated a high Latin mass at 10:00am, which was perfect for the second Sunday of Advent. According to church tradition, it was originally built in Romanesque style in 1015, although few references exist. The current building was constructed in the florid late Gothic style in the second half of the 14th century and was extensively restored in the late 19th century. It was the second largest church of medieval Buda and the seventh largest church of the medieval Hungarian Kingdom. After church, we packed up and took a taxi down to the Danube and checked in to AMAMagna.

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Posted by rpickett 06:44 Archived in Hungary Tagged budapest Comments (0)

Christmas Markets along the Danube

Salzburg to Budapest

overcast 34 °F

Today's project was to get from Salzburg to Budapest by train! It was easy. Took a 10 minute taxi ride to the train station, bought some lunch to eat alone the way and boarded the train in one of the first class cars. It's about a 5 hour train ride to Budapest through farm country which is beautiful, although the weather was overcast and just about freezing. We arrived in Budapest a few minutes late, and our driver met us in the front of the train. I had read that most taxi drivers in Budapest don't speak much English, so having a fluent driver and car ready for the 20 minute drive to the Hilton on Castle Hill was wonderful. Even better was the Danube view room I had booked us in. Tonight it's dinner, then tomorrow we head to our river boat the AMAMagna. As we moved east, the sunsets earlier - today at 3:45pm!

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Posted by rpickett 08:55 Comments (0)

Christmas Markets along the Danube

Salzburg

sunny 34 °F

One of the great centuries old traditions of Europe are the Advent or Christmas Markets. The best way to see them is a river cruise. We flew from Charleston to Munich by way of Dulles, took a shuttle to the Munich Trainstation (Hauptbahnhof) and had a wonderful trip to Salzburg, Austria for our first night in Europe. Tomorrow we board a train to BudaPest, where we will board the AMAMagna on Sunday on the Danube. Today's goal was to explore the Advent Markets, Eagles Nest and the Mozart home (no photography allowed).

The town is located on the site of the former Roman settlement of Iuvavum. Salzburg was founded as an episcopal see in 696 and became a seat of the archbishop in 798. Its main sources of income were salt extraction and trade and, at times, gold mining. The fortress of Hohensalzburg, one of the largest medieval fortresses in Europe, dates from the 11th century. In the 17th century, Salzburg became a centre of the Counter-Reformation, where monasteries and numerous Baroque churches were built. Salzburg's historic centre is thus renowned for its Baroque architecture and is one of the best-preserved city centres north of the Alps, with 27 churches. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. The city has three universities and a large population of students. Tourists also visit Salzburg to tour the historic centre and the scenic Alpine surroundings. Salzburg was the birthplace of the 18th-century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Because of its history, culture, and attractions, Salzburg has been labeled Austria's "most inspiring city."

The origins of the famous Salzburg Christmas market go all the way back to the late 15th century. Back then, the so-called “Tandlmarkt” would be held on Cathedral Square in the heart of the city, offering a wide range of goods for the locals to buy. By the 17th century, this Advent market had been christened the “Nikolaimarkt” – that is to say, the “Saint Nicholas’ Market”. For two weeks before and two weeks after St. Nicholas’ Day (on 6 December), a variety of products were offered for sale on and close to Cathedral Square: from a delectable selection of foods, to dolls and all kinds of bric-a-brac. The "Nikolaimarkt" was one of the most famous Advent markets of its day, second only to the ones in Vienna, Paris, Amsterdam and Nuremberg. The Salzburg Christkindlmarkt, as it is known today around the world, has existed since 1974. Every year, the market is officially opened with befitting pomp and circumstance on the Thursday preceding the first Sunday in Advent, closing its shutters for the final time on 26 December. Local folk customs and traditional decorations for the Christmas tree, gifts for big and small, incense to help conjure up a festive atmosphere in your own home, all kinds of delectable treats in the form of Austrian specialties, mulled wine and hot punch: At the Christmas market on Salzburg’s Cathedral Square, you will discover practically everything you could possibly wish for.

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Posted by rpickett 08:41 Archived in Austria Tagged salzburg Comments (0)

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