Our original plan was to truck True East from the Baltic, around Belin, to the Danube, then down the Danube thru the Black Sea into the Aegean in Turkey. This should have been 2020; however, Covid caused a two year delay and then Putin decided in 2022 the Black Sea was his lake. Additionally, having done the Tennessee, Cumberland, Columbia, Rhone, Rhine, Seine, etc. we have had enough of rivers on True East. OK, new plan.
The new plan for the boat is to ship it from the Netherlands to Turkey in the spring of 2023. We decided that instead of our boat, we would finally breakdown an take a river boat cruise on the lower Danube and do a few side trips.
Graham and Beatrix Bolton decided to join us so we booked passage from Budapest to Bucharest. As the summer progressed an we watched the reports of low water levels in the rivers of world and sunken Germany navy ships from WW11 surfacing on the Danube, we had our doubts. As it turned out, there was enough water for our 180 passenger boat, about half full.
We arrived a few days early in Budapest so we could look around again, Marcia and Dan had been there ten years earlier and looked forward to seeing the progress. We were not disappointed. The market, the Dohany, the Basilica, the Opera House, the shoes along the river, Mathias Church and the Palace at night….all wonderful. But so was the condition of the infrastructure that they were working so hard on during our last visit.
Our ship was the Emerald Star…..not 5 star. The cabins were fine, the lounge was fine, the dining room was noisy and had terrible lighting. The passengers were all english speakers, mostly English, Canadian and Australian. We are simply not ‘group’ people being led around at the pace of the slowest person, riding on busses for hours and captured by on board dining. So, as soon as we dock we asked ‘when to we have to be back, good bye’. The lower Danube is not very exciting and we are certainly glad we did not try it on True East as there are essentially no recreational boat facilities for docking, fuel, water, etc. Our first stop was Kalocsa, our last stop in Hungary…we missed the Paprika Festival.
Our next stop was Vokovar in Serbia, home to one of the best marinas on the Danube….no way would we have fit and no services. From there we were bussed about ten miles to Osijek and it’s Fortress. Next stop, Belgrade a city of mixed character with a couple of main street with majestic buildings, but much of the city was very run down. We did visit lots of museums, including the Nikola Tesla Museum that Dan had to see. There is a huge fortress, but it’s just another fortress. It does have an office tower that looked line an upside down milk bottle.
Down river from Belgrade we stopped at Golubac in Serbia for an overnight so that we could passed thru the impressive Iron Gate in daylight. The Iron Gate is actually a narrow stretch of the river separating the Carpathian Mountains from the European Alps, it formed the edge of the Roman Empire. At this point the Danube is the boarder between Serbia and Romania.
Thankfully, we did have a nice day where we could be on deck for a change. Dan had liberal access to the wheelhouse and spent many happy hours there, including going thru the locks below the Iron Gate. This dam houses an enormous hydro electric facility.
In Vidin we explored the city with its fortress, museums and churches. We also enjoyed a wonderful lunch in a local restaurant. On to Rousse in Bulgaria, population about 150,000, where we again explored the city including the dreadful railway museum. Our journey ended at the Port of Giurgiu, about 50 miles from Bucharest.
After a group tour of the Ceausescu Mansion, we left the group and checked into our beautiful Marmorosch Hotel, this was 5 star. The Boltons had to leave after a day; however, Dan and Marcia were able to explore this beautiful city for several days. Bucharest was certainly one the finest cities in Eastern Europe.
Click on the photo to see the album of this trip