Monthly Archives: May 2017

MY VIKING STORY: THE ROMANTIC DANUBE FROM BUDAPEST TO NUREMBERG

On a break from my outdoor and adventure life, I have just had the pleasure of sailing the Danube on a luxury cruise. Returning home with my motivation to travel sky high, I decided to write about my trip. From Budapest in Hungary the river Danube took us through some breathtaking scenery and beautiful towns and cities. Onboard a Viking Cruise river boat, we were treated to a feast of entertainment, fine dining, as well as talks and displays of local culture. I wish in the following paragraphs to share this wonderful experience.

 

A Warm Welcome

When it comes to exploring the world in comfort, Viking Cruises have it all covered. As the world’s leading provider of river cruises, they offer an extraordinarily high level of comfort and cuisine leaving you to relax and take in the world in style. They provide a carefully constructed itinerary and program allowing you to focus on the intricacies of the destination, its food and its culture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Route

We joined the boat in Budapest and, from the minute we boarded the boat, were made very welcome indeed. We soon settled into our French Balcony Stateroom on the port side of the ship. The rooms were very comfortable and have a TV providing information about the trip, as well as an en-suite toilet and shower. It felt luxurious and restful and the week ahead felt really exciting.

Over the next six days we would travel around 900km along the Danube, through Austria and Germany, finishing up in Nuremberg. On our journey we would stop in Vienna, Krems, Passau, and Regensburg. At each stop tours were provided for us, as well as giving us a little free time to enjoy the sights for ourselves. Below is a map of our route.

We were to explore Budapest the next morning but, as a surprise to many of us, we were treated to a short cruise on the Danube that evening. After our evening meal the boat took us on a short trip. It was stunning, exciting and beautiful seeing the city from the river at night. Many of the bridges over the river, state buildings and churches were lit up making it an exquisite sight from the river. The most spectacular was the impressive Hungarian parliament that stands majestically on the bank of the Danube. Similarly the castle on the hill of Buda, stands as a monument proudly overlooking the city.

The Itinerary

Each day Viking offered a series of tours and activities. There is a program that is included in the cost of the trip, as well as many optional extra activities and tours that you can choose to do. Below is an outline of the days and places included in this tour. This indicates only a little of what is included in the package.

Day 1 Budapest

Tour the highlights of Buda and Pest including the National Opera House, Heroes’ Square. A walk on Castle Hill to Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion.

Day 2 Vienna

City tour. Spend the day in Vienna taking in the wonderful architecture and cultural delights.

Day 3 Krems

A Tour of 900 year old Gottweig Abbey, the place of work and worship for Benedictine Monks on a hill looking over the Wachau Valley.

Day 4 Passau

A walking tour of the beautiful and historic town of Passau.

Day 5 Regensburg

Touring the medieval city of Regensburg and observing the stunning architecture that remains untouched by WWII.

Day 6 Nuremberg

A City tour taking in the magnificent sites of the Castle and its intriguing town centre.

My Highlights

We saw so many beautiful places and had such wonderful experiences its difficult to single out any as a favourite. I would however be happy to narrow it down to two or three.

  • Firstly I must say that I fell in love with Vienna. It felt like a truly beautiful city, steeped in history and culture. I am a big fan of the architecture right here in Edinburgh but Vienna was every bit as special. The buildings were beautifully ornate and the grounds and gardens seemed very clean and litter free unlike the UK. I would have liked much more time to soak up the culture in Vienna and have every intention of going back sometime soon.
  • Passau in Germany was a joy to see. A relatively small town that is very old and historic. The streets were mostly cobbled and narrow with beautifully painted and decorated buildings. A small university town situated around a small port on the Danube made for a very pleasant tour.
  • I would like to see more of Budapest and spend more time there. What we saw was very interesting but there is so much more to do there. I would love to visit one of the geothermal spas and there is a lot of history there to be studied. Remnants of the communist era felt ever present and I think it would interesting to look more deeply into that.

Disability

I cannot fault Viking Cruises on their provision and attitudes towards disability. The boat and staterooms felt mostly accessible, and there were disabled facilities and a lift between the floors. The only part I found difficult was getting on and off the boat when we docked. There was a difficult bridge to walk between the ship and the bank and nothing to hold onto. One of the days it was on a steep slope and was rather slippery. I did not see a lift up to the sun deck on the top of the boat, although a disabled person could sun themselves on the bow outside the Aquavit lounge.

All the staff of Viking had a very attentive and polite attitude towards everyone. They were very helpful and patient and obviously work very hard indeed. The staff very very positive about disability and made no difference at all. If ever they saw me struggling to carry a drink or plate of food, they came right over to help me and I am very grateful.

 

Finally

We had a truly fantastic holiday and I cannot fault Viking Cruises for their level of service and commitment. I have to mention also, the people we met that just made our holiday. We had the great pleasure of meeting many lovely people onboard the boat and sharing the cruise with them.

I really look forward to sailing with Viking again in the future. I think they provide for everyone and for disabled people they are a real plus. There are so many Viking cruises available that the only difficulty might be in choosing which one to travel on. I hope to have a lot of cruising ahead of me.

DEUTER HELIUM RUCKSACK REVIEW: IDEAL FOR SHORT DAY TRIPS

 

 

 

Deuter Rucksack Review

The ‘Helium’ Rucksack by Deuter comes in a number of different sizes suitable for a days expedition. I was lucky enough to have been asked to review the Helium 34l and see what I make of it.

 

First Impressions

When it first arrived I was quite impressed because it is made with top quality material and comes with a number of features. It is available in two fabrics, black/red and blue/green. This rucksack is one single compartment and has two side pockets although they don’t close. It also has another pocket on the outside again that doesn’t close either.

 

Features

  • Large zip pocket in the top flap
  • Pocket inside main compartment suitable for a hydration system.
  • Compression straps at either side
  • Waist pocket on the right
  • Airflow mesh system on the back for comfort
  • Small zip pocket on the right waist strap
  • Attachments for poles or ice axe
  • Waterproof cover

 

 

 

 

 

Comfort

I find this rucksack very comfortable to use. Deuter have put a lot of time into the Airflow system on the back. This provides great support and allows air to circulate leaving you feeling comfortable with nothing digging into your back. The straps are all very well made and easily adjusted. Waist straps can be adjusted at both sides of the rucksack to fit snugly round your waist. Shoulder straps are adequately padded and there is a breast strap.

 

 

Pros

  • Ideal for day trips
  • Comfortable to use
  • Lightweight and durable

 

Cons

  • Everything is on the right hand side.
  • The pockets are not great, none of them zip or fasten up
  • The hydration system is not very clear. It took me a long time to find it and it is not a good system
  • It would have cost nothing to put a pocket on the left waist as well
  • The outside pocket seems almost useless because it doesn’t close at all.

Final Comments

This is a nice rucksack for day trips but it may not be my first choice. I feel that some of the features could have had better thought out. The external pockets are not very good and could have been better designed. There ought to have been a pocket on the left waist as well as the right and this, I believe would not have cost much extra. Similarly, there could so easily have been hydration access on the left but this has been overlooked.

HILLWALKING, AND SOME OF THE DIFFICULTIES I ENCOUNTER

 

Background

As you  may know by now, I am very attached to the Scottish Mountains and love walking in them. It does, of course bring its own set of challenges for me. UK Hillwalking magazine kindly agreed to publish an article for me and  I am very grateful. I have set out some of the difficulties I face and tried to get over my perspective on walking and my relationship with the outdoors. By clicking the link below you can read my thoughts. I’d be grateful if you came back to this page and leave your comments below.  Thank you.

https://www.ukhillwalking.com/articles/page.php?id=9293