First off, we’re arriving a day early so if there are issues or missed connections, we don’t have to stress too much. Flying through Brussels on the way over, we’re scheduled to land in Budapest around 11:30am on our Day 1.
Day 1 – Budapest
We’ve got nothing planned. It probably all depends upon how we feel, how much sleep we get and if our rooms are ready early at the hotel, Boscolo Budapest, where normal check-in is 3pm. If they are ready, honestly, I can see us opting for a 2-3 hour nap. I used to shun that possibility but as I’m aging, flying red-eyes kill me and when I did my most recent red-eye from Utah, I opted for a 2 hour nap when I got home at 8am and it really did the trick! If our room isn’t ready, well, it will probably be a quick clothing change, store our luggage and off to lunch somewhere close to the hotel, perhaps Kádár Étkezde (By the way, it appears étkezde is a type of establishment like restaurant or Canteen and the name of the place is Kádár – also listed in Lonely Planet).
After lunch/nap or both, a definite possibility would be to follow the the Neighborhood Walk for Erzsébetváros & the Jewish Quarter as outlined in the Lonely Planet Budapest book.
For dinner tonight, I’m hoping to get a reservation at Fricksa Gastropub – it’s close to the hotel, gets decent reviews and takes reservations. Otherwise we may just wing it.
Day 2 – Budapest
We have the entire day free as our tour doesn’t “start” until the evening when we have a welcome cocktail reception and dinner. Originally it was supposed to be at the Festetics Palace in Budapest but it has subsequently been changed to the Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library.
In the meantime, we’ve booked the Budda Food Walk tour with Taste of Hungary from 10-2 on Thursday. We’re leaving time open before (for catching up on sleep, writing, relaxing, whatever) and after for hopefully some wine tasting at their wine shop, The Tasting Table.
Day 3 – Budapest
From Tauck: Join Tauck’s local guides for sightseeing in Pest starting with a visit to St. Stephen’s Basilica, Budapest’s neo-Renaissance cathedral completed in 1905. Continue on to experience Pest’s impressive mix of architectural masterpieces and historic monuments as you view City Park, patriotic Heroes’ Square with its statues of Hungarian leaders through the ages and tree-lined Andrassy Avenue. Spend time wandering through bustling Central Market Hall, a veritable showcase of Hungarian life from food to gifts and cafés.
At that point, we can stay at the Central Market Hall or head back to the hotel. We’ll probably wing something for lunch today.
We have the afternoon free so Rick booked us at the Széchenyi Spa to experience the famous Hungarian baths.
Dinner is also free so I’ve been eyeing this place Könyv Bár which has this cool shtick where, in addition to their normal menu, they choose a book and serve a menu based upon that book. There’s a list of all the past books on their website and I wish I’d been around for some of them! I’ve contacted them via email for a 7:30 reservation, so we’ll see what happens.
Day 4 – Budapest and Beyond
We have the morning free and so we’ve haven’t planned anything. I go back and forth between the “I’ll sleep when I die” mode of operation, meaning I want to see and do it all, and the “I don’t want to come home from my vacation needing a vacation” (especially because I have a cross country drive coming up at the end of the month) mode of operation, so we’re leaving time open. If the synagogue has a service that fits my timing, I may visit that or I just may relax.
From Tauck: Today’s exploration of Buda begins with a visit to the Hungarian Parliament building, rich with history; it is nothing short of an architectural masterpiece. Next up is a visit to Castle Hill, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where a guided walking tour introduces architectural landmarks such as well-known Fisherman’s Bastion.
We’ll have some time on our own to explore Castle Hill on our own and then we head on to the river boat late in the afternoon. Dinner is aboard the boat and lunch is on our own. I’m figuring we’ll wing it.
Day 5 – Mohacs and Pecs, Hungary
From Tauck: Arrive in Mohacs this morning and travel to Pécs for a walking tour. Here you’ll also explore the fascinating Christian Necropolis, a complex dating back to the 4th century that includes underground burial chambers and chapels adorned with early Christian art and frescoes, a UNESCO World Heritage site. In the 19th century, Pecs was famous worldwide for the exquisite Zsolnay porcelain manufactured here, and your visit includes an option to visit the the Zsolnay Museum for a look at its stunning examples of Art Nouveau stoneware, tiles and pottery. After some free time, we’re heading over to the Polgar Winery in Villány for lunch (this region is renowned for its red wines).
After lunch, we can spend time strolling through Mohacs or take one of the 12 bikes on board the ship for a ride along the Danube.
Dinner is aboard the ship.
Day 6 – Vukovar Croatia & Novi Sad Serbia
After breakfast, someone will join us on the boat to give a brief history of Croatia. Afterwards, we’ll spend some time in Vukovar, once devastated by the civil war, spending time with a local family, learning about their experiences.
Lunch is back on the boat as we sail on to Novi Sad Serbia. After dinner on the boat, we can partake in a short stroll around the city center.
Day 7 – Belgrade Serbia
The morning starts with another lecture by a local expert followed by a guided tour of the city including Slavija Square, Parliament, City Hall, Republic Square and the National Theatre (I think these are all drive bys), with a stop at Tito’s Memorial and Kalemegdan Fortress.
We return to the ship for lunch, and then we have the afternoon to explore Belgrade on our own. At the moment, I have nothing on our agenda.
There’s some show on the boat featuring Serbian music and dance. That’s normally not my thing but we’ll see how it goes.
In the evening, we have a private visit of the Royal Palace of Dedinje followed by a reception and dinner at the White Palace, part of the royal family compound. Okay – so am I the only person who didn’t know that Serbia is a monarchy?
Day 8 – Boat Day, Iron Gates of Romania
Today is completely a boat day as we cruise the Danube. Though I have to admit, I’m excited to see the Iron Gates as well as the statuse of King Decebalus. I’ll admit, I’m intentionally not looking at pictures of it ahead of time and I’m secretly expecting it to be reminiscent of the statues of the kings of old that we see at the end of Fellowship of the Ring.
We’re cruising through the morning today but after lunch we have two options
- Take a bus to visit the Rock Churches of Ivanovo or
- Stay in Ruse for a walking tour of the city
I’m leaning towards the first option if the tour people indicate that the hike isn’t too difficult.
Dinner is back on the boat tonight followed by some classical Bulgarian entertainment (again, not necessarily my thing).
Day 10 – The Black Sea!
We’re cruising in the morning again but we end up at Constanta, Romania on the coast of the Black sea. We’ll get a tour of the city and then we’re heading to Mamaia, a seaside resort for some beach time before returning to the boat.
We’re on the boat for dinner tonight with a farewell reception first in the lounge.
Day 11 – Bucharest
They’ll take us by bus back to Bucharest, where we get an intro sightseeing tour of the city and lunch in a local restaurant. Then it’s on to our hotel, the JW Marriot, where we’ll have some free time before dinner.
Dinner will be at the People’s Palace after we get an introductory tour of the establishment.
Day 12 – Transylvania!!!
You get three options for tours this day but I think our group is resolved to the third, which require 3.5 hours of travel each way. I don’t care because we’re heading to Transylvania where we will visit Brasov and then off to Bran Castle, the fortress of Vlad Tepes, or as you may know him, Dracula!!!
Dinner is on our own in Bucharest. I haven’t researched this at all but figure I can get some suggestions. Honestly, with such a long travel day, and with our early start the next day (6am flight), I’ll bet we just eat in the hotel.