I returned home yesterday after being awake for 32 hours straight. Boy was I tired. To make the long flight from Bucharest, Romania, we landed in Amsterdam, Netherlands for the endless flight to Minneapolis. Can you believe our flight went 1,468 miles out of the way? That added about five hours to an already long day. The images you are seeing are from the boat in Budapest at night and in the gallery below, two from during the day for contrast. Click galleries to enlarge because the scenery is very appealing.
I was visiting 7 countries in Eastern Europe, starting in Prague, Czech Republic, then moving onto Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, ending at Bucharest, Romania. First we landed in Prague and toured by foot and bus for 4 days. Next, we boarded a bus to take us to Slovakia then further onto Budapest, Hungary. A few days in Budapest on our luxury river boat, the River Concerto, for a sail down the Danube to the remaining countries. The city is just gorgeous, especially at night as seen.
The cabin was nice and the service outstanding. We were served delicious local meals from all the locations we visited. This was not just any food mind you, but all gourmet food. Five to six course meals never stopped either, it was like a foodathon from morning until night. I thought when I got home I would weigh ten or more pounds, but to my surprise, I was the same weight as when I left.
Being sick before we left, I was healthy for the first 12 days of my trip. But then… ironically, people started getting sick with the same upper respiratory illness I had before the trip. One by one the boat passengers got ill and I was also not immune to get sick once AGAIN. Four days of coughing, headaches, sore throat, and I was back in respiratory agony. I missed a bus tour in Belgrade, but did venture out on foot later in the day. I found myself a bit too wary to explore Serbia on my own, going back to the boat to await the group. Sickness did not keep me down as you can see from the images. Although having recently started a decent tourist trade, many countries still are uncertain as to their future. I would hope fighting has stopped because it is a shame to lose any more of these beautiful, historic structures.
Funny thing in these countries, we did not have to present passports – the boat crew handled that for us. I was surprised considering all the problems in the world that many countries did not even verify we were who our passports said we were. Free travel is normal in EU countries, but some countries are not part of the European Union, like Serbia. And Serbia is concerned with what is happening in their region with Russia. Strangely, the people there are divided on being a part of Russia once again. The same in Hungary.
I did learn all about Communism in these countries and what life was like under Communist rule. I have to say, I do understand why there are people wanting and not wanting to lose independence. Young and elderly people are without jobs. There is no or little middle class in most countries visited. Even though some older folks lost land and property during Communist occupation, they still want this way of life back. Others accustom to freedoms like we have in this country want nothing to do with oppressive rule. But the lure of all having jobs, safety, an apartment and food is a great enticement. What you find though, they had little happiness. In Hungary, people rarely ever smiled. It was sad. But it can be understood as their country was greatly reduced in size over the years after Yugoslavia was portioned off into smaller countries.
In Croatia, Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria, the bombed out buildings were in contrast to what I saw in Prague. In WW2, Hitler deemed Prague so beautiful, it was off-limits to be bombed we were told. Hitler did threaten a bombing raid against Prague though unless he obtained free passage for German troops into Czech borders and of course, he got what he wanted. Many historic structures in Prague did escape the destruction of war, including Prague’s historic Astronomical Clock, still in existence today. The Astronomical Clock tracks Central European, Babylonian and Sidereal time – the last one in the world that does.
Every country had their own language and currency. You would think this to be a barrier but it was not. Many spoke English. Dollars were taken quite often. My only problem was my American Express Gold Card was not honored at ATM machines, and that meant no local currency. I found it unnecessary for the most part since all our meals were part of our package and many upscale boutiques took my Am Ex card. I was not interested in shopping anyway, but was interested in their art. I found many local artists making delightful and colorful pieces. I did purchase a hand painted barrette for my long, long hair and a small painting from a street vendor. If you love handcrafted art, Eastern Europe is rich in selection.
At the end of the trip, it snowed in Bucharest, Romania. When I checked the ten-day forecast before the trip, the weather prediction for Bucharest was 78°! Needless to say, no winter clothes were brought. It was jeans, layers and layers to stay warm. The visit to the Black Sea in Constanta was hurricane weather winds. I so wanted to wade in the Black Sea, but no chance to with winds picking us off the ground. Some of the group ventured out on the very windy beach, and one was blown to the ground. Me… not quite so venturesome.
Next post, the images are from the ride on the river – Danube. Later, I will show you some of the places we visited, like private homes and shops. Cathedrals and Mosques were plentiful (as you see in this post), so I will have them as well. Keep watching!