|View of Budapest from Viking Vili|
Day 1 - Munich
|At the Munich Christmas market|
Day 2 - Neuschwanstein Castle & Linderhof Palace
Day 3 - Munich
Our day started with a tour of the BMW exhibition center where I got to feel posh behind the wheel of a convertible. I would have preferred it to come in yellow, but they explained to me those were on demand only, and I felt a bit disappointed - yeah, that's how much I know about cars!
We walked around the Christmas market at the foot of the Town Hall a bit longer, enjoying the vibrant energy of the place and stuffing our face with German delicacies before we hopped back on the Viking bus on the way to Salzburg.
Day 4 - Salzburg
|I grew wings in Salzburg!|
Salzburg surprised us first of all though its festive mood. So beautifully decked for the holidays and so charming in its own right, Salzburg turned out to be the perfect place to enjoy the Christmas markets and do most of the Christmas shopping. Relatively small and easy to explore by foot, this city conquered our hearts, as we woke up to the sight of graceful domes and spires, the beautiful clifftop fortress and the mountains beyond.
Day 5 - The Sound of Music tour
|'The Sound of Music' gazebo|
But the tour was particularly interesting because it set apart film from reality. Like, did you know the real Maria and Captain von Trapp had been married for several years before they had to flee the country? Or that they didn't have to cross over the mountains to escape the Nazis, but instead just crossed the road to the nearby train station to take a train to Italy one day before the borders closed?
In the afternoon we arrived in Passau where we got on board Viking Vili. We were welcomed by the friendliest of crews and they reassured us right from the very beginning that our satisfaction and safety was of paramount importance to them. They also joked they won't let us disembark unless we gained at least 3kg (6.6lbs) by the end of the week. It turned out it wasn't a joke after all - we met the requirements to get off the ship just in time.
Day 6 - Passau
|The gorgeous St Stephan's Cathedra in Passau|
Day 7 - Cesky Krumlov
Day 8 - Melk Abbey & Wachau Valley wine tasting
|Views from the Melk Abbey|
Day 9 - Vienna
Day 10 - Bratislava
Day 11 - Budapest
|Dohany Street Synagogue|
We chose the latest so we got to marvel at the amazing Dohány Street Synagogue, the largest in Europe and the second largest in the world. We were impressed to tears by 'The Tree of Life', a sculpture resembling a weeping willow whose leaves have etched on them the names of many Hungarian Jews who died during the Holocaust. We ended on a sweet note, however, with a tea and a rich cake in a kosher coffee shop.
During the chef's dinner, it was finally time to say so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye to our fellow travelers. Many of them would have flights to catch early in the morning. But we couldn't call it a night before one last visit to the lounge to listen to a local quartet that just came onboard. They filled the room with glee while singing Chrismas carols with a wrist, which put a smile on everyone's faces.