If someone mentions the Danube to you, you’ll probably think first of classical music, or of the striking architecture and vibrancy of Vienna and Budapest. You may even hum to yourself!
Those first impressions aren’t wrong; Vienna and Budapest are breathtaking destinations, no question, but there are more things to experience along the Danube than can be called to mind in a single picture, place or even song.
Here are a few of the lesser-known highlights, each of which can be experienced on a Fred. Olsen River Cruise.
1. The Danube Delta, Romania
A UNESCO World Heritage site and a biosphere reserve, the Danube Delta is enormous in scale at over 1,500 square miles, and is full of unique plant and animal species to discover. It's a bird-watchers paradise, and guests who decide to go on a Delta Boat Safari will be peering through the reedbeds on the lookout for the Dalmatian pelican which calls this river home. Unlike many other river operators, Brabant sails the Delta all the way to the tiny fishing village of St Gheorghe on the edge of the Black Sea.
2. Wachau Valley, Austria
The Wachau Valley competes with the Rhine when it comes to fortresses and castles perched on hills. There are rolling vineyards and dramatic pointed spires and towers round every corner. Scenic cruising along this stretch of the river is a world away from the buzz of cosmopolitan Vienna, even if Austria’s capital is just a few miles further down the river. Melk Abbey is a particular highlight, looking down on the picturesque towns of Emmersdorf and Melk, which sit on opposite banks of the Danube.
3. Bratislava, Slovakia
Did you know that you can visit three capital cities in three days along the Danube? There’s Budapest and Vienna, and then there’s the smaller but spectacular Bratislava. It’s a city of contrasts, with the ultra-modern UFO bridge giving you views over the city from one angle, and the stark-white Bratislava castle giving you another from its rocky precipice on the river’s edge. The red-roofed “Old Town” city centre is more than worthy of an afternoon’s wander, with shops and cafés aplenty.
4. Iron Gates Gorge, Serbia/Romania
A scenic stretch along the Lower Danube almost seems designed to leave you agape. Tall lime cliffs tower over your river ship as you slowly meander through the twists and turns of the Iron Gates Gorge, which marks the border between Serbia and Romania in awe-inspiring style. Watch out for the carved head of the last Dacian king Rex Decebalus as you go, as his eyes follow you on your voyage.
5. Vukovar, Croatia
The Danube is not short of beautiful cities, but - being absolutely honest - Vukovar isn't one of them. Novi Sad, not far down the river and another stop on a Lower Danube cruise, is full of stunning architecture and baroque influence. Vukovar, on the other hand, makes this list by being interesting and haunting in equal measure, as the site of much conflict in the Serb-Croat war of the 1990's. You can see the water tower standing as sentinel over the town, covered in holes made by shells and mortar fire. The war has been over for 25 years and Vukovar is very much a peaceful and welcoming place, rebuilding itself slowly and confidently in the 21st century, but it is a sobering reminder that conflict in Europe didn't end in the 1940's.
See Vukovar, the Danube Delta and the Iron Gates Gorge on the following 14 night River Cruises, sailing 3rd May, 31st May and 11th October 2020.
Visit the Wachau Valley, Melk Abbey and Bratislava on the following 7 night River Cruises, sailing 26th April, 17th May, 24th May, 14th June, 4th October and 25th October.
Or, visit them all on the following 21 night River Cruises, sailing 3rd May, 31st May and 11th October.