Friday, June 14 - Vienna to Budapest via Bratislava

The bulk of our day today was devoted to travelling on our land yachts from the beguiling Austrian capital through Slovakia and into Hungary.  The weather was cooperative again (we have been extremely fortunate with this aspect of the journey), and we had expansive views of countrysides that blended in and out of small towns as we approached Bratislava.

This capital city, while interesting and not without charm, suffers by comparison with its larger, more cosmopolitan counterparts in Austria and Hungary.  In the throes of financial challenges, the entire country is groping its way into the 21st century, and tourism is still its main industry.

Gary was not yet capable of even the briefest of walking tours, so we remained on the bus that had deposited the majority of our acquaintances outside the opera house.  In a very short time we were rejoined by the walkers at the Crown Plaza Hotel for a nice lunch, after which quite a few of our group repaired to the couches in the hotel's lobby for some well-deserved down time.  I decided to do a little exploring on my own, and soon found myself on one of the older main shopping streets frequented by the locals.  This led me to the (by now) inevitable large pedestrian street lined with the more up-scale retailers that are endemic to all the downtown European locales in our experience.

One unexpected, fun note: I happened upon a group of about 20 or so motorcyclists in full leathers and tattoos in the shopping quarter.  Lots of big, impressive-looking bikes - Valkyries, Victories, Gold Wings - but not a Harley among them; too bad...

The rest of the day was consumed by the final leg of our overland journey to Budepest.  I think I can safely say that, to a wo/man, we were overjoyed to see our ultimate Viking ship, the Embla, lying at her berth near the city's large Market Hall.  In spite of the luxury that had been afforded us in the excellent hotels on land, there was a sense of coming home that could not be denied as we crossed the gangplank to the familiar, comforting surroundings of our longship.

Give the length of our travel and the proximity of the finish to our European voyage and/or trek, most of us were ready for dinner and rest, so the day concluded happily but quietly.  It is great to be in Budapest, and we are all looking forward to seeing as much of this beautiful city as we can take in tomorrow.

More soon!


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