No sooner had we loaded onto the buses than Skadi pulled away from the dock on the way to Budapest. Our journey by bus would take about 3 hours. Skadi would take somewhat longer, meeting up with us after our tour and afternoon in Budapest.
Our drive took us through Slovakia and into Hungary. About halfway we had a rest stop at a traditional Hungarian … MacDonalds!
By 11:30 we had arrived in Budapest and had pulled up to one of its finer restaurants. The Gundel Restaurant certainly lived up to its reputation and served us an excellent, although very filling, lunch.
Following lunch, our bus tour of the city started at Heroes Square where we had a short walk around.
Our next stop was in the old part of the city where a short walking tour ended at St. Stephen’s Basilica.
Our bus tour continued, giving us an overview of the city, until we reached our next stop atop Castle Hill. Here, our guide led us on a walking tour around the area, past a building still pockmarked with WW II bullet holes, and to Fisherman’s Bastion which provided a panoramic view of the city including the Parliament Building. We concluded with a tour of Matthias Church, a beautiful 13th century Gothic church.
We had a bit of free time, following our walking tour, we were able to further explore the area before loading back onto the bus. Here we learned that we were now going to be driven 50 km west to the city of Esztergom where Skadi would be waiting for us.
At one time Esztergom was the capital of Hungary. It would have been nice to have time to explore the city a bit but we had to get back onboard Skadi. No sooner was the last passenger onboard when the ship was underway.
It was at this point that we fully realized that Viking was going to make sure that we would experienced sailing into Budapest at night.
As we sailed southward towards Budapest it progressively got darker. By the time we got close to the city it was dark. Gradually the city lights appeared on the horizon until, rounding one more bend in the river, the lights of the city burst forth in all their glory. I cannot imagine a more spectacular climax to a voyage than to sail into Budapest at night. It is one of those magical moments I will remember for a lifetime.
With the ship tied up at the dock, Hungarian musicians, singers and dancers entertained, capping a wonderful day and an amazing voyage. I have to say that, from beginning to end, Viking River Cruises does it right!