One of our top sellers for Macs Bike is the Danube Bike and Boat tours, and this is one of the best ways to see loads of places in a short time. In order to benefit my knowledge and experience, and with a little convincing, I was allowed to go and experience the Bike and Boat Passau to Budapest trip first hand. And what a truly epic trip this is!
All the questions that are asked to me on a daily basis started cropping up and, to be honest, there was really no need for panic at all; it ran so smoothly. Any slight concerns I had were firmly put to bed after the first five minutes.
My experience was very different from the normal I imagine: on Day 1 I received a phone call at approximately 0930, letting me know that the water level was too high for the boat to arrive in Passau due to heavy rains all that week. A minor panic set in, but I was confident things would be fine.
A bus was arranged from Passau train station to Engelhartzell, where we caught our first glimpse of MS My Story. There she was, standing proud and tall above the mist off the river and the drizzle of the rain, bright white and red; an amazing sight to see. However this day was a subtle reminder that even a machine of this magnitude is no match for the torrents of the Danube.
As we all got on board the boat, we were shown to our cabins and told about dinner in the restaurant and then we got settled in. I knew that the cabins on the boat are quite small and when we opened the door, we did have a little doubt, but then we both realised that the only time we would be in our cabin was to sleep so we realised that it was more than adequate for the purpose of this trip.
The boat has a massive sun deck, large lounge and lovely decorative bar, not to mention the restaurant which is fantastic and always very presentable. Once we arrived back from our day’s cycle, we spent most of the time on the deck looking out as we passed town after town, snaking down the Danube until it was time for dinner. We always made it back to the boat on time and at 1600 hours, right on time arrived a fresh cake, usually typical of the local area we were in.
Before every day’s cycle, the cruise director provides you with a briefing of the cycle. This is crucial, as he will not only tell you where you are going and what ferries to cross or bridges to cross, but he also tells you about the best places for lunch, restaurants, food style, wineries, cafes, where to get cake, what to try and what not to try.
Each recommendation was brilliant: fish on a stick, excellent; Schnitzel, flawless; Cider, so crisp; Schnapps, so sweet; cake, oh so good. And of course the cruise director was a bit of a character as well so he was great to have around; even when cycling he would always ask how you are and where have you been. His knowledge was incredible!
This tour visits three major cities, Bratislava, Vienna and Budapest. The trip does take into account some free time in each of these places and there are excursions available to book on the boat. We took the options for the bus and walking tours purely so we could see what we wanted, and so we could do our own thing. There is an option to have a cycling tour which is guided, but it is not recommended if you don’t like to cycle in the city and busy traffic.
What can I say about these cities? They are absolutely amazing; the buildings are the first thing you notice, and you wonder how long it would have taken to sculpt these magnificent structures. Then you have the markets; the smells and freshness of everything is unbelievable. How can we forgot about the history? So rich and abundant, I was so engrossed in it all. You do get a sense of what it would have been like hundreds of years ago. I would love to say I am speaking about one particular place, but this is a general overview of every place the boat stops at. In the cities everything just comes alive and you forget you are on a cycle tour, your trip transforms into a cultural, historical city break.
I have never seen so many cathedrals in my life as I did during this trip, and they were all open to walk in and have a good look around. Each one that we went to had something of historical significance: largest organ in Europe; Oldest roof; oldest towers; clocks; murals; paintings; each of them was just amazing and yet totally different from one another. But they all share the Danube and play crucial roles in the history of each magnificent town we passed.