Embarking Viking Baldur in Budapest
November 30, 2014
This morning, I left the Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest and pulled my luggage a few blocks south, where Viking River Cruises’ Viking Baldur sat at her berth near the historic Chain Bridge in Budapest, Hungary.
This would be the start of my fourth Christmas Markets cruise, and my third on the Danube. In fact, my very first river cruise experience took place three years ago in December of 2011, and it was then that I discovered two things. One, river cruising was fantastic. Two: there’s absolutely nothing like Europe’s Christmas Markets.
North Americans might not know exactly what these are. The tradition of the Christmas Markets dates back to the late-middle-ages, and every city likes to claim that they were the first to develop the tradition. There’s a lot of evidence to support the fact that they originated first in Germany and Austria, but quickly spread to parts of France and Northern Italy as well. These days, Christmas Markets are prevalent throughout much of Europe, though in varying intensity. The Dutch capital of Amsterdam, for example, doesn’t really do too much in this regard, and sun-drenched cities like Nice aren’t likely to have the kinds of markets that Vienna, Frankfurt and Munich have.
While Viking River Cruises operates this Danube Waltz itinerary throughout the year beginning in March, it is the departures after November 30 that are so sought-after. It is then that the Christmas Markets open up and remain in full swing throughout most of December, typically until December 23 or 24.
In the next seven days, we’ll be calling on Bratislava, Slovakia; Vienna, Durnstein, Melk, Linz and Salzburg, Austria; and finally, the Bavarian town of Passau, Germany where we’ll have a full day of touring before disembarking and transferring to Munich for our flights home.