The Danube was once a long-standing frontier of the Roman Empire, and
today flows through 10 countries, more than any other river in the world.
Originating in Germany, the Danube flows southeast for 2,850 km (1,770 mi,
2nd longest in Europe), passing through or touching the border
of Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine before
draining into the Black Sea. The Danube is the only major
European river that flows essentially from west to east – a course that has
made it a unique bridge between, western, central and eastern Europe,
between Christianity and Islam, Occident and Orient, Roman Catholicism and
Getting there ...
|I planned this trip as a gift
to my father's 85th birthday. Woanyu and I first flew back to
Taiwan a few days earlier to stay with our families, and then flew
from Taipei to Vienna together with my parents. We joined a
Danube river cruise tour by
Avalon with a
pre-cruise package in Munich for 3 nights. River cruises are
getting popular especially in Europe as a relax and luxury way to
travel around to see different sceneries, cities, and small towns as
many old cities/towns were built just right along the river with
their old town centers within a short walking distance from the
docks. Our cruise started in Passau, Germany, and went
into Austria through Linz, Grein, Melk, Durnstein, and ended in
Vienna. It was a 4-hour train ride from Vienna to Munich, and
it took us 4 days to cruise back to Vienna :-)
>> Starting Danube River Cruise
(Day 7) ...
Day 2 (10/12) ...
- Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna
Schonbrunn Palace is a former imperial summer residence for the
Habsburgs for hundreds of years. The estate came into Habsburg
possession through Maximilian II in 1569. Emperor Matthias used the
estate for hunting, and according to a legend is supposed to have come
across the Schöner Brunnen (meaning ‘fair spring’), which eventually gave
the estate its name, while out hunting in 1612. The Schönbrunn
Palace in its present form was built and remodeled during the 1740–50s
during the reign of empress Maria Theresa who received the
estate as a wedding gift. Franz I commissioned the
redecoration of the palace exterior in the neoclassical style as
it appears today.
The palace has 1441 rooms, and one of them is
available for guests to stay (the best secret I found for this trip!).
The Grand Suite is 167 m^2 (~ 1800
sq. ft.) with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a salon, living room and
kitchenette finished in gold, black and white – each item of
furniture is a hand-finished one-off inspired by the imperial palace. The
view of the 160-hectare palace gardens from the suite, taking in the
Gloriette, Neptune Fountain and Crown Prince Garden, will leave you in no
doubt that you are at the cultural and political heart of the former
We arrived in Vienna airport at ~9AM, and was picked
up by the pre-arranged limousine service to drive us directly to Schonbrunn
Palace. Although the early check-in was not available yet, the hotel
kindly provided us a free suite at the nearby Parkhotel Schonbrunn to rest,
and also a free lunch at the hotel until the Grand Suite was ready.
When the Grand Suite was ready, we were taken to the
suite by a private car and had a thorough walk through of the suite by a
very nice staff. The suite entrance is right inside the Schonbrunn
Palace (the current museum lobby) via a
(Geheimstiege) with 88 steps to the 4th floor. After some picture
time around the suite, we were ready to go to the palace to enjoy the
garden and to visit the museum.
Another very cool thing about the Grand Suite is you
can book the dinner to be prepared and served in the suite. This is
not just a regular room service. The Chefs came to prepare and cook
the 5-course plus desert
meal in the suite kitchen, and a waiter provided a detail and
professional service. Unfortunately we were too full to enjoy the taste of
the last main course: the famous Vienna Schnitzel. It was really
an interesting experience to live like a king and queen :-)
After dinner, Woanyu and I decided to explore the
palace in our
pajamas as the daytime tourists and staffs were all long gone. We
walked around the palace ground and walked up the grand staircases, and
found out there was a
inside the museum tonight. It was kind of embarrassing to hide outside
the window in our pajamas when there were a full house of people dressing
formally in a concert....
Day 3 (10/13) ...
Woanyu and I woke up early to head to the garden before sunrise. The garden was open to the public at
6:30AM, but it was quiet and free of tourists at this time of the day.
We were picked up at 9AM to have a breakfast at the
Parkhotel. After the breakfast, we walked around the palace and
prepared to say goodbye to the best and unique "hotel room" we have ever
- Train to Munich
We had a train from Vienna Central Station at
12:30PM. The train route passed by St. Polten, Linz,
Salzburg, and arrived in Munich at 4:32PM. I booked first-class
seats where four seats are in a nice cabin. There were almost no
other passengers in the first-class car (except a couple of folks during
the short section between St. Polten and Linz) so we had the whole car
to ourselves and we could walk around freely to enjoy the beautiful
Day 4 (10/14) ...
Nymphenburg Palace, Munich
Our tour package started with the
Munich city tour in the morning. We first rode the bus sightseeing
around the city for a few landmark locations (such as Theresienwiese for
Oktoberfest, Olympiapark, BMW buildings, etc.), and then we were dropped
off at the Nymphenburg Palace.
The Nymphenburg Palace was the main
summer residence of the former rulers of Bavaria of the House of
Wittelsbach. The palace was commissioned by
the prince-electoral couple Ferdinand Maria and Henriette Adelaide of
Savoy to the designs of the Italian architect Agostino Barelli in 1664
after the birth of their son Maximilian Emanuel. The central pavilion
was completed in 1675. Starting in 1701, Maximilian Emanuel, the
heir to Bavaria, undertook a systematic extension of the palace.
Finally, Nymphenburg Palace was completed with a grand circle
(the Schlossrondell) of Baroque mansions erected under Maximilian
Emanuel's son Holy Roman Emperor Charles VII Albert.
Nymphenburg is open to the public but also continues to be a home
and chancery for the head of the House of Wittelsbach, currently Franz,
Duke of Bavaria. Since we were with the tour group, we only had time to
walk around the palace ground and garden, and had no time to visit the
palace and museum.
We were taken back to Munich city center and had a short
walking tour from Karlsplatz to Marienplatz before we started our own
Marienplatz, the largest square in Munich, is the hub of
the city’s extensive pedestrian zone and has been the ‘heart of the
city’ ever since the foundation of Munich (München) in 1158.
Measuring roughly 100 by 50 meters (328 x 164 feet), this open space
originally served as a marketplace, and now is used for large
celebrations, as well as political, cultural and sporting events.
There was a marathon
race in Munich today and the route passed right through the square.
The square is dominated by the
New City Hall (Neues Rathaus) that was constructed in the neo-Gothic
style between 1867 and 1909. The
Glockenspiel in the tower balcony of the Neues Rathaus is also world
famous and worth seeing. Since 1908, figurines representing stories from
Munich’s history twirl on two levels daily at 11:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m.,
(and 5:00 p.m. in summer). We waited till noon to see the show
with the moving figures, but to be honest, I think it was quite boring
:-) There is a lift which can bring visitors to the top of
the 85-meter-high (255 feet) tower with a grandiose view of the roofs of
the city, but we did not have time to see it in this trip.
We found a place across the famous Hofbräuhaus beer
house for lunch (so we could avoid the crowds in Hofbräuhaus and also had
better food based on the Google review). It was really good to have
German beer together with German sausage and port knuckle. After
lunch, we walked through Hofbräuhaus and its courtyard to experience what a
beer house looks like.
- Residenz and Odeonsplatz
Munich's Residenz Palace was the
official home of Bavaria's monarchs from 1385 to 1918. What began in
1385 as a castle in the north-eastern corner of the city, was
transformed by the rulers over the centuries into a magnificent palace
During World War II, the Residenz was almost completely destroyed but
many of the masterpieces inside were moved to safety before the bombs
hit the palace. Restoration began in 1945. Eventually, a concert hall
replaced Ludwig I's Throne Room and the palace reopened as a museum in
Odeonsplatz is a beautiful square bordered by the
Italianesque Feldherrnhalle, Theatinerkirche and Hofgarten. In 1816
Ludwig I commissioned Leo von Klenze to design a new square at this site.
The square is named after the Odeon, a large Concert Hall which was built
between 1826 and 1828. The hall was heavily damaged by an air raid in 1944.
After the war the building was transformed into a governmental office
On the west side of the Odeonsplatz is the
copper-domed Theatinerkirche (Theatiner Church). Built from 1663 to 1690,
it was founded by Elector Ferdinand Maria and his wife, Henriette Adelaide
of Savoy, as a gesture of thanks for the birth of the long-awaited heir to
the Bavarian crown, Prince Max Emanuel, in 1662. The church was built in
Italian high-Baroque style, inspired by Sant'Andrea della Valle in Rome,
designed by the Italian architect Agostino Barelli. The facade in Rococo
style was completed only in 1768 by François de Cuvilliés. Its Mediterranean
appearance and yellow coloring became a well known symbol for the city and
had much influence on Southern German Baroque architecture. The church
interior is elegantly decorated and is made almost entirely of white stucco,
giving it a very bright appearance and setting it apart from most other
The garden was built in 1613–1617 by Maximilian I,
Elector of Bavaria as an Italian style Renaissance garden. The focal
point of the garden is the hofgartentemple, also known as the Temple of
Diana. Nowadays the garden is open to the public, and is very popular
with both residents and tourists.
Almost 100 meters (325 feet) high and visible from
faraway, the ‘onion towers’ of the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) is
a distinctive symbol of the city of Munich. Offering standing room for
20,000 people, the Gothic Cathedral and City Parish Church of Our Lady
was consecrated in 1494. Over 300 years later, it became the seat of the
Catholic Archbishop of Munich and Freising. There are some stories
of the legend of "footprint of the devil': no matter what versions of
the devil is, it is about the devil stamped his footprint when he
could not see any window
inside the church.
Day 5 (10/15) ...
- Neuschwanstein (New Swan Castle)
The Neuschwanstein Castle is one
of the most visited castles in Germany. The palace was
commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and in honor
of Richard Wagner. The construction of the Neuschwanstein castle
began in 1869, and originally it was projected to last three years. But
Ludwig II wanted the castle to be perfect, so the immense building was
not finished even at Ludwig’s death in 1886. Upon completion, the castle
was meant to have over 200 rooms. In fact, only 15 rooms and halls were
ever fully completed in terms of furnishings and decorations. It
was open to the public shortly after his death. Since then more than 61
million people have visited Neuschwanstein Castle with more than 1.3
million people visit annually. Although it is said that this
fairytale look of the Neuschwanstein castle inspired Walt Disney to
create the Magic Kingdom, I do feel that Neuschwanstein might be
overrated compared to other real castles in Europe IMHO...
On the way back to Munich, we passed by a small
town Oberammergau known for its woodcarvers and woodcarvings, and across
the world for its 380-year tradition of mounting Passion Plays.
The Oberammergau Passion Play was first performed in 1634. It resulted
from a vow made by the inhabitants of the village that if God spared
them from the effects of the bubonic plague then sweeping the region
they would perform a passion play every ten years. Although we
were not here for the play, it was still good to be relaxed in such a
nice town with a cup of coffee and ice cream.
Day 6 (10/16) ...
For more than 1100 years, Salzburg was a church state
where secular and church power were unified in the role of the
prince-archbishop. Baroque squares, magnificent collections and an
impressive wealth of churches and abbeys attest to the legacy of these
prince-archbishops in terms of architecture, art and culture.
Salzburg, literally "salt castle", is the fourth-largest
city in Austria. It was the birthplace of 18th-century
composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In the mid‑20th century, the city was
the setting for the musical play and film The Sound of Music.
After the group city tour, we took the funicular to
go up to the Fortress Hohensalzburg. In the year 1077, archbishop
Gebhard had the fortress built and thus changed the Salzburg skyline
forever. The fortress is enthroned
on the Festungsberg, high above the rooftops of the Baroque historical
district. We did not have much time (and my parents would not want to walk
too much) to explore the castle and museum, but we had a nice lunch (with
a very good Schnitzel) at the
outdoor patio to
enjoy a panoramic Salzburg city view.
Mondsee Austria is a beautiful town in the Salzkammergut
region. It’s no wonder that this stunning backdrop has
made Mondseeland the go-to wedding destination for the region, with over
400 weddings taking place throughout the year! What Mondsee Österreich
(Austria) may be most famous for is the Basilica St Michael, where the
wedding of Maria and Captain Von Trapp took place in the world-famous
musical, The Sound of Music.
- Drive to Passau
It's a relax 2-hour drive to Passau via some
winding country road with pleasant pastoral scenery.
- Avalon Panorama
We arrived in Passau in the late afternoon and
aboard our river cruise ship,
Panorama, our home on the Danube for the next few days.
>> Starting Danube River Cruise ...
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