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River cruise down Danube a unique way to see Budapest

Author: Praveen and Leela Article contributed by: http://www.minikinescapades.com/

On a warm spring evening when the sun was shining bright and the breeze was blowing cold, I made a brisk walk through Vigado Square and got to the ferry terminal on the Pest side in Budapest. The harbor is lined with boats, each promising visitors unique sights of the city though their glass windows. An evening cruise means witnessing the sun go down the Budapestв's monument riddled skyline and seeing the city come alive sparkling in lights as the blue hour approaches.

There are a lot of cruise and boat operators big and small offering rides varying in duration to the services offered on board, from intimate to loud party ones with live music. I chose a boat tour from Legenda specifically as they had an early evening cruise for two hours and I could enjoy the sunset views. The route involved going north upto Margaret Island and back to the harbor where we started. I bought my ticket and scored a seat on the top deck next to one of the huge glass window. The audio guide I had plugged in blurted out to life as soon as the boat undocked. The guides are usually included in the ticket price and are available in over 30 languages giving an overview of landmarks as they pass by. Guests were served drinks and the boat started making its way north. There are other rides offering a full course meal with live music too.

We sailed towards the Gellert hill, which is also a perfect vantage point to admire the sights of the river Danube cutting through Buda and Pest. The citadel on the top used to be a military checkpoint and a missile launch point and now provides panoramic views of the city. While the main draw for most tourists are the sweeping views, Gellert hill also has an exciting network of caves and a cave church too. Buda Castle sitting top of the Castle hill was the next sight we passed by. The huge imposing facade looked magnificent. The castle complex today houses the National Gallery and the Budapest history museum. The magnificence of this structure can only be appreciated from the river cruise. The fairytale towers of Fishermanв's bastion sat right next to the castle. The building was built to celebrate the fishermen who resided in this part of the city. The river Danube flows north to south and separates the hilly Buda and the Pest side which make up the now city of Budapest. We passed by the chain bridge, that when it was built was one of the first bridges over Danube connecting the west and east banks. Built by the famous engineer Adam Clark it was considered a gem of architecture. Many parts of it did not survive the perils of world war and most of it was reconstructed in 1949

Shoe pairs made in iron lined the Danube Promenade as we were approaching the Parliament building. The shoes are a memorial to honor the Jews who were shot on the river bank during world war. Right after was the massive Gothic style Parliament building with its tall towers and a red dome. Earlier in the day I was at the Fishermenв's bastion admiring the views of the parliament building through its arches. But now sitting in the comfort of my chair and seeing it so up close, I am reconsidering whats the best view point. I am more inclined to the view from the boat for there are no crowds and I can relish the brief private time with this beautiful monument.

The sun was setting behind the spires of the churches and casting long streaks of golden on the danube river. With all the old art nouveau buildings lining the riverfront, Budapest has a certain charm that prevails even today. It deserves well the title of Paris of the East. It has come a long way from the cold war Communist city it once was. The boat continued to smoothly glide over the river passing by the squares abuzz with crowds, going under the concrete bridges.We reached the Margaret island and did a full circle of it watching the regular evening joggers going up and down the many paths riming the island. The 2.5 km long island is a sprawling green and a tall octagonal water tower stands amidst it. The tower is a great view point and a lot of boats allow for a stopover to explore the island in its entirety. It can also be reached through two bridges that connect it to the Buda and Pest side. Way back on Danube, the same sights we passed by turned even more romantic with all attractions lit up and dazzling in golden. I gazed awestruck at the magically illuminated chain bridge, parliament building and the Buda castle. The vibrant night scene was brewing along both sides of the river and I sat unhurriedly watching the city life pass by.

After wading through the river for over two hours we were approaching the docking terminal where we started. I was looking forward to stretching my legs and walk along the riverfront to take in the view of the Buda castle sitting high on the hill across the river. Seeing all the highlights of Budapest usually jammed with tourists through the comfort and privacy of a boat has to be one of the best ways to explore this city. It would also be a good introduction to the sights of Budapest and a great option if you are short on time and do not want to miss out on what the city has to offer.

Praveen and Leela – PL for short – are an adventurous, travel-starving couple with 24 visited so far countries “under their belt.” Desire to see the world prompts them regularly to juggle between full-time jobs and nearly full-time travels, be it hiking, backpacking, skiing, or any other form. More on their adventures can be read at http://www.minikinescapades.com/