Franconia and the German Danube Feature

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Cruising the Danube

Rising from the depths of the Black Forest and emptying into the Black Sea, the Danube is the queen of rivers; cloaked in myth and legend, it cuts through the heart and soul of Europe.

The name Dānuvius, borrowed from the Celts, means swift or rapid, but along the Danube, there is no hurry. Boats go with the flow and a river journey is a relaxed affair with plenty of time to drink in the history.

Whether you choose a one-hour, one-week, or the complete Danube experience, cruising Europe’s historical waterway is a never-to-be-forgotten experience. Of the Danube’s 1,770-mile length, almost 1,500 miles is navigable and the river flows through some of Europe’s most important cities. You can head to major boating hubs, like Passau, Vienna, and Budapest or through historical stretches from Ulm to Regensburg. The Main-Donau Canal connects Nürnberg.

When to Go

Between May and July the Danube is busy with passenger and commercial traffic; this is the best time of year for a cruise. Fall is also good, when the changing leaves bathe the river in a sea of color. The Danube rarely freezes in the winter and several companies offer Christmas market tours from Nürnberg to Regensburg, Passau, and Vienna. Spring is the least optimal time to go as the river often floods.

A Day on the Danube

On the map, the sheer length of the Danube is daunting at best. A great option is to choose an idyllic daylong boat excursion.

One of the best day cruises leaves from Regensburg and reaches the imposing temple Walhalla, a copy of the Parthenon erected by Ludwig I. Personenschifffahrt Klinger boats depart from the Steinerne Brücke daily at 10:30 and 2. Each departure gives you about an hour to explore the temple and the whole trip lasts three hours.

Donauschiffahrt Wurm + Köck offers a variety of Danube day trips. Their most popular is a daily excursion from Passau to the Austrian city of Linz, which departs at 9 am. If you don’t have all day, they also offer a three-river tour that explores Passau at the convergence of the Ilz, Inn, and Danube that lasts about 45 minutes.

Cruising All of the Danube

Although Passau is the natural gateway to the cruising destinations of Eastern Europe on the Danube, it is by no means the only starting point. You can board a deluxe river cruise ship in Nürnberg, landlocked but for the very small Pegnitz River, then cruise "overland" through Franconia on the Main-Danube canal across the Continental Divide until you join the Danube at Kelheim, a few miles west of Regensburg. After Passau you enter Austria, where you come to the city that most people automatically associate with the "Blue Danube," Vienna. The next border crossing brings you into Slovakia and to your second capital, Bratislava. Budapest, Hungary is next, and capital number four is Belgrade, Serbia. Some of the Danube cruises begin in Amsterdam, making them five-capital cruises.

Amadeus Cruises (888/829–1394 www.amadeuscruises.co m) offers half a dozen cruises through Franconia and the German Danube, including a Christmastime cruise, which stops at the fascinating Christmas markets between Nürnberg and Budapest. The reverse direction is also available.

Viking River Cruises (800/304–9616 www.vikingrivercruises.com) has a Grand European Tour from Amsterdam to Budapest. The two-week Eastern European Odyssey starts in Nürnberg and ends at Bucharest. The reverse direction is also available on both cruises.

The British Blue Water Holidays (01756/706–500 www.cruisingholidays.co.uk) has nine cruises starting on the Rhine, some from Basel in Switzerland, which follow the Main-Danube Canal to the Danube and four cruises from Nürnberg or Passau to Vienna or Budapest.

Updated: 2014-03-11

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