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Eastern Europe with River Cruise: Slovenia the Star

Eastern Europe with River Cruise: Slovenia the Star

Old Jan 10th, 2019, 08:57 AM
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tomboy, no matter how much research one does ahead of time, there still can be surprises. The museum of communism, definitely a minor not 'treasured' site, moved two weeks before we left on our trip. If you haven't experienced any last minute changes, you've been fortunate.
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Old Jan 10th, 2019, 09:58 AM
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Day 15: Budapest

The breakfast at Hotel Moments is a bit different as you walk into the adjoining, independent Bistro Fine for a good buffet.

Finally a sunny start, but cool. So wish I’d brought my packable down coat (along with shorts!). Visited St. Stephen’s Cathedral a block away and up the Bell Tower for the views. We had lunch reservations at the Michelin starred restaurant Costes Downtown, but didn’t like the posted menu so cancelled.

Hopped on a bus to take us back to the Buda side and St. Mathias to see this area in sunshine. Walked down from the top to check out shops (not finding anything good) and to experience crossing the Chain Bridge. By this time the wind had picked up and skies were darkening. As the squall and rain hit, we ran off the bridge into the Four Seasons Gresham Palace for cover, which they probably didn’t appreciate. Our plan was to visit the Szechenyi Thermal Baths this afternoon but that got quickly cancelled with the rain.

We had an early ‘goodbye to our friends’ dinner at Menza, a casual but good typical restaurant, then we attended a concert at the ornate Liszt Music Academy with the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra. Tickets for this should be purchased from home because they’re hard to come by. Again, within walking distance of Hotel Moments.

Day 16: Budapest

Another sunny start as we walked past many interesting, beautiful buildings and statues, including the controversial Memorial to the Victims of German Invasion, where people have left battered suitcases and photos of murdered Jews as a personal reminder. We arrived at the massive Parliament Building for a 12:30 English tour. It’s imperative you book this well ahead of time since tickets routinely sell out. Afterwards, we saw the Shoes on the Danube memorial to victims of the Holocaust.

This afternoon I treated myself to an excellent and relaxing facial at the award winning skin care line Omorovicza spa, just a few doors down from our hotel. No hard sell to buy products. Again, I booked this before I left home as it’s not a large establishment. A caution to bring cash for a tip because they can’t put that on your credit card.

We changed our dinner reservations to Ristorante Krizia because I was getting tired of Hungarian/Eastern European food. It was a cozy, delightful stone-walled restaurant not too far away and the food/wine was excellent. I really didn’t care for most of the Hungarian reds I had drunk up to now…but they gave us a Tokaj dessert wine that I liked. As a note, I make all the dinner reservations ahead of time so I don’t waste time figuring out where we want to eat or being disappointed that there’s no room. Then, I can change them depending on what we discover or how we feel at the moment.
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Old Jan 10th, 2019, 10:16 AM
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Budapest rooftops from St. Stephan's Cathedral Bell Tower


St. Stephan's Cathedral


Ceiling of St. Stephan's Cathedral


View of Parliament from Fisherman's Bastion at St. Matthias in Buda Castle District


St Matthias church, site of the Mary-Wonder statue, that surprised Muslem invaders


The Chain Bridge


Franz Liszt Academy of Music


Protest memorial to the Memorial to the Victims of the German Invasion


Inside Parliament


Shoes Upon the Danube Memorial
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Old Jan 10th, 2019, 11:11 AM
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Just realized I made a mistake on Day 7: Cruising the Danube. We cruised from the North to the South, and I stated it the opposite. That's how we got to see the illumination of Budapest at night.
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Old Jan 10th, 2019, 11:24 AM
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Day 17: Bled, Slovenia, Penzion Berc

How to get from Budapest to Slovenia? Ruled out car rental because the drop-off charges were too high. The train, bus or plane options took too long. So, thankful to find out about the company, DayTrip. We were picked up at the hotel in a comfortable car and driven to the Llubljana Airport, which was halfway between Bled and Llubljana, in about 4 hours. Here we rented a nice, new VW Golf from Budget and drove about 30 minutes to Lake Bled. Checked into the cute Penzion Berc, with a comfortable Alpine-inspired room and took advantage of their e-bikes that we could use to ride around the lake. I’ve never been on one before and it was a bit disconcerting at first…and my bike made an unnerving crunching noise every time I braked.

The Penzion was perched above the lake in the town, without any views. I imagined riding around the lake would be simple and flat. Instead, this was the scariest part of my trip. It started out OK as we biked along the pathway. But then, either there were too many people on the path to bike, or we were on a very scary, narrow, busy road. At one time, I had a huge truck or bus behind me until I could get off the road. It started to get colder and darker and I was concerned it would be dark before we got back. It wasn’t obvious where we should go back up to our hotel and finally discovered we had gone way past it. Luckily, our phone map showed our mistake and we were able to get back. I did get my first glimpses and photos of this stunning lake. Dinner was served in the very charming dining room with expensive but delicious food.

As an aside, we FINALLY figured out why the wine pours were so small per glass. The standard listed on the menu is .1L which equals 3 ounces. No wonder I always had to order a couple!
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Old Jan 10th, 2019, 11:28 AM
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Great photos and great report. I'm an avid planner, yet there are always surprises along the way (like Corpus Christi in Spain making us unable to see the famed altar at the Cathedral in Toledo). Such is life. I'll have to show this report to Tracy who has been yearning to go back to Austria. Thanks.

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Old Jan 10th, 2019, 11:31 AM
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Lake Bled


Penzion Berc
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Old Jan 10th, 2019, 11:32 AM
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maitaitomi, thanks for your comments! Yes, travel is full of surprises...some good, some bad.
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Old Jan 10th, 2019, 12:13 PM
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Wow ..looks like great weather at Lake Bled. We loved it there and also stayed at Penzion Berc. Did you have some Kremna Rezina while yo were there?
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Old Jan 10th, 2019, 12:32 PM
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Really enjoying the report and your lovely photos!
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Old Jan 10th, 2019, 01:54 PM
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What camera are you using barefootbeach?

Now Iíll have to go back through and make a list of some of the restaurants you recommended!
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Old Jan 10th, 2019, 02:59 PM
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maitaitomi, yes the weather was thankfully great. The next night (coming) had it but I didn't love it....give me chocolate.
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Old Jan 10th, 2019, 02:59 PM
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thanks PegS!
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Old Jan 10th, 2019, 03:01 PM
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patandhank, I have an Olympus Stylus1, which is an advanced type point and shoot ( I got tired carrying around my 35mmSLR) BUT I've found that my I phone 7S often takes better photos! So, I use both.
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Old Jan 11th, 2019, 06:18 AM
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Dining room at Penzion Berc, open to public for dinner.
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Old Jan 11th, 2019, 06:22 AM
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Day 18 Bled, Slovenia Vila Bled

Seeing a photograph of Lake Bled with it’s cute island was the reason I wanted to include Slovenia in our itinerary in the first place. I had wanted to stay right on the lake but Vila Bled had been full when I first made reservations. When a night had opened at Vila Bled, I chose to move there for the second night.

First. we drove about 20 minutes to visit the Beekeeping Museum in Radovljica. Slovenia is famous for it’s beekeeping heritage and honey, and as I have a beekeeper daughter-in-law, thought this would be fun to see and it was.

Then we drove north of Bled to hike along the Vintgar Gorge, which was a lovely walk on a boardwalk above the gorge.

We checked into Vila Bled, which was Tito’s former summer residence, and got a basic, barebones decorated room but it had a balcony with a great side view of the lake with it’s atmospheric island where we could watch the traditional boats (pletna) rowing tourists out to the island. We took out a complementary row boat and set off for the island, with it’s church, gift shop and gelato. The mountain surrounded lake is truly breathtaking.

Vila Bled itself is rather cold and soviet inspired. We checked out the ballroom which was covered with huge painted murals extolling Communism. Dinner was just OK but we tried Bled’s famous cream cake and Slovenia’s famous dark pumpkin seed oil on our salad.
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Old Jan 11th, 2019, 06:29 AM
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A painted bee hive panel


Vintgar Gorge


Vila Bled


Rowing to the island


A pletna on Lake Bled


View from our room
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Old Jan 11th, 2019, 08:37 AM
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Great trip report and lovely pictures. I love being on land so I avoid the cruises always. Comparing Prague and Budapest, which city do you think is more scenic and worthwhile for tourists?
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Old Jan 11th, 2019, 08:58 AM
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AnnJK, I preferred Prague to Budapest, although I know many here will disagree with me. i found it prettier, easier to navigate and cleaner. Budapest felt more like a large city and it was difficult to use the mass transit...especially with the main metro line under repair. I also preferred the food in Prague. However, we did have sunnier, warmer weather there compared to Budapest so that may have been a factor. There really is a ton of places to see in Budapest and I regret missing the thermal baths.
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Old Jan 11th, 2019, 12:41 PM
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Barefootbeach, We also stopped at Castle Hluboka near Cesky Krumlov, and we loved it. It was one of the highlights of our trip! But we had better weather than you, a gorgeous sunny and warm day in August. We also had a rental car so we could stay as long as we wanted to. Interestingly, none of the guidebooks I used at the time (2009) mentioned Hluboka. The only reason we knew about it is because the owner of our pension in Prague recommended we stop there on our way to Cesky Krumlov.

Love your photos of Lake Bled. We will only have 3 nights in Ljubljana in May, but we hope to take a daytrip to Lake Bled on one of those days.
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