A personal account from A Musical Christmas on the Danube
I was privileged to lead this truly memorable Christmas cruise, where the small inconveniences of extra precautions were more than made up for by the lack of tourist crowds, small-group sightseeing and brilliant concerts.
Our group of mainly single travellers shared their knowledge and love of music, and two even conducted (‘virtually’) the Vienna Philharmonic during an added visit to ‘Haus der Musik’. The concerts were all fantastic - the musicians specially thanked us for coming and performed to their highest standards despite low numbers - an amazing pianist playing just for us at the Mozarthaus; the orchestra, singer and setting at the Palais Auersperg concert inspired by the New Year concert; the amazing Christmas staging and wonderful dancing of the Nutcracker; the private concert in the Vienna Woods where Schubert played.
We followed in the footsteps of Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss and Schubert whilst traveling to three memorable central European capitals where it was fascinating to hear how the local guides each presented their country’s viewpoint on the history of the region.
There were so few tourists that it was only busy where local people were following their Christmas traditions - in Vienna at the Christmas market and picking up their Christmas trees and goodies on Christmas Eve; and in Budapest enjoying a Christmas Day classic Nutcracker ballet performance, ice skating next to Heroes’ Square and attending a midnight mass at the coronation church.
In a few full days the special Jules Verne programme covered a wide range of experiences, all helped by good company on two convivial tables, excellent food including special Austrian, Hungarian and Gala meals and the flow of enticing drinks and good French wine.
My first visits to Budapest and Bratislava were in the communist era before the fall of the ‘iron curtain’ (1989) when most buildings were grey and in poor condition, and when restrictions were in some ways similar to the pandemic.
It was fascinating to observe the improvements and restoration of both Budapest and Bratislava to their former glory. It was especially wonderful to enjoy colourful and illuminated Budapest on magnificent day and night ‘sail-throughs’.
I would like to thank my fellow travellers for their company and helping to make a great success of Jules Verne’s first Danube cruise for over 2 years, a welcome return to normality, as well as for their positive reviews on our website.