The original idea of human flow has a psychosocial connotation – doing something so intensely enjoyable that the concept of time fades, and is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, sees, and feels. My flow that came from this river cruise matched the flow of the Danube, the river running under the Scenic Jasper, our cruise ship.
Flow is what a river has, and having been on the Danube three times now, I can sense the flow not only of water, but of human spirit that creates human history. The Danube is a major European thoroughfare, a bearer of sediment, culture, ideas, and conflict; the river that allows for cultural and historic evolution and revolution, all consequences of movement, of flow.
The Danube flows through many countries, and this time we experienced the flow of history on the Scenic Cruises maiden voyage from Budapest to Vienna, through Bratislava and the Wachau Valley.
For those of us who traveled the Danube on this luxury Scenic River Cruise, the water’s sensibility was never far away; and the images below are visual remembrances of the Danube’s children: thriving river cities towns and valleys— built to be close to the river’s sustainable movement, flow, and lively dance. Our first stop was Budapest.
Budapest was the first settlement built by the Celts before 1 BCE. It was later occupied by the Romans. The Roman settlement – Aquincum – became a main city in the Roman Empire. At first it was a military settlement became a city on the Danube, a focal point of commercial life.
Commercial life, then and now, has something to do with a major export: Paprika, made from Hungarian red peppers. Though Paprika is the symbol of Hungary’s cuisine, the plant was brought to the country by the Turks in the 16-17th centuries.
The Hungarian State Opera House opened to the public on the 27 September 1884. Today it is the largest opera house in Budapest and in Hungary.When we were there, the opera Jenufa was playing. It is an opera by Leo Januczek, a Czech Composer. It is near Heroes’ Square in Budapest.
Heroes’ Square is one of the major squares in Budapest, Hungary, noted for its iconic statue complex featuring the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars. Dominating the square is the 120 foot high Corinthian column whose apex is the statue of the Archangel Gabriel who, according to legend, handed St.Stephen the crown of Hungary.
As usual, we set sail at night, and saw the Hungarian Parliament Building alight. Our next stop was Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. It’s symbol is the Fortress, or, Bratislava Castle, that can be seen from the Danube, and just about everywhere else. It was built in the 9th century, and eleven kings and eight queens were crowned in Bratislava in the past.
The castle stands on an important crossroad of ancient trade routes, traveled on the Danube. First traces of the settlement on the hill stretch back to the Stone and Bronze Age.
After seeing so many monuments in two Capital cities, it was a relief to move slowly across the water, into the Wachau valley, home of exceptional wines and fruits of Austria.
Although the Wachau Valley accounts for only twenty miles of the Danube’s course to the Black Sea, it is one of the most serene landscapes encountered. It is no wonder that the Melk Abbey is here, a church and home to Benedictine Monks since the 11th century. It sits on a 185 foot high promontory above the town of Melk, and is a bright yellow. But this area, with the Danube flowing right next to the town, had been settled by Romans long before the Benedictines came.
Also in the Wachau was the Aggstein Castle, that towers nearly 1000 feet over the Danube, and is more of a fortress than a castle. It was built in the 12th century, and is in ruins now. But…..
On the one day we were there, there was a Medieval Festival at the castle, with girls dancing to flute tunes, and men drinking beer out of Stag’s Horns. Such memorable sights!
It was not long until we anchored in Vienna, one of the great capitals of Western civilization, even though it is often said that Vienna, given its location, was the one capital where the West meets East. I have been to Vienna twice before, so I am aware of the diversity of architecture, of culture, of history, you find there. Around almost every corner there are libraries, museums, palaces, of deep historic significance. And yet…
And yet…. there is another side — great food, exceptional chocolate, especially at Demel, a chocolate/patisserie house that has been in existence since the late 1700’s. How many other places can you buy world-famous candied violets and exceptional Sacher Torte?
And then, there is Spanish Riding School, where the Royal Lipizzaner Stallions train and have exhibitions. This one was resting and communicating with a bird.
And when you aren’t looking at the great art museums, eating the food, and enjoying the music scene, you can ponder the statuary — in the fountains, on the streets.
And even with these images, there are so many more places, museums, artworks, I am missing. The fact is, however, that in all cities and towns we visited, the Danube is nearby, and is perhaps the reasons these cities have existed fruitfully in the first place. The river sustains, the river remains.
In his novel, “A River Runs Through It” Norman MacLean wrote, “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time.”
And I humbly add, it runs over rocks, and onto the land, creating culture, cities, life, on its nearby, fertile shores.