Monday, 23 May 2016

On the Danube - Budapest conclusion

Sunlight streamed into the cabin as I woke up. When I looked out of the window, the sun was just fully above the far horizon, immediately in from of that was the top wall of the last of eight locks ascended and descended during our 1,100 kilometre voyage. Immediately the descent began as the lock emptied, and at five thirty in the morning, we set out on the last stretch of the Danube past Esztragom to Budapest for our final day. After much much dozing and eventual breakfast, relaxed and enjoyed the river, looking forward to a lunchtime arrival.

After we'd eaten we were taken on a guided coach tour of the city. There is such a lot to see and for the guide to tell about. It was all a bit overwhelming. Photographing the sights from a passing bus in narrow streets with a fair about of bright sunlight creating reflections on the windows was very frustrating. There were no opportunities to stop, get out and look, but flagged up one thing I want to see tomorrow - the second largest synagogue in the world, in Mozarabic style architecture for some strange reason. It contains a museum and holocaust memorial as well.

The coach tour ended up on the older Buda side of the Danube, where the royal palace is located and a substantial collection of old town buildings from the fourteenth to twentieth century. It is now designated as a World Heritage site, and at any given moment in time deluged with visitors like us, wanting to take advantage of the panoramic view of Pest below, on the other side of the Danube.

We only had an hour after the coach tour to walk the streets and get some idea of what the old town contained. It was just enough to walk the length of the place, drink a rather nice Hungarian beer, reminiscent of amber ale, and return to the coach stop. I missed the royal palaces altogether, but have had enough of grandeur on the trip so far to last me a long while.

After supper, we were entertained on board by performance from a gipsy trio and four dancers. It was an exuberant affair, with much percussive thigh and boot slapping to the music, and high jumps and loud shouts. There was a stick dance, and a somebody in the audience 'volunteered' me to take part. I was handed a metre long wooden rod, and caught a splinter in my finger, which started to bleed as we started the stick dancing routine. I grabbed a paper serviette from the table to suppress the bleeding, and completed my embarrassing moment with as much aplomb as I could muster.

A lady sitting close to us discreetly handed me a tiny plaster for which I was most grateful. Later I I had to pull out a splinter out of the wound, but no great damage was done. It could have been worse, but I couldn't help thinking that it was a bit careless of the performer to have engaged a member of the audience without at least a little equipment safety check. This crossed my mind as I have been so aware of just how strict and consistent every single safety check make by crew and staff has been on this cruise. Nothing is left to chance. But outside performers are another matter.

Ah well, home tomorrow. We a late afternoon flight I have a morning to visit the synagogue. If I can find it on foot.

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