Cruising The Danube & The Main-Danube Canal
Cruising from Nuremberg, Germany, to Budapest, Hungary, passengers witness an amazing spectacle: the crossing, by a river cruiser, of Europe’s Continental Divide.
To accomplish the seemingly impossible task, our vessel must transit a series of 16 locks over a distance of more than 100 miles to lift itself nearly 1,400 feet above sea level.
The Divide is represented by a concrete monument (pictured) on the banks, and as we passed, I expected the captain to speak the words reserved for airline pilots, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve reached our cruising altitude.” He did not.
Welcome To River Cruising On The Danube
Immortalized in Strauss’s Blue Danube Waltz, the Danube River (Donau in German) is full of surprises for those who embark on Continental Europe’s most popular river for cruising.
Flowing through six countries, the Danube meanders for nearly 1,800 miles — from Germany’s Black Forest through Austria into the Balkans before dumping into the Black Sea.
Situated on the Danube’s banks are some of Europe’s most-fabled cities — Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest.
Most Danube river cruises span seven to 10 nights and allow sufficient time to explore the major cities along the river. Some vessels operate roundtrip from Passau; some operate one-way between Regensburg and Budapest; and others cruise between Vienna or Budapest to Nuremberg, which requires transiting the section of the Main-Danube Canal over the Franconian Alps.
Reaching The Danube From Germany
Cruises from the Main River frequently begin or end in Nuremberg. The center of the Nazi Party in the 1930s, Nuremberg was virtually destroyed during World War II. Only a few historic buildings survived the severe bomb damage, but the city itself has been restored.
River cruise passengers have ample opportunity to visit sites related to Nuremberg’s World War II history or, should they wish, a Medieval city tour. Nuremberg also hosts the world’s largest Christmas Market, featured on so-called Christmas Market cruises during the month of December.
Dating back to Roman times, Regensburg, Germany, was practically untouched during World War II. The city is the oldest on the Danube, tracing its history back nearly 2,000 years. Still standing are the Roman gates, Porta Pretoria, built in 179 A.D.
You’ll want to see the Roman history, of course, but Regensburg also lays claim to Germany’s oldest oldest restaurant, Alte Wurstküche, a small sausage kitchen and dining room situated right on the river and within walking distance of where most river vessels dock. For a real treat, head inside for a beer and bratwurst.
Afterward, head to the Cathedral. Construction of the Cathedral, regarded as the best example of Gothic architecture in Bavaria, started during the second half of the 13th century and was completed in 1525. If you’re lucky, while there, you’ll hear the “Regensburger Domspatzen,” a boys’ choir.
Still in Germany, Passau serves as a jumping off point for passengers who want to go on the optional excursion to Salzburg (about two hours away), birthplace of Mozart and the setting for the acclaimed musical, “The Sound of Music.”
Passengers depart during the morning from Passau and reboard in the late afternoon farther down river. If possible, however, take time to explore Passau, especially St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which features the world’s largest church organ (17,774 pipes and 233 registers).
Known as the City on Three Rivers, pretty Passau is situated at the confluence of the Danube, Inn and Ilz.