I'm just back from a fabulous 12-day Eastern European river cruise with Grand Circle Cruise Lines that began in Bucharest and the Black Sea and ended in Budapest, Hungary.
Four countries, three empires, multiple attempts at independent states… the Balkans and Romania through which we traveled on the Danube river faced constant change in terms of borders and those in power.
In the broadest of terms there was:
- the arrival of the Romans and the establishment of Eastern Orthodox Christianity
- the colonization by the Ottomans and the introduction of Islam
- tensions between the Ottomans and the Austro-Hungarian empires
- the rise of nationalism within the individual Balkan states
- different states forming alliances on different sides during both world wars
- the rise of Tito and the formation of Yugoslavia
- the Romanian Revolution of 1989
- and, of course, the Balkan Wars of the 1990s and the dissolution of Yugoslavia.
But beyond its complicated and often violent past the region is also incredibly beautiful. The trip was an education as well as a vacation and a very social excursion. I met many interesting people who were a pleasure to share the trip with. I have a number of stories to tell but I will start with an overview of the trip itinerary in photos.
We flew into Bucharest where everyone met for dinner on the first night. The following morning, the first full day of the trip, we spent in Bucharest with a local guide. At every stop we had our program director with us and a local guide. In the afternoon we traveled to Constanta on the Black Sea to board the ship.
Constanta is the oldest, continuously inhabited city in Romania. Its economic survival is based on being a port on the Black Sea.
This is a small city on the Danube. No bus necessary on this stop as was the case in most ports. It was just a short walk into the city.
Vidin is much smaller than Ruse and a good example of a small town on the Danube.
Sailing Day to Belgrade
From Ruse we had a day sailing to Belgrade as we went through the locks called the Iron Gates.
We had been divided into three groups, each with one program director. Our's was Bojana who is from Belgrade.
Novi Sad, Serbia
Vukovar and Osijek, Croatia
On this day we visited two small cities, a school which receives support from the Grand Circle Foundation and a local's home for lunch. Then we took the bus across the border of Hungary and boarded the boat in Mohacs.
The night after Croatia we sailed to Budapest where we spent two days before flying home.
As you can see from just this small sample of photos from my trip, it was a rich and educational experience. I have lots to tell you.
My thanks to Grand Circle Cruise Lines for supporting this trip. As always, the opinions are my own and editorial control of the stories is managed solely by Solo Traveler.