Belgrade, Serbia: A gray and gritty city that I found ever so interesting

It has been two weeks since the conclusion of our river trip and I am now home in Michigan, catching up on these very important last diary posts. Our final three cities – Belgrade, Bucharest and Istanbul – certainly deserve their due…and Bulgaria must be discussed, too.… Friday, July 6, 2012: Belgrade is a gray and gritty city. You would be too if you had been completely destroyed 44 times, witnessed 115 major battles, had 40 different …

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The River Duchess: What do passengers do while on board this river ship

  So, we have discussed the ship and the service on Uniworld’s River Duchess, so let’s take a look at what passengers do while on board. First, let me say that my perception of river cruising was sitting on the top deck for hours at a time watching the scenery and small towns go by. I was wrong. For a couple of reasons: First, river cruises in Europe are port-intensive. This means they stop almost every day …

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The River Duchess: Let’s talk about the ship

One thing we have learned about river cruising is that it is very tour-intensive. On our trip we had tours every day but one and most of them departed by 9 a.m. So I have been writing a lot about what we saw and did but not so much about the ship experience itself. So, let’s backtrack a bit and talk about the lovely River Duchess. This river ship is one of 12 in the Uniworld Boutique …

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An interlude…

ISTANBUL, Turkey — The past four days on this cruise were extremely busy. We visited Belgrade, cruised the Iron Gates, then visited Bulgaria and yesterday we left the ship. Although well organized, it was a very full day including a hour’s drive to Bucharest, a tour of that capital city of Romania, then lunch, then a flight to Istanbul and then an hour-and-a-half bus ride into the city to our hotel. (For some reason, the bus that …

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Lunch in a Croatian home softens the ravages of war in this region

“The Serbs began a campaign of ethnic cleansing, systematically removing Croats from their territory — often by murdering them. The bloodiest siege was at the town of Vukovar, which the Yugoslav army surrounded and shelled relentlessly for three months…” VUKOVAR and OSIJEK, Croatia – We are now in Croatia and tomorrow we visit Serbia. These are two of the major players in the breakup of Yugoslavia. It is hard to believe that these wars were so recent. …

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Understanding Yugoslavia: Why did it break up in the 1990s?

At this point in our river cruise  we are entering the former Yugoslavia. It is extremely difficult to explain  why this country broke up in the 1990s, so I am reprinting this article from fellow travel writer Rick Steves’ website. I think it will be helpful in understanding this part of the world.. For up-to-date specifics, see the latest edition of the Rick Steves’ Eastern Europe guidebook. Understanding Yugoslavia By Cameron Hewitt Americans struggle to understand the complicated breakup …

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Getting deeper into the Balkans: The towns of Mohacs and Pecs, Hungary

  MOHACS, Hungary – The past two days have absolutely sped by. We toured for most of the day both days in wilting heat. (I don’t think I have ever experienced such a stretch of 100-degree days anywhere.) As a result, when coming into the cool River Duchess at the end of an afternoon, all you can think about is a shower…and, just maybe…a nap. After several visits to large European capitals, these days were spent visiting …

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Budapest lives up to its excellent reputation, but still shows some scars from communism

  BUDAPEST, Hungary – We had heard many times that Budapest was one of the world’s most beautiful cities and now we understand. It is, indeed. We entered the city midday on the River Duchess in grand manner. Capt. van Meerveld sailed us all the way through downtown on the Danube and our cruise manager Bart Roelofs narrated, explaining all the sites such as the spectacular Parliament Building and St. Stephen’s Basilica. We easily grasped the main …

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Bratislava, Slovakia, is perhaps the world’s newest capital and it is polishing its image

  BRATISLAVA, Slovakia – The River Duchess left Vienna, Austria, at 3 a.m. this morning and traveled about 40 miles down the Danube to another country. In fact, a very brand new country: Slovakia.Over its long history, this small country has been ruled by many powers, including 400 years under the Hapsburgs, but is best known to most Americans as the Slovakia part of Czechoslovakia. That country was formed in 1918, after World War I, and was …

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Vienna adventure: A trip to the Naschtmarket via the underground

  VIENNA, Austria —Yesterday was our second day in Vienna and during the morning we had a fun adventure. Our cruise manager, Bart Roelofs from Holland, invited all who wanted to join him to go to the Naschtmarket in Vienna. This is one of the city’s premier food markets and is easily accessible by the subway. With Bart leading the way, some 60 of us traipsed across the pedestrian bridge near our ship, over the highway, to …

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