Cuisine & Culture with AMA Waterways
Last month we took a fantastic river cruise with AMA Waterways. We joined the AMA Lyra in Budapest on a cold but clear afternoon. Built in 2009, the ms AmaLyra is 360 feet long with 75 staterooms and suites. After overnighting on board, we had a chance to sample Budapest in all its glory. AMA Waterways has a great on board product and really knows how to provide unique experiences and insight into a region. For those who have had their fill of museum visits and city tours, the culinary tours are a great way to learn about the local culture first-hand!
For Budapest, we opted for a culinary delights tour which offered us the chance to make Hungarian Goulash and tour the local food market. Budapest is a grand city still recovering from previous hardships but growing well now. We sailed in the afternoon of our second day on the Danube heading for Vienna; the Danube certainly isn’t blue, but has plenty of beautiful and interesting scenery. While cruising towards Vienna, Stephen Sterling of Esterlina Vineyards gave a great lecture and tasting of some of his family’s acclaimed wines.
Once we arrived in Vienna, it was time for a visit into this famed city. We opted for the Culinary Delights tour, which entailed a walk through the center of Vienna to the centrally-located Vienna Café Sacher, where we enjoyed the authentic Viennese coffee house atmosphere, with a slice of original Sachertorte and a cup of Sacher coffee. A magnificent winter garden frames uninterrupted views of the State Opera House. Then we were off to a champagne cellar visit and tasting at Schlumberger. The cellars were impressive and deep underground, which is why they sustained no damage in the Second World War bombings.
The evening offered the option of either a Mozart and Strauss Concert or a Weingut Mayer Heuriger visit. A Heuriger has limitations different from those of a restaurant. Only its own wine is served, and it serves a limited selection of cold food as an evening meal: generally local, homemade products. Additionally, a Heuriger is only open for a limited time, usually two or three weeks, although may reopen again later in the season when more wine has been produced.
After an overnight stay in Vienna, we sailed north the following morning. We arrived in Krems just after lunch and enjoyed a Winzer Krems winery tour complete with 4-D movie presentation—yes you can smell the flavors of the wines! The evening brought a visit to the Loisium World of Wine.
In the Wachau valley with our first stop being in Durnstein, we took a walking culinary tour which included a wine, chocolate and Schnapps tasting. Here I rode a bike up the valley while the AmaLyra cruised alongside us. We rode the 22 miles to our next stop in Melk.
Overnight we cruised from Melk to Linz arriving in the late morning we opted for the excursion to Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic. This is a beautiful World Heritage site that survived a trip behind the iron curtain. We overnighted in Linz for the Captain’s farewell dinner and sailed for Passau early the following day. In Passau we walked into town and enjoyed the small town atmosphere and shopping before sailing up to Vilshofen in the early evening. Here we were treated to our own shoreside Vilshofen beer festival right by the boat. We had to leave and fly home from Munich early the next morning with some great memories and new friends.
By Ralph Cooper