Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, plus a cruise on the Danube – something we had dreamed of for a long time, and at last the dream came true. Our neighbours told us about this holiday organised by the Association Voyages Culturels et Thématiques des Médocains (AVCTM) in Soulac-sur-Mer. Nevertheless we hesitated before signing up for such an adventure and joining a group of 30 French people for a whole week of visits organised right down to the smallest detail. Determined individualists that we are, the very idea of a group tour was anathema!
Yet … let’s begin with one of the most pleasant small surprises: when we went to a concert at the Vienna Kurhaus a bus dropped us off right in front of the main entrance, and was waiting at the same spot to take us back. A table of drinks had even been laid out specially for us which avoided having to queue in the gallery and jostle to get a glass of champagne during the intervals. It’s true that the crush of people which accompanied most of our visits was unpleasant but, let’s face it, we weren’t the only ones to have travelled from the four corners of the world to follow our guides like sheep to all the monuments.
So as not to lose us, our Monika walked along with her sky blue umbrella held aloft, and no-one got lost. However, I must admit that I have never been counted so many times, even at school, for Monika always wanted to make sure that all her flock was well and truly present. Furthermore, all the local guides who had been organised for us were excellent: Gudrun at Melk Monastery, Evelyn in Vienna, Monika 2 in Dürnstein, Bea in Bratislava and Zoltan in Budapest. Bear in mind too that our trip took us from the Czech Republic, via Austria and Slovenia, as far as Hungary !
For us, the most memorable place was Prague, and the half day spent there was clearly too brief. We will most definitely go back ! Vienna was not new to us but it is always a pleasure to rediscover the city by foot, not to mention the fact that the Albertina Museum had saved a wonderful surprise for us with an exhibition on Pointillisme and its influence on contemporary painting. Bratislava was a city which overwhelmed us with it’s charm, before we reached Budapest where we had time to visit the Gellert Thermal Baths before taking an evening boat excursion along the shores of the Danube through a wonderfully-illuminated city.
We won’t try to describe all the delightful aspects of this holiday but prefer to recommend that you make the trip yourselves – it’s well worth it ! We had a pretty good idea what to expect when travelling in a group, though enjoyable mealtimes prevented us from getting too serious: now all we have to do is tighten our belts and do some sport to lose those excess kilos ! What a magnificent holiday !
All our thanks to Monika for looking after us so well during our tour, and to Bernard for his excellent management, and to the entire team of SWISS DIAMOND for the excellent on-board service.
Christian Büttner/Elke Schwichtenberg (Saint-Vivien), translation: Richard Beasley
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