The Road Ahead : December January 2010
TRAVEL OFFERS For all the best flight, coach and cruise earlybird savings and special member offers, contact RACQ Travel. At the time of going to press, great offers included 'fly free' and 'save up to $4600 per couple'. Please see racq.com/travel or call RACQ Travel on 1300 888 449 to check the latest offers available. PHOTOS, ABOVE, FROM LEFT: CHAIN BRIDGE, BUDAPEST. AN AUSTRIAN LAKE SETTING. SAUMUR, FRANCE. PREVIOUS PAGE: BEAUTIFUL STREETSCAPES ABOUND. WWW.ROADAHEAD.COM.AU THE ROAD AHEAD DEC 2009/JAN 2010 26 TRAVEL + LIFESTYLE DEPARTURE INTERNATIONAL ago, the practice arose for young nobles to take an extended trip across Europe to seek out the cultural highlights. Most came from England but over time Scandinavians, Germans and even Americans joined the quest. The ultimate goal was invariably Italy or, more specifically, Rome but with visits to centres of learning and culture along the way. Perhaps because Europe is on the other side of the world, Australians often partake of a modern 'grand tour'. Or maybe it's our perspective on distances. The journey between Amsterdam and Budapest may cross at least four countries but it's only about 1150 km, or less than the distance between Brisbane and Townsville. What we regard as a reasonable travel schedule is seen as gruelling to the average European. There's more of Europe to see these days, too. The fall of the Iron Curtain two decades ago revealed some beautiful cities and spectacular landscapes -- now cities like Prague and Budapest are part of Europe's most popular attractions. However, moving around crowded Europe can be a battle. Perhaps the least rewarding method is flying, as security, cramped terminals and dodgy weather can conspire to make it difficult at times. Driving gives you a lot of freedom but parking in most cities is either impossible or expensive. An alternative is the rail network that is excellent. One method of travel that is growing in popularity is European river cruising, which is the fastest growing part of the Australian overseas cruise industry. Of course, the industry has responded with new ships, schedules and sail plans. Now you're likely to find bicycles available on board to explore the stops along the way, wireless internet and special departures catering to a range of interests. The vessels will be long and narrow because locks and bridges dictate this, you gain a perspective from the river that is impossible to find any other way, and you are likely to dock in the very heart of the city, near the most expensive hotels. There are many European rivers that are plied by cruise vessels and the number increases significantly when you extend the definition to include canal barges. There are cruises on the Douro River in Portugal and many waterways in France; and the Russian river cruise industry is increasingly popular. But the rivers of the area between Eastern Europe and the North Sea offer the grandest voyages. On its 1200 km journey from its headwaters in the Swiss Alps to the North Sea, the Rhine River flows through Austria, Liechtenstein, France and Holland, but it's most closely identified with Germany. The Danube is the thread that flows right through Europe. It rises in Germany's Black Forest and flows into the Black Sea after a journey of some 2800 km, passing through 10 countries and a wealth of history. Along its banks are many of Europe's most important cities and the grand scenery includes the Iron Gates, an impressive gorge on the border of Serbia and Romania. Most of the cities and the riverside communities owe their existence to the river.
February March 2010