Europe’s second longest river was recently announced as the top river cruise destination for 2015, with bookings up a massive 38% from the year before. This important waterway passes through 10 different countries, provides drinking water for more than ten million people and is the main route via which ships can navigate between the Atlantic Ocean and the Black Sea.
But what of the places that it flows through? Well here are some interesting facts about certain destinations that you may well visit on your Danube river cruise.
The Black Forest
The Danube is formed by the confluence of two German rivers, the Breg and the Brigach. This meeting takes place on the outskirts of the Black Forest, an area that gets its name due to the fact that the Romans found it very dark.
Not only was Regensburg one of the former capitals of Germany, it is also home to the youngest billionaire in the world, Prince Albert II von Thurn und Taxis.
The quiet and unassuming German town of Passau is actually home to the largest pipe organ in Europe. It features no less than 17,774 pipes and can be found within St. Stephen’s Cathedral, at the point where the mighty Danube is joined by the River Inn. Even those who are not interested in giant musical instruments will enjoy gazing up in awe at the intricacy involved in creating this organ.
Once as big as Vienna is today, during the 11th and 12th centuries, Krems an der Donau is known for making a traditional apricot brandy. Marillenschnaps, as it is called, is 40% proof and varies slightly depending on which distillery you visit.
Not only is Austria’s capital city the birthplace of the snow globe, Sigmund Freud and Beethoven, it has a graveyard in which there are double the amount of gravestones as there are living people in Vienna. In fact, the oldest tram line in town runs from here to the city centre and its name, 71, led to the euphemism ‘taken the 71’ being used when someone dies.
Trivia fans may know Bratislava as the only capital city in the world to border two other countries (Austria and Hungary), but it’s more interesting to note the story behind the city’s symbol. The crest features a castle with three towers to represent the fact that the old city walls were built in a triangle, resulting in just three entrance and exit points.
One of the most interesting facts about the capital of Hungary is that it has a maze of underground caves beneath it. Nowadays these house ancient artefacts and act as a museum depicting Budapest’s history, but in the past they were used as bomb shelters, wine cellars and even hiding places for prehistoric man.
Far from being a place where everyone walks around with a frown on their place, the name Novi Sad actually means ‘new plant’.
One of the most iconic symbols of Belgrade is a statue known as ‘The Victor’. Representing the city’s freedom, a naked man stands with a falcon in one hand and a sword in the other. The bird represents the fact that Belgrade is always watching for the next threat to its freedom and the sword shows that the city is always ready to defend itself.
As one of the last settlements that the Danube flows through, the Romanian city of Galati is the largest port along the river and is known for its naval heritage.
If you would like to book your own Danube river cruise, taking in some of the above destinations in the process, we have some great itineraries for you to choose from.