CROSS THAT BRIDGE
My sister and I are doing a river cruise from Prague to Budapest at the end of August next year. What else can we see while that far from home? Should we base ourselves in Budapest and do day trips?
As you say, you’re a long way from home, so packing as much sightseeing as you can into your time away is a good idea.
Your cruise will no doubt include parts of Germany and Austria in its itinerary, giving you the chance to experience these countries, so perhaps consider a few days before your departure in Prague to explore more of the Czech Republic.
Give yourself at least two days to wander around Prague. There are many areas including the picturesque Old Town Square with the 600-yearold Astronomical Clock and Town Hall, plus churches and cathedrals. Taking in Charles Bridge and the 1000-year-old Prague Castle – the largest castle complex in the world – will take a whole day in themselves.
You should take a day trip to the town of Cesky Krumlov. The direct train service leaving at 8am will have you there by 11am giving you all day to wander the streets and quaint shops, then head to the castle courtyards and gardens. The train ride through the countryside is delightful and this old township with Baroque homes and cobblestone streets is worth the visit.
At the end of your cruise and once you’ve familiarised yourselves with Budapest, look at doing the following day or extended trips: Hop on a local train to the township of Vac about 45 minutes away, where you will find this and other little villages of the Danube Bend. These villages include Roman ruins, 300-year-old mummies, thatched roof houses and castles. Or you could join a guided tour. Budapest River Cruise (budapestrivercruise.com) provides a 10-hour tour to the popular villages of Visegrad, Esztergom and Szentendre, plus it includes a photo stop in Slovakia. Hotel pick-up and lunch is included. The historic town of Szfvar, a 40-minute train ride from Budapest, is also worth a visit. It features the Bory Castle, a replica of medieval times. (Most of the town was demolished in the 1600s).
Budapest is known for its thermal baths, but one of the best is about two hours away in Miskolc. The Miskolc Cave Baths can be reached by taxi or bus from the town’s train station, and you could stop in Eger on the way back to see the Eger Castle. Another suggestion is to spend more time in Vienna – you can get there with a simple three-hour train ride.
Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia is about the same distance from Budapest and this pedestrian-only town should be considered for an overnight stay. The old town has lively bars and restaurants and its castle has great views overlooking the Danube.
Salzburg, the home of Mozart, plus the Mirabell Gardens and Palace is about five hours by train and you should also consider a night or two there. The old town is lovely to explore and you can see the locations of the Sound of Music, tour St Peter’s Church and Cemetery and ride the funicular to the fortress for amazing views.
We are flying to Bali and wondered if we could order food on Jetstar or do we have to do it when we make our booking?
Jetstar International (jetstar.com.au) offers three fare types on its flights to and from Bali. There is the Starter, Plus Bundle and Max Bundle.
Starter fares do not include meals, but Plus and Max Bundles will include a meal/snack, or an in-flight voucher you can use to make purchases when on-board.
If you are on a Starter fare and would like a meal, it must be prepurchased as they are not available for sale on the flight. Pre-purchased meals will include one hot and one cold non-alcoholic drink with every meal service. You can pre-order your meals through the “manage my booking” function on the Jetstar site.
Otherwise, you can buy snacks such as cheese and biscuits, noodles, muffins and wraps during the flight (subject to availability).
SHANGHAI TRANSIT VISA
We are travelling to Shanghai in August, and will stay there two days before our cruise. Is it possible to obtain the transit visa from Australia prior to departing? If not, what is the time required to obtain it at Pudong Airport on arrival.
It would be easier to get your visa sorted prior to arriving, from the correct site – visaforchina.org. You can download the application form online, and then apply in person at one of their centres in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth or Brisbane, or by post. The centres are open 9am to 3pm Monday to Friday. You can make an appointment and the application should take about four days to process. A regular single entry at the time of writing is $110.
We are heading to Tasmania soon for a couple of weeks’ travelling in a motorhome, and we have heard of Mona, a museum in Hobart that was built by a gambler and contains really weird exhibits. What can you tell us about it?
Privately funded and located within the Moorilla Winery near Hobart, Mona (the Museum of Old and New Art) is described as a subversive, adult Disneyland by owner David Walsh. Its unusual collection includes everything from ancient Egyptian mummies to oddball and thoughtprovoking contemporary art. Each visitor is given a handheld device which tracks where they are in the building, then provides information on the particular display.
There are three types of commentary to choose from, as they call them: Art wank – traditional; Gonzo – thoughts from the owner on what the piece means on a personal level, and Ideas – small bits of information and interviews with artists. There are about 300 works on display, plus on-site you’ll find a cellar door and wine bar, restaurant, cinema, library, gallery and accommodation.
The best way to get there is via ferry from Hobart’s waterfront, and note: it is closed on Tuesdays.
Charles Bridge and Prague Castle will take a whole day to explore; visit Mona, Hobart’s subversive adult Disneyland, and get your transit visa before arriving in Shanghai.