Ports of plenty around ev­ery bend

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Europe - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

In Bel­grade, where the Danube and Sava rivers meet, the boat docks very close to the city, so it’s a good port for in­de­pen­dent ex­plor­ing. But you’ll need to book a tour to get up to the 1920s-built Royal Palace on one of the Ser­bian cap­i­tal’s seven hills. Crown Prince Alexan­der could well be strolling the gar­dens; in the ad­join­ing White Palace, look at the head­rest on (for­mer pres­i­dent of Yu­goslavia) Tito’s chair in the pri­vate cin­ema for traces of his hair dye.

In Pecs, Hun­gary (over­land from Mo­hacs; re­board in Kolocsa), the Early Chris­tian Ne­crop­o­lis (Sopi­anae) is a UNESCO World Her­itage Site and con­tains re­mark­able dis­plays of 4th-cen­tury relics. Around the heart of this walk­a­ble city look for lo­cally made Zsol­nay ma­jolica tiles on the roofs and fa­cades of houses and visit the Zsol­nay Porce­lain Mu­seum in one of the city’s old­est build­ings. The main Szechenyi Square is a de­light, with a real Mediter­ranean hol­i­day at­mos­phere in sum­mer — chil­dren splash­ing in foun­tains, al­mond trees and ge­lato carts, cool­ing mists be­ing pumped on to cafe ter­races at high noon. (I am dis­traught, how­ever, that the marzi­pan mu­seum is closed for lunch.)

The Slo­vakian cap­i­tal of Bratislava has the best and most ac­ces­si­ble shop­ping of the Danube cities vis­ited on River Cloud II’s Bu­dapest-to-Vi­enna itin­er­ar­ies and can be eas­ily ex­plored on foot with­out a guide. Bratislava’s his­toric core is ut­terly charm­ing, with cafes in cob­bled squares, pop-up mar­kets and shops sell­ing em­broi­dery and lace, hand-painted Christ­mas or­na­ments, porce­lain jugs and dishes, wooden toys and pop­py­seed pas­tries. Best me­mento? Visit the Mu­seum of Trade’s good lit­tle gift shop and pur­chase a bot­tle of fiery slivovitz in­fused with pear or plum.

SU­SAN KUROSAWA

River Cloud II pas­sen­gers in Bratislava

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