Last week we joined Carolyne Randoe on her 15-day Jewels of Europe river cruise. Budapest was a real hit (watch that segment here
) and now she's cruising along the Danube River to Vienna.
Before reaching Austria's capital, you pass pretty little towns such as Heinberg and through a series of locks allowing the boat to navigate the varying water levels of the river.
Once there, Carolyne said she felt like a princess riding around in a horse-drawn carriage. It's a sophisticated city with a love of life, art and music evident everywhere.
Vienna's history is on display throughout the city, particularly the importance of the Habsburgs. They ruled from the 13th century until the Empire was dissolved at the end of World War I.
Schönbruun Palace was the summer residence of the Habsburgs and is one of the country's most important cultural monuments. The palace and its gardens illustrate the tastes, interests and extraordinary opulence enjoyed by the Habsburgs. The 1400-room palace is nothing short of breathtaking.
The sculptured garden between the palace and Sun Fountain is known as "The Great Parterre". It was designed in 1695 and has a maze, an orangery and is lined with 30 sculptures.
For something more animated, visit the famous Spanish Riding School. The world's oldest riding academy is open six days a week for visitors to see their morning exercise program.
It has 430 years of history and continues to cultivate classical equitation in the Renaissance tradition. Its name honours the Spanish horses that formed the basis of the Lipizzan breed that is used exclusively at the school.
As part of the Scenic Tours cruise, you will be treated to a private concert at the Palais Liechtenstein. The stunning baroque building in Fürstengasse was built between 1691 and 1711 as a summer palace for Johann Adam Andreas, Prince of Liechtenstein. His descendants own it to this day.
From Vienna you will make your way along the Danube past the medieval town of Durnstein and on to Melk, famous for its abbey.
It was founded in 1089 when Leopold II gave one of his castles to Benedictine monks. The monastic school was founded in the 12th century and its library has a fabulous and extensive manuscript collection. The baroque masterpiece is grand and magnificent and is Austria's spiritual and cultural centre.
As you see the last of the Austrian countryside, you cross the Czech Republic border and the beautiful town of Ceský Krumlov. Often called the untouched diamond of Europe, the town was built around one of Europe's largest castles. For centuries bears have guarded Castle Krumlov and you can see some living there in the moat.
The magical place is UNESCO heritage-listed. It was seriously neglected under communism and while it is currently being renovated, it is still very beautiful.
There's more in store next week as Carolyne and her fellow travellers venture into Germany, home of beer and bratwurst.
Scenic Tours Jewels of Europe river cruise.
Scenic Tours 15 day Jewels of Europe river cruises leave from Amsterdam or Budapest. They start at $6095 per person twin-share and include return flights from major Australian capital cities. This price is based on March 7, 2012, departure. All meals, drinks with meals, sightseeing to suit your personal interests and headsets on tours. They run between March and November.
Prices correct at July 16, 2011.
For further information
14/56 Pitt Street
Sydney, NSW 2000
Ph: 1300 723 642
It is recommended travellers see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there may be specific vaccinations recommended for your destination. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended. For further information, visit www.smartraveller.gov.au and www.welltogo.com.au.