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Bohemian Rhapsody:
If It's Thursday, This Must Be Vienna and Budapest
(Dispatch #12)

Story and photos by Tom Weber

front of an Insight Vacations bus

n 1969 there was a popular adventure-comedy movie about a group of tourists who race through 9 European countries in 18 days on a bus: If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium.

My "band of merry media" and I have been cast in a similar, real-life, no-laughing-matter calendar cruncher as SERIOUS guest journalists and photographers of Insight Vacations (Insight) on its six-night abbreviated Bohemian Rhapsody journey through the Czech Republic, Austria and Hungary.

So, if it's Thursday, which it is, this must be Vienna (by day) and Budapest (by night).

Schonbrunn Palace on the outskirts of Vienna

Back on board the motor coach, we're off to see a little 1,441-room "cottage," as Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa once referred to it when her small family of 16 children and virile hubby, Emperor Francis I, summered there on the outskirts of Vienna: Schönbrunn Palace.

A UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site and one of Vienna's most-visited attractions, Schönbrunn Palace is a must-see stop on anyone's bucket list and a "signature" moment when led around by one of Insight's expert art-historian guides.

carpeted stairs at the Schonbrunn Palace

For centuries, the "cottage" was the property of the House of Habsburg with its rich art and exquisite furnishings symbolic of the power and influence this royal lineage wielded around Europe from the end of the 17th to the early 20th century.

one of the art works inside the Schonbrunn Palace

Due to restrictions on interior photography of any kind (I HATE when that happens), you'll have to take my word for it: Schönbrunn Palace is one of the most impressive and well-preserved examples of Late Baroque (Rococo) you will ever experience.

Neptune's Fountain

Outside, it's a different story, as photography is permitted all across the massive and impressive gardens and grounds that happen to house the world's very first zoo, Tiergarten Schönbrunn, founded in 1752, along with the Great Parterre and its 32 sculptures, Neptune's Fountain and the Gloriette on top of the hill.

more scenes at the Schonbrunn Palace

Lens caps off, let's see what we can capture in the 15 minutes we have left on this stop before the Insight Express leaves the station.

the Maria Theresa Square, the Burgtor Gate and Heroes' Square

Quicker than you can say fahrvergnügen (German for "driving pleasure") we're back on the motor coach, cruising down the renowned Ringstraß towards our next hop-off points-of-interest: Maria Theresien Platz (Maria Theresa Square), the Burgtor Gate and Heldenplatz (Heroes' Square), where the Hofburg residence and world-famous Spanish Riding School are located.

We've got 20 minutes people. So, GIDDYUP!

With the clock closing in on high noon, Neira, Insight's chatty tour director-slash-storyteller, informs the peanut gallery that we'll break for lunch, on our own dime, around the Central District of the city.

Edelweiss beer at the Karntner Strabe

We dismount the motor coach near Kärntner Straße, Vienna's trendy pedestrian-friendly street and THE place for shopping, dining, and people watching. I'll have the bratwurst mit pommes frites and an Edelweiss Weißbier, bitte.

My tank now pegged on F, I've got a few minutes to walk off lunch and see what I can see around the Kärntner before heading back to the motor coach. Care to join me?

more scenes at at the Karntner Strabe

On the road again, we put Vienna – the second ranked, most livable city in the world for 2013, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) index – and the 22 hours we spent here in the rearview mirror, but not out of our minds.

From the imperial splendour of the Habsburgs and the classical notes of Mozart and Strauss, to the charm of its coffee houses and the mouth-watering strudels, schnitzels and Sachertorte (chocolate cake), it's awfully hard not to like Vienna, a gem of a metropolis that bridges Central with Eastern Europe.

In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Terminator-Governator from Graz, I'll be back!

Insight tour director Neira

With the GPS now set for Budapest-or-bust, we recline in our business-class legroom seats for the 2.5 hr. drive.

Along the way, Neira, our chatty tour director, does her best to keep us awake by peppering the ride with her now legendary, fun-filled footnotes.

For instance, did you know that Harry Houdini, the illusionist-escape artist, and Bela Lugosi, the silver screen's first Dracula, hailed from Hungary? That the ballpoint pen was invented by Laszlo Biro of Budapest and that Vitamin C was discovered by Hungarian scientist Albert Szent-Györgyi de Nagyrápolt? Did you?


writer's room at the Sofitel Chain Bridge Hotel, Budapest

After a quick 40 winks – sorry Neira, I just couldn't keep my eyes open – I'm off the bus, in the elevator and heading up to my sixth floor temporary abode at the Sofitel Chain Bridge Hotel, Insight's signature address in Budapest that's in clear sight of, you guessed it, the Chain Bridge and the Blue Danube that flows underneath it.

evening scene of buildings along the Danube near the Chain Bridge, Budapest

I linger long enough to splash cold water on my face and, in Houdini-like speed, change my clothes, dash out the door and climb back on board the motor coach. Insight is treating us to an "Intro to Budapest" like no other: a dinner cruise down the Danube.

entrees for a dinner cruise along the Danube

Truth be told, the iconic river's nighttime reflections steal the show and actually trump the bigger-than-big, tasty buffet of Hungarian delights. And, that's awfully hard to do when free food and drink, on a boat no less, are offered to this "band of merry media."

Insight Vacation's Bohemian Rhapsody brochure

For complete information on Insights' premium and luxury-escorted itineraries, including the Bohemian Rhapsody and 100 other journeys throughout Europe, just click HERE, or call toll free 1-888-680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

at Budapest, Hungary

See you at first light when we'll start the day in Buda and end it around the dinner table in Pest. In between, we'll make strudel from scratch and hang with the Great Communicator, Ronald Reagan. I kid you not.

Related Articles:
Bohemian Rhapsody: Austria; Bohemian Rhapsody: Český Krumlov; Bohemian Rhapsody: Prague's Watering Hole; Bohemian Rhapsody: Prague's Old Town Square; Bohemian Rhapsody: Jewish Quarter; Bohemian Rhapsody: Crossing the Charles Bridge; Bohemian Rhapsody: Storming the Prague Castle; Bohemian Rhapsody: Na Zdraví! (A Brewery and A Wine Cellar)

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Let Tom know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Feedback for Destination Bosnia: Inside Sarajevo's Tunnel of Hope

Spent time in Sarajevo in the fall of 1973…beer was excellent!

--- David

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Hi Tom,

I must say, you're photographs are always amazing. They are top notch. You bring so much class to Traveling Boy. It's photographs like yours that make me want to go out and do my own traveling. Please don't get tired of sending us your amazing adventures. It's such a delight for the soul.

--- Raoul, Whittier, CA

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Hi Tom:

I'm also an American living in Italy. I've read with interest your blog and articles. I'd like to speak with you regarding residency and citizenship for Americans in Italy as you do seem to have a great deal of knowledge on all of these subjects. Would it be possible to give you a call on the phone? If so, please let me know how to reach you. If not, I can ask my questions via email.

Thank you!

--- David

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Hey Tom – Wow! Love those photos – they are so super that they make me A) Want to start eating NOW. B) Go there myself. C) See all that pristine beauty that looks so restful and peaceful. Great story, superb pix!!! Bravo!!

--- John, Los Angeles, CA

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Feedback for Destination Southwestern France: Saint-Émilion

Good job, Tom, and timely info. St. Émilion is in the list of places Jim Hayes and I will visit in September 2014. If we get the chance, we will exploit your experience to enhance the trip!

--- Bobby Harper, Dameron, MD

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Feedback for Vicenza Walks – Monte Berico

I lived in Vicenza for 4 years in the U.S. ARMY from 1963 to 1967. A wonderful place to explore. Palladio’s works are amazing. Have been back twice since and find new places to visit. My favorite is MONTE BERICO where I have some wonderful photos of my family.

--- Dr. Albert Pizzi, Hanover, MA

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I liked the new TB particularly the Vicenza article that took me back as a youth when we lived in Naples and travelled up there for a baseball tourney (U.S. Military Bases dependent schools played each other.)

Took me back to the plaza.

--- Bill

Feedback for A Canterbury Trail (Sutri)

Very interesting note. I have wedroned which route the early pre-Christian and Christian pilgrims travelled to Rome from England. Is it still possible to travel the Francigena trail?

--- Pawel

You can find out more info on walking tours of Via Francigena at this site: Thanks for stopping by and commenting..


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Good article, enjoyed reading it. Saved your recommended sights for future use.

--- Dardenne Prairie, MO

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You're going to be great at this Tom. Congrats.

--- Donna Vissa -Montreal

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