Castles, Waltzing and Wine
Global Traveler|December 2021
Cruise to enchanting destinations along the beautiful Danube.
By Becca Hensley

Contrary to impressions gleaned from the familiar title of Strauss’ beloved waltz, the Danube is not blue. Like most rivers, it has a grayish hue, and in some parts a muddy murki-ness. However, catch the Danube in the right light, perhaps as you picnic on its banks after a bike ride, and an ultramarine glimmer might catch your eye. Despite misleading references regarding its color, the marvelous Danube surely conjures more storybook visions than any other river on Earth. The second-longest river in Europe, a serpentine enormity, it flows through 10 countries for more than 1,770 miles, from Bavaria to the Black Sea. A fount of legends and history, it has harbored ancient cultures, served as a key trade route for centuries, and today provides its best-known cities — Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade — with drinking water.

To cruise the Danube from either direction is to immerse in a sensory overload of visceral joy. Castles and fortified abbeys crown hills, terraced vineyards unfurl alongside the water, apricot orchards emit intoxicating scents, charming villages seem frozen in time, and grand cities beg to be explored along its course. Fringing its shores, bygone towpaths transformed to bike trails that bustle with cyclists — especially in warmer months. In winter, the Danube leads to festive holiday celebrations, with most towns hosting Christmas markets.

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