I could barely contain my excitement as I was about take my first ever river cruise. We would be traveling down the famous Danube River on Viking River Cruise from Nuremberg, Germany to Budapest, Hungary. It was the first week of December and we would be visiting Christmas markets in each of the cities we stopped in. My best friend (and frequent travel partner) Lucille, was coming along and she was equally excited. I was already packed weeks in advance knowing the upcoming Thanksgiving holidays would be pulling me in a million different directions prior to my departure.
Three weeks before we were scheduled to leave, my daughter was killed in a car accident. I was numb. Of course I would have to cancel the trip. Lucille would understand. Rick would understand. But, my family insisted. “You have to go. Don’t you always say ‘Travel is the perfect therapy’?”
Life can stop you in your tracks if you let it. I think I could have easily stayed home, remained in bed with the covers over my head. But, I made myself get up. I brushed my teeth and hair. I used tons of concealer to hide the bags under my eyes from countless hours of sobbing. I got on the plane with my dear friend Lucille by my side, going through the motions of navigating airports like I had done so many times before. I also knew that Rick and his wife Denise would be there when we arrived. I felt safe and surrounded by caring friends who would understand if I burst out crying for no reason.
We arrived in Nuremberg and it was seamless. Viking representatives were at the airport to greet us and take us safely to our ship. The ship was decorated for Christmas. It felt special and at that moment I knew everything would be ok. The staff was extraordinary, the guides were incredible and the itinerary amazing. I immersed myself in the experience, taking in every nuance as we sailed down the Danube. The air was crisp and refreshing.
Our trip began in Nuremberg, Bavaria’s second largest city. Then on to Regensburg, considered one of Europe’s best-preserved medieval cities, with the largest groupings of 13th- and 14th-century church spires, towers and patrician houses north of the Alps. We sailed to Passau, Germany where we strolled through Old Town, pausing to take in the landscape of traditional patrician houses, the New Bishop’s Residence and St. Stephen’s Cathedral. We saw the symphony in Vienna and checked eating the famous Sacher-Torte off our bucket lists. We ended our cruise in Budapest, the capital of Hungary. The views of the city from Fishermen’s Bastion and Matthias Church were breathtaking.
The ship sailed from town to town effortlessly as if it were gliding, as our captain expertly navigated us through locks and quaint villages. It was serene. It was where I truly felt what it meant to ‘practice what you preach’. All these years Rick and I talked about travel as therapy and this was the ultimate test. The Viking River Cruise down the Danube was exactly what I needed, even though at the time I wasn’t sure what I needed. It brought me the tranquility I needed to still my thoughts, the serenity to begin to heal and enough breathtaking scenery to lose myself. I will forever think of the Danube as healing waters.
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller