“Sometimes there’s just no way to hold back the river.”
~Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
For the past several months, our conversations would inevitably turn to the Danube River.
Specifically, we were slightly obsessed with the Danube’s water levels and how they could impact our upcoming cruise. We monitored water level reports the way people planning an outdoor event wrap themselves around weather forecasts. We read river reviews on cruisecritic.com. We searched for any kernel of information we could find, hoping for an answer to our biggest concern: Will we get to Budapest?
The truth was that there was no answer to the question, at least not at that time. The river controls the destiny of the itinerary. Too much rain, and the river becomes dangerously high for a boat to sail under its bridges. Too little rain, and it becomes too low to navigate. It’s a delicate balance that can only be determined day-by-day. In our case, one good day of rain could make the difference between having high enough waters to reach Budapest or having to change plans.
The best solution, we agreed, was to literally go with the flow, but have a back-up plan for Budapest. The cruise was round-trip from Vienna, and we figured at some point we could get to Budapest on our own by train, as long as we made it back to Vienna for our flight home.
Until then, we would leave things up to fate. And the river.
* * * * *
The sun was ablaze with no rain in sight as Herb and I headed to the top deck of the Crystal Mozart. This was the first day of our first-ever river cruise, and we were excited to check out the scenery. We were sailing into Austria’s Wachau Valley, known for its charming towns, vineyard-covered hills and of course, the mighty Danube. It’s a leisurely journey, dotted with distant castles and the promise of what lies beyond the bend.
The Mozart would be stopping in two Wachau Valley towns, and we had signed up for tours in both. I was beginning to realize that our slow-paced morning would soon be transforming itself into the port intensive experience the rivers are known for. It was a lovely respite to watch the world pass by in slow motion for a while, but I was ready to shift gears and experience the Wachau Valley on foot.