Once again we had an early rise. As we prepared to say our goodbyes to Viking Njord, our luggage needed to be packed and ready for the ship staff by 8:30. The hotel we were transferring to, the Sofitel Chain Bridge, was located directly across the street. Before we left on our trip, we thought we would easily walk our bags across the street to check-in. However, once we arrived, and I saw that the street was tricky to cross and contained train tracks to roll our bags over, I knew I had to adjust the plan. I arranged for a staff member from the Sofitel Chain Bridge to pick up our luggage at 9:00. The Sofitel's bellman loaded our luggage onto a cart and maneuvered his way back to the Sofitel with our luggage in tow. Not an easy feat and I'm glad it wasn't me! What great service!
After breakfast we said goodbye to our favorites staff members onboard. Ray, was the best cruise director I've had on any ship - he had the perfect personality for the job, and seemed very sincere in his enthusiasm; Igor, the maitre d', handled my tricky dietary needs promptly and with a warm smile each night; and Bojan, the concierge, who made special arrangements for us throughout the week.
Disembarking from Viking Njord was a breeze! The prior evening, all of the guests who had made post-cruise arrangements on their own (us) were asked to let Bojan know the time they would be leaving the ship. Everyone was asked to vacate their staterooms by 9:00 a.m., but then were welcome to stay onboard in the lounges and could even remain through lunch. It was far more relaxing of a process then disembarking from an ocean cruise ship.
Once our luggage was off to the Sofitel, we walked across the Chain Bridge to ride the funicular up to the castle district. With no specific location in mind, we wandered around and came across the President's house just in time for a quick guard ceremony. We also found a display of medieval weapons and several of us tested out the equipment. I shot a crossbow and, believe it or not, actually hit the target!
We walked to our hotel, registered in the executive lounge, had lunch, then met the guide for our private Alternative Budapest Tour. Antonia was a twenty-five year old singer-songwriter who took us on a tour far different than any other we had had. This walking tour focused on Budapest's "street art", bar and music scene. Along with pointing out the stories behind the graffiti throughout the 7th district, some stops along the way were a shop that sells graffiti supplies, a ruin bar, and A38 (a boat that's now the cool, hip music club).
As we viewed the graffiti around the city, I couldn't help but think that Antontia was attempting to give us an appreciation for the destruction of property. It was still quite interesting to get a sense of Budapest's youth culture and the 25-year old's perspective.
The ruin bar was in a building that was un-renovated on the outside, yet brought to life with re-purposed items throughout the inside. We stopped for a drink, what a cool place!
My favorite spot of the tour was A38, a short tram ride across the bridge. This old Ukrainian boat housed a state of the art club venue and we got to view both the stage and back-stage (former engine room) during a sound check. Of course I thought of my boys at home! They would have gotten a kick out of this place!
After drinks and appetizers in our hotel's club lounge, and a short visit to the attached casino, we enjoyed a fabulous Greek dinner at Taverna Dionysos. I think we must have walked at least 10 miles throughout the day. Our feet hurt, we were all exhausted, and this was the perfect night to unwind!
Next: Our last full day in Budapest