The queen of Europe’s rivers, the Danube is rich in history drawing visitors from all over the world to take Danube cruises. From its source in the Black Forest to where it empties into the Black Sea, Europe’s second longest river flows a total of 2,888 kilometers (1,795 miles) and is the most international river on the planet, traversing ten countries and connecting many different people, religions and cultures. Even before the expansion of the Roman Empire, the Danube was an important way to move cargo and passengers. Centuries of use as a trade route paved the way for today’s Danube cruises and many travelers say that Danube cruises are the best way to see this magnificent waterway since ships dock in the center of a historic European city, and not , as in many ocean cruises, miles away.
Along the River
One-third of the Danube’s length is in Hungary so it’s no surprise that Hungary’s capital, Budapest, is often called “the Queen of the Danube.” From the river, Budapest is especially beautiful at night, with lights illuminating many of the city’s landmarks. The river is also a major waterway in Austria, with ports at Regensburg, Passau, Linz, Melk and Vienna. Here, the river is quite scenic, featuring the Iron Gate, where it flows through a gorge that forms part of the boundary between Serbia and Romania. Though very beautiful, the Iron Gate is an also extremely difficult to navigate and its powerful rapids hindered Greek sailors from progressing from the Black Sea in the seventh century B.C. Today, the Iron Gate is safe for Danube River cruises due to modern technologies such as a lock and dam system and barrage walls.
The River’s History
From the mountains of the Black Forest, the Danube makes its way through cliffs and down gorges to passing by picturesque landscape and its banks are lined by monuments which commemorate an eventful history including mighty castles, serene monasteries and splendid palaces. The beauty and majesty of this river is unsurpassed and no other river in the entire world has inspired so many poets, musicians and painters to create masterpieces. In fact, The waterway was immortalized in the famous waltz, The Blue Danube, composed by Johann Strauss while he was on a cruise down the river. Since ancient times, the Danube has fascinated mankind and the remains of the earliest human settlements have been found along its banks. The “Venus of Willendorf”, which was discovered in the Wachau valley in Lower Austria, and a statuette from Carasija near Belgrade are two of the oldest representations of the human form in sculpture.
The Danube Today
Visitors will encounter the past all along its route, but the Danube is also a thoroughly modern transportation channel. It is navigable for 2,415 river kilometers (1,500 miles), almost its entire length and via the Main-Danube canal links the Black Sea with the North Sea. Historically one of Europe’s most important waterborne trade routes, the Danube continues to play this role today and it makes up part of the European Union’s Corridor VII that traverses the continent. Sailing along the Danube has also become popular with leisure travelers and a cruise on the great river is a unique and unforgettable experience.
In recent years, the Danube has become known as one of Europe’s leading tourist destinations and increased interest in the countries of south-eastern Europe and unrestricted navigation along the entire length of the river have combined to boost the region’s tourism.
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