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Published: April 20th 2015
We had a good orientation with Hendrik our Cruise Director the night before, and a lovely dinner where we started meeting some of our fellow ship mates. Some had been on the cruise for a week already; starting in Nuremburg, and we had a collection of Canadian, American, Taiwanese, Australian, Kiwi and Indian, a great group totalling 120. Met all the staff (also very multi-cultural) and felt right at home.
We realized that the Avalon Cruise isn’t just about the cabins, the meals, the incredible staff, excursions etc. but also the little attention to detail. The turn down service nightly with (a different) chocolate on our pillow; the international newsletters that Hendrik made every day for the different countries on board with the latest news, the maitre’d checking in on our food requirements nightly and ensuring we had something to eat each meal. Just all of it was simply spectacular.
Hippie and I both woke up at 3am when the ship started to sail to Pecs/Mohacs, not because it was loud or swaying etc., just because it was different I think. We were both a bit warm so we opened up the balcony doors and the fresh air was so
wonderful, we ended up leaving it open all night. Spent over an hour chatting about random things in the dark, and then eventually tried to drift off to sleep. What a spectacular environment, the gentle breeze, the humming of the engine, dare I say almost as soothing as being in utero?
Went for breakfast the next morning and was not disappointed, and waddled away fat and happy. Had a briefing on the few optional excursions not included in the trip and chose a few knowing they would be interesting and I would not be getting back this way and wanted to see/do/enjoy as much as possible. The morning went by quickly and next thing we were nibbling on lunch (I can already see me needing to watch my eating!) and next thing it was time for our excursion to Pecs (pronounced almost like Parks).
Off we went on the coaches and were assigned different groups by colours and our headsets so we could always hear. Local guides and ours was wonderful. I had to laugh; as the coaches drove away I could see Hendrik waving like mad at all of us; reminded me of a mother watching her
children head off to school on the yellow bus!
Some of the more popular sights in Pecs are the Mosque Church (yes you read right), Porcelain Museum (they make porcelain that can withstand hot and cold temperatures), Basilica of St Peter and the Cella Septichora which is a UNESCO site. The Mosque Church is the largest building still standing from the Turkish occupation of Hungary, and very beautiful. I didn’t know there was more than one St. Peters Basilica but apparently there is (or I”m just confusing the Saints!) and it was magnificent inside. One thing I can guarantee you is if you are going to Europe, you are going to see at least one church, some more ornate and extreme then others, some hidden gems tucked away in wee corners. I’m not a religious person; however I can still appreciate the architecture, decoration and sheer determination to create works of art.
Highlight of the day was the Cella Septichora which is a museum of sorts of early Christian burial sites. It was very fascinating, and they had created a set of tunnels to walk through protecting the actual sites but you could look down at them from
the bridges we walked across (see photos). Not for claustrophobic individuals, I helped one lady head backwards to the entrance as she was looking a bit stressed, and she thanked me afterwards for that. Hard to photograph and appreciate without being there, but there was one really old fresco that I tried to photograph in low light (so it’s a bit blurry) but super cool.
We got very little time to walk around the town square; I had a chill by then and really wanted a coffee. First shop they wouldn’t take Euro; second one they wouldn’t at first but then offered to but only giving Hungarian Forint change, which was OK as we could use it for tipping as we were still in Hungary. Got a lovely hot dark coffee and then almost was late catching the bus; fortunately Hippie and I can walk considerably faster then the majority of the group (much older demographic in mind and body) so we were only like 3 minutes late (bad guests) but not the last!
Pecs is famous for their organ making, the porcelain and the weariest (or weirdest) heating system ever. Our guide was telling us how during
one of the many occupations (we think Soviets) they were forced to farm things that didn’t work, like rice and oranges. But the best was the hot water heating system where the boiler system was 5 miles out of town and they had literally miles of these above ground pipes (rather large in diameter) that they used to heat the homes. So inefficient, even the guide was rolling his eyes when telling us about it, and absurd to look at.
Highlight of the day was the organ performance we got to hear while in St. Peter Basilica. Initially I thought I would just skip it as ‘organ music’ is not my thing; but boy am I glad I stayed. Not only did he play a few songs I knew (Ava Maria, Bach and others) it was a very spiritual performance, which coming from me sounds weird, I know but I closed my eyes, swayed to the music and felt like I was in another place, just so peaceful and magical.
Evenings consist of happy hour (yay!) our port talk on the next day, followed by a 5 course dinner. Yes, 5 courses. I can say that at least
the portions are extremely small, which is good; but I’m still struggling eating it all, and am often skipping desert (not a bad thing) and at least one appetizer. Relaxing evenings so far, and I’m quite happy with that!
We did do a border crossing as left Hungary and enter Serbia, and while the ships crew took care of passports, the customs officers did come on board and demand a face check. Basically we all lined up, they looked at our passport, looked at our face and nodded us away. Easiest customs line up I’ve gone through in a while truthfully! Now entering the country of Serbia, #51 for me and I was very much looking forward to seeing as much as possible. MORE PHOTOS BELOW
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