report no 56, Budapest to Vienna
12 May 2011 | Vienna
Passage Report No 55
Budapest to Vienna
There is an air of expectation aboard Sahula. Budapest has been long awaited. Around a bend, industrial monoliths give way, on south side, to the Royal Palace, St Mathius Cathedral and fortress walls capping the defensible hill. This side is Buda. Opposite on the Puszta's (Hungarian plain stretching to infinity) Danube "lip" is Pest, lined with grand buildings. The grandest of all being the Parliament Buildings modelled on London's Westminster. The cities profile is preserved. No building is higher than St. Peter's Basilica.
Once both independent cities connected only by ferries. A Scotsman, Adam Clark, built the first bridge (a stolid English design) in the 1840's.. There are now six bridges that cut the current to connect Buda to Pest. Sahula passed under all, cameras clicking.
This is a city of the River. Dramatic hill statues pay homage to its aesthetic beauty. There is no evidence (including statues, reportedly stored in a museum) of the Communist past. Heroes are cultural: poets, writers, musicians, royalty and politicians.
A small marina found Sahula a secure "home" (30 Euro a night - shower, water, no wifi, laundry or fuel - another marina opposite has fuel but entry draft is 1.3m. Fuel service station and supermarket nearby.)
Two days (joining tourists hordes) exploring the city including a classical music concert in St. Stephens Citadel, National Art Gallery, city buildings and views.
Camera toting Crew in Zod (dinghy) recorded Sahula passing the Parliament Building.
Budapestrians in canoes, kayaks, modern motor boats, some picnicking on beaches or from the many riverside holiday houses, make for a busy weekend River.
Sahula joins the many passenger ships plying to Vienna. Sahula is on the Queen of Rivers, in the Valley of Kings.
Hilltop, Visegard Palace, home of 12- 15th century Hungarian royalty until bombarded by the Turkish Ottomans, destroyed by the Hapsburgs, then partially rebuilt (18th century), dominates the River. Its towering visage, provided the back ground for Sahulian "sundowners" (drinks).
It is windy, wet and cold. Cabin windows on passing passenger ships reveal no early risers.
Esztergom, some 30 km's upriver, another Royal "city", now seat of the primate of the Hungarian Catholic Church and its largest Basilica ("...only surpassed by St. Peter's (Budapest) and St. Paul's in London...."). It towered over Sahula anchored, to allow crew ashore.
Despite Hungary's, some 150 years of Ottoman Turkish rule, the only evidence is an indistinct, remanent of an Esztergom mosque minaret and paintings in the National Gallery of bloody, battlefield, Christian victories.
Slovakia on the north shore, Hungary to the south. Sahula has traversed five countries since Romania.
Skipper is advised that from Budapest to Vienna is the "...hardest part of the River..." It is shallow (2.4-4.0 m) and fast (3-4 km) winding between banks and islands. Navigation threads through green, red, markers.
An astern "north easterly" drives Sahula over the rising, "wind-v-current" sea.
Birds sing, sunset and "sundowners" in a quiet, calm, off channel. Crew exercises "Bridget" - the surfski.
Passing fast "downhill," Italian and Swedish yachts wave by. The river meanders through the flat plain and heavily timbered, rock lined, banks .
The River channel is at one point at its narrowest - 100 m. Rapids seem to have Sahula moving up current and up hill. Tanya (engine) is kept at 1800 revs and the daily kilometres to some 70. Current varies depending on river width, depth and wind. Much of the Hungarian river is deepened by rock "breakwaters" that extend perpendicular to the shore. Current backs then swirls around their extremities.
A word of gastronomic caution - unless removed, Hungarian sausage natural wrap, will clog the electric loo.
An early (1700) anchorage before the first Danube lock, dam and canal (40 km) (Hungary/ Slovakia joint project). Their construction represents a "battle" lost between those protecting the River's natural habitat and providing hydro-electric power (avoiding coal or nuclear options) and improving River navigation (Heikell).
Ruby red sunset, misty morning,
Sahula enters lock with barge and passenger ship. It is the largest lock on the Danube. Lines stretch, entry water boils, and bollards rise. Official notes that Sahula is only the second Australian yacht in memory (probably the first "uphill"). Calm "dam" lake till Bratislava.
Dam and lock is controversial due to islands, lakes and wetlands flooded by 40 km. Dam Lake.
Bratislava is a "river" city. Its mix of historic and ultra modern architecture line the River. Crowds relax on the green river frontage. The hilltop, Royal Castle dominates the city. River boils past city pontoons (commercial). There are no central "sportsbot" (yacht) mooring except at a "yachthafen" well out of town, Sahula opts for Vienna. Tourism has its limits.
The River is at it's fastest - 5 knots. Sahula weaves through the narrow channel; the current surging over the shallow water (2.0- 4.0 m). Passenger ships and ferries pull slowly by. Rapids form off end of shore rock breakwaters.
Sahula eases into a river junction anchorage under Devin Castle. Alarms ring, Sahula is aground - boiling current pushing her further in - hard astern, bow round, full ahead to freedom. Skipper breathes relief. Inlets, out of the fast current, are invariably shallow.
Sahula is in Austria, the sixth country of the Danube odyssey.
Hainsburg: castle behind, heritage buildings, a place to stop. The only pontoon is for passenger ships and ferries. Two small harbours ("yachthafen" for small outboard, motor boats) are too shallow. Sahula anchors upriver, off channel and on the edge of the main current. Passenger ship shines a search light on Sahula.
Crew "surfski's" ashore, challenging the current, to explore the town. Five passenger ships move by.
A yacht (Austrian) and motor boat (English) wave by heading downstream to Black Sea.
Viennese dam and locks protects the city from River floods. A tree branch is caught under the stern. It comes loose. It floats below the surface.
"Come over" - Police at the Vienna station call Sahula in. "We have had a call that you were seen passing packages ashore at the locks." Skipper and Crew are dumbstruck. Police are understanding.
"We do not know your Queensland Marine Drivers Licence." "It is not a river licence." Skipper explains that providing a licence is valid in country of origin, it will be valid for non- EU river users. The matter passes. 1900 kms of River "testing" seems adequate.
Sahula is welcomed to the Wein Marina (43 Euros a night/12m - all facilities, including fuel on dock. except wifi.)
Sahula has been on the River for four weeks and travelled 1940 km.
Next Report: Vienna to Main - Danube Canal into Germany.
14th May 2011