Meet the Expert – Heather Godbert on the Danube  

Meet the Expert – Heather Godbert on the Danube  

The Danube River is one of the most iconic waterways in Europe. Approximately 2,860 kilometres long, the Danube runs through 10 different countries making it the second-longest river in Europe after the Volga. Not only does the river support a diverse array of ecosystems, but it’s also rich in history and cultural significance, with the first historical mentions of the Danube dating back to the ancient Greeks when the river formed part of the northern boundary of the Roman Empire. Today, its waymarked cycle lanes allow travellers to pass charming towns, ancient ruins, and lush nature reserves, making this region perfect for exploring by bike. So, join our Senior Product Manager, Heather Godbert, as she shares her experience of our seven-day Cycling from Vienna to Budapest trip, where she explored three captivating countries, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary—each boasting unique landscapes and cultural treasures. 

When Heather initially found out she was taking this trip she joked, “I called it ‘the trail of three cities’. This holiday packed a punch – promising three capital cities, on two wheels, along one vast river. It’s an adventure that has long been on my bucket list. Headwater described the trip as a heady combination of easy cycling, stunning scenery and iconic stops along the way, so from the outset, my expectations were very high. I was excited to see if the trip lived up to them.” 

Cycling from Vienna to Budapest along the Danube River offers an enchanting journey through the heart of Central Europe. Heather said, “Cycling out of Vienna, on day two, the Danube showed us the way as we pedalled easily along her banks in the sunshine, leaving the city behind us.” She continued, “There is a welcomed first stop in Hainsburg, then after Bratislava, is the very charming “city of 17 bridges”, Mosonmagyaróvár (good luck pronouncing it). Here, you can explore Óvár Castle, admire Szent Gotthard Parish Church and take a leisurely stroll through the town’s cobbled streets.” 

“After a cycle towards the fascinating 12th Century Hédervár Castle on day five, you’ll arrive in Gyor where you have time to explore her old trading streets (look out for the shops’ traditional signages). Esztergom’s hilltop basilica also impresses with its Goliath colonnades overlooking the town. These smaller stops were all the more impressive because they were just so unexpected. Each one is easy to explore, wonderful to discover and offers lots of delicious places to dine on typical local fare.”  

Heather does note that although this trip is designed to take in some of the most beautiful sections of the Danube, the river is a somewhat elusive companion. “On this holiday, the Danube does make an appearance, but like a famous cameo, she is exciting to see but she’s not the top billing. Instead, not one but three capital cities vie for your attention. Sprinkled in-between are a collection of old towns, smaller cities and storybook villages that I can only describe as surprising gems.” Heather suggested however, “If you want to see more of her, then take a look at our Cycling along the Danube from Passau to Vienna trip, or if the lap of water and hum of tyre is for you, be sure to check out our Highlights of Lake Constance by Bike, which takes in the beauty of Bodensee (German for Lake Constance), situated at the intersection of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.” 

When it came to talking about the physicality of the ride, Heather mentioned, “The cycling (and navigation), are easy. Rolling along the relatively flat and mostly smooth cycle paths, with a smattering of road and compact gravel added in the odd bit of variety. The scenery is verdant, often tree-lined or agricultural with the Danube making a guest appearance on most days. It makes sense that Headwater would rate this trip as a Level 1+ (Leisurely Plus).”  

“The cycling took us along crucial flood defences, through dappled woods, past authentic villages, eastern bloc architecture and farmers’ fields, as well as beside the ever-flowing Danube. The easy riding meant I could look about and spot the birds of prey hovering alongside us on the route, the nests of the White Stork perched high above us, and the acrobatic dives of swifts, to name but a few. And when hunger competed with the views for my attention, there were plenty of options along the way, from welcoming family-run restaurants to simple path-side cafes, and local bakeries which fuelled our picnic stops.” 

Heather also praised Headwater’s attention to detail and logistical skills when creating this hand-crafted itinerary along the Danube. “What I love is that Headwater knows this route inside out, unlike many other tour operators.” She elaborates, “At one point we unapologetically have you board a train (tickets are included) to avoid a roadside leg that an unlucky cyclist I spoke to described as ‘boring’. Also, we take you across both sides of the Danube to ensure you have the most engaging cycling experience possible. Plus, rather than battle through the sprawling suburbs of Hungary’s capital, we have you embark on a cruise boat at its periphery (again, it is all included) so you will float effortlessly into the heart of Budapest. The approach that shines through is that this should be a relaxing yet active holiday for you, so let’s leave the endurance test to that unfortunate cyclist I met.” 

Another advantage of booking an active holiday with Headwater is that you can also arrange to extend your trip by booking extra nights at the start or end of the itinerary. Heather explains, “If you have not visited any of these capital cities before then you simply must add extra days on – just ask the friendly person at the end of the phone. We can even add an extra night in Bratislava for you as well. This means you’ll have time to glimpse at Klimt’s masterpieces, catch an opera and taste a torte before you even set off from Vienna, knowing at the end, you’ll have time to delight in the sights of Budapest and soak away all the miles in one of its famous thermal baths.” 

Towards the end of the journey, Heather reflected, “A wonderful 289km later as I watch the sunset and the lights slowly illuminate the parliament building in Budapest, I am finding it hard to believe that just 7 nights ago I was in Vienna.” She continued, “Like I said, I had very high expectations for this trip and the itinerary surpassed them in every way. But what surprised me the most about this trip that delivered three capitals on two wheels plus one vast river, was that this epic journey was so much more than the sum of its parts.” 

If Heather has inspired you to discover the Danube on two wheels from Vienna to Budapest, take a look at our wonderful hand-crafted itinerary here.