Bohemian Rhapsody: If It's Thursday, This Must Be Vienna and Budapest | ©Tom Palladio ImagesIn 1969 there was a popular adventure-comedy movie about a group of tourists who race through 9 European countries in 18 days on a bus: If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium.

My “band of merry media” and I have been cast in a similar, real-life, no-laughing-matter calendar cruncher as SERIOUS guest journalists and photographers of Insight Vacations (Insight) on its six-night abbreviated Bohemian Rhapsody journey through the Czech Republic, Austria and Hungary.

So, if it’s Thursday, which it is, this must be Vienna (by day) and Budapest (by night).

Bohemian Rhapsody: If It's Thursday, This Must Be Vienna and Budapest | ©Tom Palladio ImagesBack on board the motor coach, we’re off to see a little 1,441-room “cottage,” as Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa once referred to it when her small family of 16 children and virile hubby, Emperor Francis I, summered there on the outskirts of Vienna: Schönbrunn Palace.

A UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site and one of Vienna’s most-visited attractions, Schönbrunn Palace is a must-see stop on anyone’s bucket list and a “signature” moment when led around by one of Insight’s expert art-historian guides.

Bohemian Rhapsody: If It's Thursday, This Must Be Vienna and Budapest | ©Tom Palladio ImagesFor centuries, the “cottage” was the property of the House of Habsburg with its rich art and exquisite furnishings symbolic of the power and influence this royal lineage wielded around Europe from the end of the 17th to the early 20th century.

Due to restrictions on interior photography of any kind (I HATE when that happens), you’ll have to take my word for it: Schönbrunn Palace is one of the most impressive and well-preserved examples of Late Baroque (Rococo) you will ever experience.

Bohemian Rhapsody: If It's Thursday, This Must Be Vienna and Budapest | ©Tom Palladio ImagesOutside, it’s a different story, as photography is permitted all across the massive and impressive gardens and grounds that happen to house the world’s very first zoo, Tiergarten Schönbrunn, founded in 1752, along with the Great Parterre and its 32 sculptures, Neptune’s Fountain and the Gloriette on top of the hill.

Lens caps off, let’s see what we can capture in the 15 minutes we have left on this stop before the Insight Express leaves the station.

Quicker than you can say fahrvergnügen (German for “driving pleasure”) we’re back on the motor coach, cruising down the renowned Ringstraß towards our next hop-off points-of-interest: Maria Theresien Platz (Maria Theresa Square), the Burgtor Gate and Heldenplatz (Heroes’ Square), where the Hofburg residence and world-famous Spanish Riding School are located.

We’ve got 20 minutes people. So, GIDDYUP!

Bohemian Rhapsody: If It's Thursday, This Must Be Vienna and Budapest | ©Tom Palladio ImagesWith the clock closing in on high noon, Neira, Insight’s chatty tour director-slash-storyteller, informs the peanut gallery that we’ll break for lunch, on our own dime, around the Central District of the city.

We dismount the motor coach near Kärntner Straße, Vienna’s trendy pedestrian-friendly street and THE place for shopping, dining, and people watching.  I’ll have the bratwurst mit pommes frites and an Edelweiss Weißbier, bitte.

My tank now pegged on F, I’ve got a few minutes to walk off lunch and see what I can see around the Kärntner before heading back to the motor coach. Care to join me?

On the road again, we put Vienna — the second ranked, most livable city in the world for 2013, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) index — and the 22 hours we spent here in the rearview mirror, but not out of our minds.

Bohemian Rhapsody: If It's Thursday, This Must Be Vienna and Budapest | ©Tom Palladio ImagesFrom the imperial splendour of the Habsburgs and the classical notes of Mozart and Strauss, to the charm of its coffee houses and the mouth-watering strudels, schnitzels and Sachertorte (chocolate cake), it’s awfully hard not to like Vienna, a gem of a metropolis that bridges Central with Eastern Europe.

In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Terminator-Governator from Graz, I’ll be back!

Bohemian Rhapsody: If It's Thursday, This Must Be Vienna and Budapest | ©Tom Palladio ImagesWith the GPS now set for Budapest-or-bust, we recline in our business-class legroom seats for the 2.5 hr. drive.

Along the way, Neira, our chatty tour director, does her best to keep us awake by peppering the ride with her now legendary, fun-filled footnotes.

For instance, did you know that Harry Houdini, the illusionist-escape artist, and Bela Lugosi, the silver screen’s first Dracula, hailed from Hungary? That the ballpoint pen was invented by Laszlo Biro of Budapest and that Vitamin C was discovered by Hungarian scientist Albert Szent-Györgyi de Nagyrápolt? Did you?

Zzzzz.

Bohemian Rhapsody: If It's Thursday, This Must Be Vienna and Budapest | ©Tom Palladio ImagesAfter a quick 40 winks — sorry Neira, I just couldn’t keep my eyes open — I’m off the bus, in the elevator and heading up to my sixth floor temporary abode at the Sofitel Chain Bridge Hotel, Insight’s signature address in Budapest that’s in clear sight of, you guessed it, the Chain Bridge and the Blue Danube that flows underneath it.

I linger long enough to splash cold water on my face and, in Houdini-like speed, change my clothes, dash out the door and climb back on board the motor coach. Insight is treating us to an “Intro to Budapest” like no other: a dinner cruise down the Danube.

Truth be told, the iconic river’s nighttime reflections steal the show and actually trump the bigger-than-big, tasty buffet of Hungarian delights. And, that’s awfully hard to do when free food and drink, on a boat no less, are offered to this “band of merry media.”

Insight Vacations Bohemian Rhapsody Journey | ©Tom Palladio ImagesFor complete information on Insights’ premium and luxury-escorted itineraries, including the Bohemian Rhapsody and 100 other journeys throughout Europe, just click HERE, or call toll free 1-888-680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

See you at first light when we’ll start the day in Buda and end it around the dinner table in Pest. In between, we’ll make strudel from scratch and hang with the Great Communicator, Ronald Reagan. I kid you not.

Jó éjszakát! (Good night!)

©The Palladian Traveler | ©Tom Palladio Images

Borsalino w/ props SMALL | ©Tom Palladio Images

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Written by The Palladian Traveler

Tom traded his hometown St. Louis Cardinals' baseball cap in the United States for a Borsalino and he now hangs his "capello" in the Puglia region of southeastern Italy. A veteran print and broadcast journalist, with well-worn passports that have got him into and out of 50 countries and counting, Tom fell in love with the "Bel Paese" years ago. As he notes, "I'm inspired by the beauty I find in all things that are very, very old, and reliving history, or at least meandering along cobblestone streets that were laid down over a thousand years ago and just looking up and marveling at what occupies the space still today, really gets my 'Vespa' running." Tom has a good eye behind the lens and is a graphic storyteller, but he'll let you decide as he keeps his camera batteries fully charged and the posts flowing from his creative hideaway in the hills overlooking Ostuni. You can also follow his dispatches along the cobblestone via TravelingBoy.com.

15 comments

  1. Another day of brave, daring adventuring, Tom. Thanks for sharing it. I remember (sort or) that movie, and that was a long time ago. Keep having fun and try to stay awake! 🙂

    janet

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  2. Indeed, Tom, you have again provided a great insight into Insight’s treatment of this part of the world. I must say I had rather expected this up market itinerary to leave you a little less rushed. I will be bookmarking this post to aid the self guided part of our visit to Vienna and Budapest. I’ll look out for the yellow tulip garden to see what is there in autumn 😉 ….. and I’d love to know how you place your (c) watermarks – an art form in themselves 🙂

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    1. KRP61 — I’m on a FAM (familiarization) trip sampling a portion of Insight’s “The Bohemian” itinerary that actually covers 11 days, not the 6 to which me and my fellow journos are limited. Good hunting (photo shooting) in the fall when you visit these gems.

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  3. Well done Tom!!! I hear you in your words – if ya know what I mean. You are as much a joy to read as you are to travel with and you’ve documented yet another Insight tour with humor and elegance. Proud to be one of your “band of merry media.” See you on the road!!

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