Saturday, December 26, 2015

Day 10b - From Melk through the Wachau gorges

One of the loveliest portions of our trip from Nuremburg to Vienna is the short stretch of river in between Melk and Krems – the Wachau Valley.

And – as was our due – after mostly foggy days with no possibility of sitting on the “sun” deck – the sun came out whilst we were up at the Abbey and we were able to have our bridge talk out in the sun!

There were many castles starting straight after we left Melk and ending only when we had seen the one where Richard the Lionheart had been imprisoned (yes even in those days, kingdoms and empires were vast and there was always someone taking over someone else).

At the dock in Melk
Note on the left hand side of the building the marks on the wall - these are the high water marks throughout the centuries: the one that happened August 15, 1501 is still the highest!

Last cast off - Melk

One of many castles along the way

The river as we enter the Wachau gorges
Spitz - a popular resort for the Viennese most of it lies back from the river

Another boat is even more decorative than ours!

Peaceful flows the river

The ruins of the castle of a robber baron
This "Aggstein" castle had a history of robber barons and passed through many hands - never really overcame its history - some prisoners were held for ransom in cells overlooking the gorge and were threatened with death - some even jumped to their voluntarily due to the horrible conditions in which they were held.

Another side of the ruins

Church along the way

 Although I forget the city... this church was built to sustain the entire population during a seige and was stocked at all times with victuals (mainly potatoes). One can see part of the surrounding wall and tower for protection.

The Wachau valley became known for its vineyards - climate conditions are mild and it is well appreciated by the Viennese to the South. These go back to the medieval period of the Roman settlements - today there is an association to maintain the quality and purity "six Wachau Commandments".

Rear of the church as we float away

Tourist enjoying the sun deck
ruins of castle Dürnstein (dry rock)

Statue of Richard the Lionheart and Blondel his aide

King Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned in Dürnstein by Duke Leopold V after their dispute during the 3rd Crusade.
Legend has it that he kept repeating a song with one line missing and that his French aide Blondel searching for him was able to sing that last line, thus learning of the spot where he was held and delivering him. Hard for us know to imagine how far kings, emperors and other nobility roamed in those days, especially as they were only on horses!

The Abbey of Dünstein
Also a fun story as according to our guide this tower was gray for many, many years, then they discovered that it had originally been blue and white, but when they repainted it during a renovation the town's people hated it as they thought that it should still have been gray!
The ruins of the Dürnstein castle

The Abbey at Dürnstein
Established in 1410 it was rebuilt in the early 1700s in the Baroque style - with the ruins of the castle behind it on the hills

As we leave Dürnstein, its' ruins, its' history and go down for our last lunch on the boat

The weather then promptly started clouding over - makes one wonder: the only truly sunny patch of the trip other than Munich lasted just long enough for us to enjoy this wonderful Wachau valley.

Last sunset on the Danube

From the ship's lounge during our last "Port Talk"

One last lock as the lights come on

The Kursalon
The Kursalon is where Johann Strauss II used to direct his orchestra as a first violin and enjoyed his first successes.

The Bösendorfer Piano
We enjoyed a two-hour concert of music from both Strausses and Mozart together with a glass of champagne at intermission: it might have been "kitsch for the tourists", but it was also a lovely moment in time.

Home to our beds on the River Concerto, docked in Vienna - a fitting end to a wonderful cruise.