Wednesday, May 23, 2012

May 9 - Durnstein Austria

Here is the planned schedule for today.
I'll split the post into two parts again today.
We're still in Austria, yesterday we visited Schonbrunn Palace and Vienna.

We woke to this view, deep within the rolling Wachau valley of Austria, Dürnstein isonly 50 miles west of Vienna, dominated by the ruins of the mighty castle fortress that once imprisoned King Richard the LionHeart of England.
 We decided to visit the town on our own armed with a map. I (We) get fed up being herded around with a group and prefer to do things on our own or with a selected set of travelling companions.
It was a beautiful sunny spring morning. As we stepped off the boat we were surrounded by vineyards.
630 feet above sea level
Population: 936
1019 mentioned for the first time in a document, town since 1476.

It was a peaceful, hilly stroll into the town, on our own, and away from the maddening crowd of pushers and shovers who never pay attention to instructions and then waste everyone's time by asking the same questions.
Tom stopped for a rest before continuing.
The first sight after we pass through a tunnel is the magnificent Wedgwood-like church tower.
Stift Dürnstein, the former Augustinian Monastery was by built by Josef Munggenast with the participation of Jakob Prandtauer and Mathias Steinl in the early 18th century. The monastery was actually founded in the 15th century but by the 18th century had fallen into a state of disrepair and so a decision was taken to modernise the buildings. Steinl was responsible for the southern gate which leads into a spacious, elegant courtyard where the coat of arms of the former prior, Hieronymus Übelbacher, dominates the monastery entrance.

We continued our walk through the narrow, cobblestone streets, Along the way, we stopped to admire the old burgher and townhouses dating from the 16th and 18th-centuries or lingered a few moments by the banks of the Danube river.
  We all stopped into one of the town's many wine taverns and sampled the unique vintages.The Wachau valley is known for its apricot spirits, and every shop in town offers free samples of brandy, liqueur, or schnapps. I must say I did not like the apricot liqueur, it tasted like cough syrup to me.

I love visiting cemeteries and Durnstein's was breathtaking. DH is not so impressed with visiting graveyards.

It was time to return to the boat. I went to the cabin to sort some of the photos and the others went up on deck. DH came and got me saying the others missed me and I went up to find them sipping Bloody Marys and mimosas. As we sailed towards Melk charming picturesque villages stand along the riverbank among terraced vineyards and orchards, and the ruins of fortified castles stand guard over the river.
The views were magnificent and I was glad I had come up on deck.
The best view of the Durnstein church was as we sailed away.

 Monika, our guide, walks around handing out rabbit shit for us to try, that's right, it's chocolate(I took the photo in a shop in Durnstein) and she tells the story of how it got its name. It had to do with the church below that has 7 terra-cotta rabbits on the roof of the church.

Johann Strauss wrote his famous waltz, titled "Blue Danube," however, it is definitely not blue. The river is a greenish murky river, but still it is a very picturesque ride. The Danube is Europe's second longest river, over 1,800 miles long. It flows through four major cities of which we have already visited Vienna and Budapest. This valley is known for its vineyards that produce over 120 varieties of wines. Green terraced vineyards and apricot orchards grow along the riverbeds and up the hillsides.

What a beautiful day to be sailing along with new friends!

Schnonbul Castle was built on the river's edge at the site of the former Teufels Schloessel (Devil's Castle) and modeled after the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It was finished in 1667.
 *Sigh* then it was time for lunch!!


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