Monday, August 12, 2013

The Danube Cruise

We left Melk Abbey and took the Go Ahead tour bus to the docks where we boarded our cruise ship. 
 The ship, part of the DDSB Blue Danube line, is the size of a ferry and there were several areas where you could sit, order food or just site see. Unfortunately it was way too cold to sit up on deck anywhere.
 But the views were wonderful. Along this tour route we did get to see a few castles as well as remnants of them such as this turret that was on the other side of the railroad tunnel.
 But this is the one I fell in love with. The Schonbuhel Castle sits on its promontory over the Danube and is just too picturesque for any camera to ever capture. It has changed ownership over the years since it was built in the 12th Century, even owned by the Abbey for a short time, before it landed into the hands of its present owner, Count Oswald von Seilern und Aspang.
 Some of the buildings we could admire but had no idea what they actually were. Due to all of the crucifix's in the shed we have an idea that there is some sort of religious connection to this one.
 We disembarked in Durnstein where we loaded up onto a train-like tram for a tour of the town. This is our guide, Paula, who was simply wonderful. If she didn't have the answer to a question she found a way to get it as soon as she could. 
 Durnstein was a very pretty little town. With a population of only about 900 people it truly had that small village look and feel to it. It is considered the most romantic place in the Wachau Valley.
 The crowning glory of the village was this church and it's ornate spire.  It was once an Augustine Abbey and the "Blue Church" is something pointed out on every tour. Click on the photo to see the details in the larger version!
 But the real fame of this village is the Durnstein Castle ruins. Richard the Lionhearted was reported to have been held "prisoner" here for a few months between 1192 and 1193. It was said that he was treated quite well, often playing card games with his guards as well as flirting with the local ladies. His "ransom" was paid and it is said that the money went to help establish Vienna. How much is true we will never know but it is a romantic story for a romantic village.
 Below the Castle are the vineyards. No, the photo isn't turned, the grapevines and the little temple are, indeed, tilted downhill. I've always wondered what it would be like to try to stand inside of that little building!
 In the middle of the vineyard was this ornate memorial to the soldiers of the battle against the French in 1805. 
 From the other side of the vineyard you can see the Blue Church in the valley and the Castle ruins up on the point. 
 If you turn directly away from the ruins you have the Danube at your feet as well as a hazy view of the Gottweig Abbey up on the far hillside.
 All through the vineyard were little pieces of sculpture like this one. Since you can hike through the vineyard as well as take the tram, the sculptures are a very nice addition to the tour.
One last look at the Schonbuhel Castle before we head off to Vienna. The river cruise was a nice, relaxing way to pass a few hours, get a bit of rest before heading to our final destination. About $15 Euros, or a little over $20 in US dollars, it was an inexpensive way to see sites as beautiful as the castle above.

Next time Vienna and the beautiful Belvedere Castle!


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