Savour the fruit in Durnstein, and Melk, Austria.
After a leisurely sail from Budapest, your tour continues in the scenic
Wacau valley. An ideal place to visit, October sees Durnstein and Melk awash in beautiful fall colors.
Once part of the Hapsburg Empire, Richard the Lionhearted was captured and ransomed in Durnstein. He spent a year and a half of his captivity, free to wander throughout the small community, making him one of the first tourists. Ransomed for 150,000 silver marks at a time when a horse cost just three marks, he was eventually turned over to Austria, and released.
Inside the city walls, you will find only 350 residents. Picture perfect, a one-lane road bisects this tiny village. During summer over 200 marriages take place here, while fall brings a peace to the region. At street level shops sell all manner of products, including local made in Austria souvineers. Nearly every store bottles their own version of Apricot Brandy, and homemade apricot preserves, many offering samples.
Locally grown grapes, and apricots in all forms available in the area. Apricots here are only harvested at their peak. Those not sold at local farmers markets are turned in to apricot brandy and preserves. The valley, only ten miles long, contains over 4000 acres of grapes. The terraced slopes stacked stones walls warm the ground, keeping the roots from freezing, while the cool night air imparts extra flavor to the grapes. The Wacau Valley is known for Riesling as well as other varieties including Gruner Veltliner. An onboard wine tasting provides ample opportunity to sample the locally grown harvest. Over 1000 buckets of wine are sold locally before it is sold in litres
Falls brings a riot of mixed colors to the region, yellows, reds and oranges blanket the hillside as grapes shed their leaves for the winter. Brilliant yellow linden trees are mirrored in the slow moving Danube river, and swans float serenely by.
In Durnstein, a churches distinct sky blue steeple soars above the community. At a time when the masses did not read, the blue color on the baroque church was symbolic, blue being closest to heaven. Then an extremely expensive color, in time it faded to grey, and people forgot the meaning. Only rediscovered during restoration, the church has been restored to its original majestic color.
A short sail further down the Danube brings tiny Melk into view. No longer visible from the Danube due to shifting riverbeds the Monastery once soared above the river.
The Monastery collected money from the local population, and provided protection and trade. One of its functions was to educate students, that function continues today. The library contains many original manuscripts in Latin and German. Twelve rooms house over 85,000 original books and 2000 illuminated manuscripts.
The Melk monastery was founded in 1089 by grant from Leopoldo I of Bamberg. By
1418 the Abbey became the head of the reform movement rules of St Benedict. Like much of the area, attacks by the Turks reduced it to ruins. The current Baroque incarnation dates to 1702. Decorative coal fired heaters warm the massive structure, and baroque style plasterwork adorns the ceiling. Completed in 1746, much of the decorative work is guided, but not solid gold, and the perspective used in the paintings on ceilings make them appear to be domed. Your tour provides many historic details, and allows ample time to view the massive Baroque Chapel.
Having enjoyed the history of the area, and the vivid leaf change, its off to another port along the Danube.
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