Circling the Waccau Valley

Melk, Austria

Cheryl and I got up around 7:30 at our lovely hotel in Durnstein, ate the standard European breakfast (I swear to God you could blindfold me, walk me into the breakfast room and I could tell you exactly what was laid out on the breakfast buffet) and took a wander through the shops of Durnstein all before 10:00 a.m. Now Durnstein’s old quarter is about as tiny as they come. In fact you could probably walk from one end to the other in about three minutes. In addition, most of the shops are pretty touristy as they cater to the “older” riverboat tour groups. In wandering around we learned that the area was actually famous for apricots (in addition to the fabulous wines). Well that would account for the apricot in our presseco the prior night at dinner. We saw apricot jams, apricot liquers, apricot juice, apricot butter. You name it we saw it.

After getting our fill of apricot, we actually did find one very interesting shop. The proprietor was jewellery designer and her designs were gorgeous and unique. So we bought a couple items and then decided it was time to catch the bus to Melk.

Yep that’s right, we were heading back from where we started the day before to visit the Melk Abbey. We didn’t have enough time the day before to visit and get in our bike ride. In addition, we were going to take a boat trip on the Danube from Melk to Krems (the town just past Durnstein) and then take the train back to Vienna. In other words, we were doing a complete circle of the Waccau Valley today. Yes it was wacky, but it was the only way we could work it all into the schedule.

So we went back to the hotel, packed our bags and walked to the end of town to catch the bus to Melk. Now this sounds like an easy prospect, but we (or I) was confused by the direction the hotel staff provided: go through the gates, down the hill and cross to the opposite side of the street to the store and that is where catch the bus. So we wandered through the gates and down the hill, but at the end of the hill we reached the Danube. We took a left and walked about a quarter mile to the road, doubled back, and finally saw a store across from a bus stop where everyone was standing. Problem was there was this huge berm so we hiked over the berm and stood with everyone else. Once at the bus stop we realized the error of our ways. Instead of going down the hill to the Danube, we were supposed to veer a bit to the left and go down a hill to the road. Gesh. Talk about feeling like an idiot. (I actually blamed the hotel staff because there were two hills …. while this was probably not appropriate, at least it made me feel better shifting the blame.

And as if it wasn’t enough that we screwed up on the directions to the bus stop, Cheryl and I found out after waiting with all the people for 15 minutes that we were at the wrong bus stop. Unfortunately, we did not find this out until we boarded the bus and tried to pay for Melk only to be told the bus we were on was going in the opposite direction to Krems. When I tried to explain that we were told this was the Melk stop, the driver and half the bus said “No” and pointed across the street at the store. So we took the walk of shame off the bus and slunk across the street only to find the bus stop sign located behind another sign. What the H.? Is this a game to you people???

Melk Abbey

So after waiting another 20 minutes (fortunately, we learned that this was the only bus to Melk during the total time we had been waiting) we finally caught the bus to Melk. And quite frankly, the 35 minute ride was quite enjoyable because we got to see the villages we had ridden through the day before all over again (albeit from the road).

We finally reached Melk about noon and immediately walked down by the Danube to buy our boat tickets for the ride back down the Danube to Krems. We then retraced our steps (which was actually along the bike path we took on Sunday at the start of our ride), and followed the signs up a series of steps to the Melk “Stift”. We bought our tickets and as we were purchasing our tickets we overheard two women trying to get directions to the boat dock. The woman at the desk was not particularly helpful (merely telling the women that they only need to follow the road through the town square. (Oh Sooooo not true. You actually had to go through the square, cross the very busy road, find the bike path about a block later and follow it to the Danube.) I interrupted and told the women the correct directions. After some thanks, Cheryl and I headed into the abbey.

Melk Abbey Cathedral

The tour did not provide headphones. Instead, we had to read the information posted at the varsious pictures and religious artifacts that were part of the tour. Now the Melk Abbey is located above the town of Melk on a large rocky cliff overlooking the Danube River. The abbey was founded in 1089 when Leopold II of Austria gave one of his castles to Benedictine monks who were intent on creating a monestary that held true to the traditional values and hard work ethic that was the orginal foundation of the church. (Damn them!)

Anyway, Cheryl and I wandered from room to room looking at the centuries old paintings and religious artifacts all the while avoiding a tour group that came up behind us. We finally waited in one room and let them pass, which made for much more pleasant tour through the abbey. The tour took less than an hour and ended with a spectacular view from the terrace, a walk through the ancient library anf finally a visit to the main cathedral.

And yes …. a picture of our sausage lunch

We exited the abbey, walked through the courtyard and down the steps to the main square in Melk. Cheryl and I found a great little restaurant where were ordered our standard sausage with mustard and fresh horsradish. We then wandered around the town (I found a goregous Italian coat for the rainy season in Seattle) and we ended up at a little ice cream shop where we bought some ice cream before we wandered down to the boat dock to wait for the boat.

As we waited, the two women we had run into early showed up and we started talking. “Billie” and “Tiffany” were from … wait for it, Snohomish and a town on the east side of the state. Yep. Come all the way to Austria and the first Americans we run into are from Washington state.

Melk Abbey as we leave on the Danube cruise

Anyway, at 4:15 we boarded and by 4:25 our boat was pushing off down the Danube towards Krems. It was a gorgeous late afternoon and we ended up sitting on the top deck of the boat all the way to Spitz where we changed boats for the final leg to Krems.

Now what was so cool about the trip was that Cheryl and I got to see all the villages we had ridden our bikes through the day before. This time, however, we got to view the villages from the water. It was pretty cool to see, but we felt bad for anyone who did not get the experience of riding through the villages like we had the day before.
St. George’s Church (from the Danube cruise)
Durnstein from the Sanube (our hotel on far left)
Leaving Durnstein via Danube cruise

We pulled into Durnstein at about ten to six and got a magnificent view of the old town (including our hotel and the adjacent church) from the water. Durnstein really is a beautiful little town with the church spire dominating the skyline and the magnificent crusaders castle standard guard atop the hill behind the town.

Pulling into Krems

We continued on and pulled into Krems about twenty minutes later. We got off the boat with the Washington women in tow, got directions to the train station and took off on foot in the setting sun. We reached the train station (about 3 km away) by 6:45 just in time to catch the 7:02 train to Franz Josef Bahanhoff. Unfortunately, this station was not on the same underground line at the main station, but we were able to get off the train early and catch the underground to a station only a couple blocks from our hotel.

We walked part of the distance with the Washington girls (who were only staying a few short blocks from us), finished the walk through St. Stephens Square, checked back into Hotel am Stephensplatz, and were in bed by 9:00 p.m. Tomorrow was going to be an early day as we were catching the 8:48 train trip to Hallstat.


Author: lawyerchick92

I am a lawyer by trade, but long to be a full time traveller. My life changed for the better when my brother donated a kidney to me on October 14, 2002.

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