Durnstein, Melk and Austria’s Wachau Valley
Our Danube Delights itinerary aboard Emerald Waterways’ Emerald Star went into Austrian overdrive today as we called on two very small but beautiful towns nestled within the country’s picturesque Wachau Valley.
At 0800, we arrived in Durnstein, a picturesque little village located at Kilometre 2000 of the Danube that is notable for its blue-and-white cathedral and the medieval ruins of Kuenringerburg Fortress that dates back to the 12th Century. Kuenringerburg is rather interesting: it was almost entirely destroyed in 1645 by – of all people – the Swedes, who razed it during the Thirty Years’ War, toasted Skål, and caught the next minstrel-carriage back to Stockholm. Today, you can still hike up to the ruins of the fortress, which held Richard the Lionheart in 1193. Being imprisoned in wine country must have been terrible…
Emerald Waterways provides a guided walking tour of Durnstein, which I do recommend taking even though the village itself is quite small and home to just 950 year-round residents. You can walk it yourself, to be sure –but then you’d miss out on the fascinating history of the town.
Because I’ve been here before, I went half-and-half on the tour, sticking with our guide for the first 30 minutes and then peeling off when I saw one of my favorite stores open: Wieser. The Wachau Valley, where Durnstein is located, is noted not only for its fabulous wines, but also for what I like to call “apricot everything.” You can buy apricot schnapps, apricot liqueur, apricot-infused gin – even jars of apricot liqueur-infused gummies. For €12, I picked myself up some fantastic apricot liqueur that I plan to enjoy when I return home.
I also visited Stift Durnstein (Durnstein Cathedral) for the first time. All you have to do is pay a simple entry fee of €3, which is more than worth it to see the Baroque-style cathedral that was constructed between 1715 and 1733. If you follow the sign labelled “Kirche”, you will be taken to the church. Choosing the opposite direction takes you to a balustrade-lined observation deck in the shadow of the blue-and-white Clock Tower that overlooks the Danube.
An avid traveler and an award-winning journalist, Ralph Grizzle produces articles, video and photos that are inspiring and informative, personal and passionate. A journalism graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ralph has specialized in travel writing for more than two decades. To read more cruise and port reviews by Ralph Grizzle, visit his website at www.avidcruiser.com