A Travellerspoint blog

Wachau Valley - Melk - Durnstein - Krems

Friday October 14 - Day 24

semi-overcast 8 °C
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Woke to an early morning view of small villages and the outline of churches. A cold start of 0 degrees. Moored 3  boats out at Durnstein -a small Austrian village in the Wachau Valley between Melk and Krems. Steep wooded hills with terraced vines and orchards line both sides of the valley. 

Famous for being where Richard the Lionhearted was imprisoned by Leopoldo V of Austria when he was returning from the Third Crusade. The Augustinian Abbey with a blue and white tower was completed in 1725 and the main street of small shops are a feature of the village.  Many of the houses date back to the 16th C. The ruined castle on the hill (Kuenringerburg) was begun in 1200 so cannot be the fortress where Richard I was imprisoned. It was seriously damaged by Swedish troops in 1645 during the Thirty Years War. Garry walked to the top in the hope of getting some panoramic shots of the castle battlements. Disappointed from that perspective but great views back out over the two valleys feeding into the river.

Margy completed the 33 km bike ride between Durnstein and Melk, the rest of us sat in the lounge wine tasting and watching the world go by. After lunch we toured the Melk Abbey above the  river. The Romans built a fortress here 2000 years ago. This was handed over to the Benedictine monks about 950.  Another example of Baroque opulence with more gold and marble to illustrate the ridiculous wealth and influence of the Catholic Church.

Enjoyed the walk back to the boat. The food continues to be of high quality and the local wines are served in large quantities by the Hungarian waiters. 

Posted by suengarry 23:45 Archived in Austria Tagged dürnstein Comments (0)

Vienna Part 2

Thursday - October 13 - Day 23

semi-overcast 11 °C

Oct 13 Thursday - Day 23

Last night's orchestral  performance was very good. Garry was particularly impressed by the first violinist and the pianist. Sue found the  double bass player and the percussionist much more interesting. The performance was held in a room with 10m ceiling and decorated with gilt and frescoes. Very entertaining MC who had a sense of humor and was also very handy on the violin. Male and female opera soloists and a couple from the ballet to dance a very sexy Viennese Waltz.   Came back to the boat for supper of Goulash Soup which was well suited to the wet and windy night.

 Today we toured the Vienna State Opera House which is another large magnificent building. Not as elaborate as the palaces we have visited but beautifully decorated with statues and busts of famous musicians. Tapestries, mosaics and frescoes  illustrating the stories of famous operas line the walls. 

Morning Tea was at the Opera House Coffee Shop followed by a walk through the arches of the Hapsburgs Palace and the old town square centered on St Stephens Church. Our guide a very proud Austrian who frequently pointed out how large and important Austria was to the development of European culture during the Hapsburg dynasties. 

Vienna is totally different on the other side of the river with a Harry Seidler designed skyscraper dominating the skyline. This is a much more diverse city with it's old world charm and it's modern commercial buildings. Many styles of building from 18th C European through to a Greek influenced Parliament building. The Danube is still a major influence.

Posted by suengarry 08:01 Archived in Austria Tagged hapsburgs Comments (0)


Wednesday October 12 Day 22

rain 15 °C
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Oct 12 Wednesday - Day 22

From Budapest we sailed up the Danube to the north into the Pilis mountains. As night fell last evening we caught a glimpse of the mighty Cathedral of Eztergom and Visegrad Castle on strategic peaks overlooking the river. 

Daybreak with the sun rising astern on a cold windy and wintry day we continued westward  About 50 km downriver from Bratislava (capital of Slovakia where we had lunch on the coach ride to Budapest on Monday) we entered the Gabcikovo hydroelectric dam lake where the Danube has been confined by dams into a vast artificial canal which flows exactly east to west. An amazing if somewhat controversial engineering achievement.  Through a very large lock that would probably  fit 6 Scenic ships. The river here above the surrounding countryside and cofined by concrete and earth walls  Comfortable sitting in the lounge watching the world slide by.  Our total river trip will be 1,640km in length with 68 locks.

Ship runs at about 5 - 6 knots. We are going upstream for this leg. The Danube looks like it us running at about 5 - 6 knots against us so the ship is working quite hard. Not a lot of traffic but we have seen a few large cargo and produce carriers. Twin city hydrofoil slipped by at lunchtime. 

Sue visited the hairdresser who is Romanian. She works March - December and earns good money here and there would be no work for her at home. Most of the crew are Hungarian, Romanian or Ukrainian - very well-trained, hardworking, polite and patient. 

We sail past the confluence of the Morava and the Danube at the Hainburger Gate and not surprisingly high above there is the ancient Devin Castle. This strategic point (515m high) of the Little Carpathian Mountains dates back to 10th century and had already been used by the Romans to help secure their border  The Morava River marks the boundary between Slovakia and Austria. 

On past Hainburg, with the keen photographers the only ones brave enough to step outside the comfort of the Emerald Lounge. Built during medieval times, it is reputedly one of the best examples of town fortifications remaining in Europe. A wall with three gateways and 15 towers. It now has a stone railway viaduct protecting it from Danube floods. High above the town sits Braunsberg Hill and the remains of a Celtic fortress from the second century BC. 

Lousy weather continues all the way to Vienna. 

We would love to show you some of our thousands of photographs but despite many attempts we have not been able to get the iPad to upload them. 


Posted by suengarry 22:18 Archived in Austria Tagged vienna Comments (0)


Tuesday October 11-Day 21

semi-overcast 20 °C

Oct 11 Tues - Day 21

View over the Danube from our room  is to the flat or Pest part of Budapest. Buda is built on the hilly side  

Magnificent buildings that we drove past on our 3 hour bus tour this morning. The river is amazing and although it is low the current runs very fast but the ship does not roll while we are attached to the pontoon.  Meals are unbelievable, we may have lost weight in Russia but it is not going to happen here! 

Budapest has had the usual checkered history common in Europe. The Romans, Turks, Germans, Austrians have all conquered and destroyed but also built and used the hot springs that Budapest is famous for. 

More churches, Opera Houses, monuments, fortress walls make this city similar but not the same. The river is a dominant feature that makes the buildings along it very special. The 7 bridges that span the river were all destroyed during WW II and have been restored except for one which was redesigned to cope with modern traffic flows. 

Hungary was only involved in the war in 1944 when the Germans invaded and then the Soviets came to the 'rescue'!  Since 1989 it has been independent and is economically sound. Although land locked it can produce enough food products. Population is about 10 million with 2 million living in Budapest. Our guide informed us that 'Buda' means water and Pest means fire. When the city united to become Budapest it was a combination of opposites in geography and economically  The population are largely Hungarian with some Gypsies (about 4%). Jewish population has declined from as high as 200,000 before the war to about 80,000 currently. 

Late this afternoon we set off for Vienna.

Posted by suengarry 07:03 Archived in Hungary Tagged budapest Comments (0)

Prague to Budapest

October 10 - Day 20

semi-overcast 12 °C
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Oct 10 Mon -  Day 20

Prague to Budapest

Had a superb silver service dinner last night with chefs promotion of venison and quail.
Including a good merlot the 3 course meal cost $57 dollars each. Waiters were amazing with everything done in perfect unison.

Travelled by luxury coach (another one) from Prague to Budapest (525 km) today mainly on autobahns. Only seventeen of us left now so plenty of room to spread out.  The first leg through the Czech Republic to the Slovakian border has to be the worst piece of roadwork anywhere in the world. Two or three separate lanes in either direction but the surface is uneven concrete. Despite the airbag suspension, it was like traveling constantly over small speed humps. Only breaks from this before reaching Bratislava was where they had bitumen on overpasses and bridges.  Wind farms again a feature of the skyline. Hundreds of trucks because these countries are landlocked

Travelled across the Danubian flood plain out of Bratislava. Rich farming country - harvesters in the corn fields - with the controversial dammed walls of the Danube itself on the horizon. The various branches of the Danube along this section were all diverted into a single man-made channel which sits above land-level. It makes the river more navigable and provides flow for hydro-electricity production.  The Danube is an International River. Countries with access to the river must provide 2 locks at each level change (so repairs can occur without stopping traffic) and are not able to charge river users. Slovakia is negotiating with Brussels to provide finance to complete a second lock on this section - the rest of the EU not very impressed. 

Slovakia is more economically advanced than the Czech Rep. Many small villages within eye sight of each other and each with a church spire. Houses are mostly white with terra-cotta roof.

Farmers busy harvesting maize, baling hay and scarifying for winter wheat which can survive the snow layer. Vineyards are grown in downward rows on the sloping land above the flat crop land.

On board the boat - great food -basically the room is smaller but has 5 star amenities and service. Very difficult to say goodbye to our tour guide Tim and our small group of 17 to become part of 160 but there is plenty of space to escape.

Posted by suengarry 12:39 Archived in Hungary Tagged budapest Comments (1)

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