Thursday, September 11, 2014

Durnstein - Day 8

Thursday, September 11
From the thriving, energetic metropolis of Vienna to the small villages that line the Danube - this cruise has it all.
This morning we stopped in Durnstein, a very small village of only 400 people which is known for its great wine.  
Nestled in the Wachau Valley, it is a popular tourist destination and many tour groups were there. The Wachau Valley has been designated a UNESCO World Cultural site because "the architecture, human settlements, and agricultural use of the land illustrate a medieval landscape that has evolved organically and harmoniously over time."
Our tour guide walked us down the Main Street, pointing out how high the Danube flood waters had been in 2002 and again in 2013, which had not happened in many years before. 
Then we toured the beautiful parish church with its blue Baroque tower, built in 1720-30. Amazingly, it survived the war without a scratch. 
For the hardy, two of our tour guides led a group of about 20 of us on a hike up a hill to the ruins of the Kuenringerburg Castle. At 490 feet above the town, we had some great views of the Danube and the Wachau Valley.
Apparently, Richard the Lionheart spent a year here in 1193 as captive to Archduke Leopold V of Austria after a dispute during the Third Crusade. Freed by ransom, Richard returned to England and Leopoldo used the money to establish Vienna's first mint and to strengthen the medieval city's fortifications with a wall. The castle was destroyed by the Swedes in 1645 during the war between the Catholics and Protestants.
After the hike we met the rest of the group and we went to Alter Klosterkeller for wine tasting. The area is noted mostly for its white wines. One of the ones we tasted was Sturm, a young wine which is very cloudy and sweet because it has not finished the fermentation process.
Back to the boat, we had lunch and then cruised along the Danube . We were seeing the most scenic part of the river, with one little village after another built along the water front. Unfortunately, it started to rain, but we can't complain since it was the first time in a week.
We also passed by the famous abbey at Melk, although we did not stop.
We spent the afternoon lounging around and listening to talks by our guides - one about the valley and the other about "tracht", the clothing style of the Germanic and Slavic peoples along the Danube.
Tonight we chatted with new friends and watched a variety show put on by the cruise staff. 

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