On the fourth morning of our river cruise, we woke up in Dürnstein. With a population of only 500 people, I thought there wouldn’t be too much to see. I was surprisingly wrong.
The main town of Dürnstein was a short 15-minute walk away from the dock so no buses were required to take us anywhere. We walked along the water with a view of steep wooded hills, rocky outcrops, and countless vineyards and fruit orchards.
The tour guide walked us through Augustinian Abbey. The blue-and-white tower in the back of the photo below is Abbey Church – a key landmark of Dürnstein. I loved walking by the little shops and homes that had beautiful windows and flower boxes hanging from the sill. Everything looked so quaint and charming.
Our tour guide then walked us down Main Street, which was lined with cute little homes, inns, and shops. There were so many souvenir shops that once served another purpose many, many years ago. It was actually pretty depressing to hear our tour guide – who grew up in Dürnstein – recall all the different places she grew up with as a child that turned into souvenir shops. I’m sure this happens everywhere if a place has some sort of historical significance. Still, it makes me cringe a little bit and feel like I’m getting robbed of the real experience.
So, after a few more souvenir shops selling apricot jam and apricot whiskey and apricot wine, we all broke away from the tour guide to go hike up to the Kuenringerburg castle. (Spoiler alert: There were no souvenir shops up there).
Kuenringerburg is where Richard the Lionheart was incarcerated from 1192-1193. On his journey home from the Holy Lands, he got into it with Austrian Duke Leopold I and insulted him. So, Leopold captured him and held him prisoner here. He was only granted freedom upon payment of 35,000kg of silver (no less than a third of England’s whole wealth!).
With views of the river and the town below, at least Richard the Lionheart could console himself with the beautiful scene from the fortress. I’m just saying – if I were going to insult some high-noble and get imprisoned, this is much better than some dungeon underground.
Like most of the town, the fortress was seriously damaged by Swedish troops in 1645 during the Thirty Years War and then it crumbled into complete disrepair. Now, it’s probably just used by people trying to escape their tour group and/or get in a good workout. The steep and rocky hill to climb up to the castle is no joke. My quads and butt felt that trek for the remainder of the trip.
Eventually, we made our way back down and walked back to the cruise. While we waited for lunch to begin, we snacked on some green almonds that my uncle plucked off a tree during our trek.
I’ve never tried green almonds before. According to the World Wide Web, they are some sort of fancy delicacy. I just thought they tasted like water-y, tart almonds.
Eventually, it was time for lunch. Since we were sailing through Wachau Valley on our way to Melk, most people opted to do the Sky Bistro lunch instead of eating in the dining room on the bottom level. The views were really beautiful along the entire stretch – with ruined castles, medieval towns, and terraced vineyards along a gorgeous backdrop of blues and greens.
Around 2:15, our cruise arrived in Melk. We took a short bus transfer to the Melk Abbey.
Melk Abbey is a Benedictine Abbey that is located on a huge rock formation overlooking the Danube River. It is an astonishing example of Baroque architecture. While that part should have excited me most because the tour guide went on and on about “Baroque this” and “Baroque that,” I was most excited by the library.
Thousands and thousands of books! We weren’t allowed to take any pictures when we were inside, but I found a picture online that will help you visualize just how many BOOKS were there! And that was just one room of many.
After our tour, we ended up walking back to the cruise – instead of taking the buses – so we could see what their downtown area looked like. (Also so the moms could satisfy their window-shopping cravings). We needed to board the ship by 6:45 so we didn’t have much time, but it was nice to take in all the sites and see the places that had not yet turned into souvenir shops. (Ugh. But really).
Dinner on the Cruise:
Dinner was – surprise, surprise! – more Indian food.
The kids stuck with what was on the menu (Yes, I’m 30. But I’m a kid on this trip). The adults were served Indian food. Our moms were thoroughly impressed and gave the chef a standing ovation. (In all seriousness, I think my mom and Masis should start up a traveling business where they go to all the cruise ship lines and all-inclusive resorts and teach them how to make Indian food. And let me tag along as taste-tester and travel the world with them).
With another day coming to an end, we scrambled up to the deck as soon as we were done with dinner so we could wave goodbye to Wachau Valley and watch the sun drop behind the hills.
We loved visiting Wachau Valley. It was so beautiful and peaceful and there was so much history behind each building and alleyway.
This was our last day in Austria. Our cruise sailed overnight to Germany – the land of beer, sausages, and Humpapa Hansi. (More on that later!)
Questions of the Day:
- Have you ever tried a green almond?
- If you were forced to be prisoner for a year for insulting a Duke or Emperor, where would you want your cell to be?