Austria 2010 Holiday ... 5 ... The River Danube

Date & Time: Saturday 29th May 2010.

Location : The Wachau area ~ pronounced Vachau ~ of Lower Austria.

Places visited : Krems, Durnstein, Spitz and Melk.

Walk and drive details : A 4 hr boat trip and a short walk up to the castle at the end.

Highest points : The Castle at Durnstein and the Chinese meal out.

With : Helmut, Susan, Marlene, Klara and Ann.

Weather : Overcast with a few spots of rain on the way.


 A Boat Trip on the Danube

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With the sound of the classic waltz in our heads we drove to the Wachau area of Austria

where River Danube emerges from the hills

and starts its slow meander downstream towards the City of Vienna.

We had suggested to Helmut and Susan that we would like a boat trip on the river

and after driving over from Winzendorf, we parked up at Durnstein

and walked along to the village landing stage ready for the boat.

The good ship " MS Wachau " would be our mode of transport for the next four hours.

The highly decorated Church tower at Durnstein.
Safely on board and time for a coffee and warm coats.

This area is important for wine production and fruit, particularly apricot growing and as we cruised up the river, the terraced fields up the hillside covered every available space between the road, the railway and the mountain woodland.

" Never stop exploring "

The Church at Weissenkirchen as we progress up the river.

A small car ferry . . .
. . . utilising a cable to cross the river.

The ferry boat has no engine and relies on the power derived from the river current to cross back and forth.

We catch up and pass . . .
. . . a commercial barge.

This is a dedicated inland waterways boat, it would need more freeboard than this if it was heading out to sea.

The other ferry boat was never far away.

We have a planned stop at Spitz but another boat is using the jetty.

We wait a short time to allow it to leave.



A passenger has boarded the wrong boat

so we meet up mid stream

to allow her to cross back to ours.




The other boat was a floating hotel. It provides week long holidays on the river

and has hotel standard cabins, a restaurant, observation saloons and sun decks for the passengers.

More delightful buildings and churches.

Schloss Schonbuhel, a classic castle on a strategic position close to the river.

The red buoy is a channel marker but shows well the speed of the river current today.

There's a festival on today and they seem to have some form of competition. The skiffs were being paddled out into the river

round the central rock in the previous photo and back to the landing point. One can just be seen under the cliff beneath the castle.

The village fete and boats at the launch point.
A classic photo showing the skiffs used.

Classic Churches, railway arches and modern buildings

all contribute to the village of Emmersdorf.

We pass by a river tugboat pushing two large commercial barges downstream.

The tandem barges and the flat fronted tugboat were an unusual scene to us but not uncommon on the river.

The terminus of our river cruise is the landing stage in Melk.

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A side tributary, presumably the River Melk,

joins the main river here

and provides a quiet backwater for our landing.


We have half an hour to stretch our legs before

we have to be back on the boat for our return trip.


- - - o o o - - -


That's sufficient time to walk up and look at the classic Melk Monastery.

In its day it was one of the major centre of learning, equivalent to a major university today.

Pinks brighten what was a rather dull sky.
A religious statue in the trees below the Monastery.

Fine detail on the buildings and it would be nice to walk further to see more but it's time to return to the boat.

Ours is the one behind.

A specialist fire boat is moored up at the smaller jetty next to ours.

With so much river traffic, the provision of such a vessel seems a good idea.

Underway again, we rejoin the main river and head downstream.

Behind us as we leave Melk there's a weir and lock gates across the river, part of a hydro power project.

Helmut and Susan . . . the happy couple.

Another mega river boat as we pass Schloss Schonbuhel again.

A castle tower provided fortification for this ancient church of St Michael

the oldest in the Wachau region.

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On the boat Helmut introduced me to " Marillenknoedel " (apricot dumpling)

which according to local tradition has a centre of a whole fresh apricot,

a speciality of the region. They would be served hot.

- - - o o o - - -

Click here for Helmut's recipe which differs slightly from the link above

as it includes potato in the dough.

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It's not blue . . . but it is the Danube.

Near journey's end . . . the castle and Church tower at Durnstein ahead.

The town walls climb up the steep valley slopes . . .
. . . and at the top, the ancient castle of Durnstein.

We disembark and walk though a long covered passage . . .

. . . in order to reach the main street of the old town.

A bit of a tourist hot-spot !
Ann leads the way up towards the old castle.

The first grapes are already setting on the vines alongside our path

Every inch of space is used for housing, commerce or agriculture.

Here the hillsides have again been terraced to maintain the soil in order to grow the vines.

From the outer terrace of the castle we get a clear view of the river and the narrow valley that we have just visited by boat.

Below us, the town and that blue church tower again.

Looking up at the last part of the climb.

The history of the castle since 1158 . . .
. . . and an idea of what it may have looked like.

As well as a major defensive castle of the region, Burg Durnstein is famous as the castle where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned during the Crusades. It was his servant Blondel who found him by touring the castles of the region and singing in the courtyards. On hearing his familiar servant's voice, Richard called out, was discovered and released (after a rather large ransom was paid it must be said !)

Ann looks quizzical . . . she's obviously never heard of the legend !

Not for the faint hearted . . . the view down.

The full size train tunnel and houses look almost like models . . . which is perhaps a compliment to model railway builders.

On a distant hillside, another of the great Monasteries.

This one is called Gottweig and was built on a hillside opposite the town of Krems, rather than down in the river valley.

Time to leave the castle to be enjoyed by others and make our way down.

The lower end of main street back in the town.
We take a side street directly back to the car

The town of Krems and a traditional pole and tree in the main square.

Austrian tradition talks of the boys of the village climbing up the bare trunk to collect prizes (sausages) hung from the high branches. It is also the tradition that the tree remains in place during the month of May. It will therefore be ceremonially cut down, in a few days time.

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After the drive home to Weikersdorf and Winzendorf . . . and a few minutes to wash and change . . .

we are out again, this time to Weiner Neustadt for a meal at Helmut's favourite Chinese Restaurant.

Eat all you would like for a set price, including choosing your own stir-fry selection which is then cooked personally as you watch.

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After a good day and a good meal out we return to Weikersdorf

pausing briefly to enjoy the sunset over Schneeberg along the way.


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Technical note: Pictures taken with either Ann's Canon 75 or my Canon G10 digital camera.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

This site best viewed with . . . . a holiday objective in mind . . . the River Danube.

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