We sailed through the night to arrive the following morning in the quaint village of Durnstein nestled in the Wachau Valley wine region in Lower Austria.
No bus today, we were able to walk off the ship into this charming village. We enjoyed a guided walk through the village learning the history of this village dating back to 1150. High above the village a stone fortress overlooked the village and the Wachau Valley. This fortress was where England’s King Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned. The blue and white towers of the Augustinian Abbey, which can be seen from the river, will catch your eye and is what you will see in many photos of Durnstein. We left Durnstein late morning to continue our scenic cruise down through the Wachau Valley of the Danube passing many vineyards that are planted all throughout the steep hillsides, villages, chapels and castle ruins.
Our ship arrived in Melk mid-afternoon where we had a choice between two included tours; the 11th century Benedictine Abbey or Schallaburg Castle. We could see the towers of the abbey that stand above the town from the ship as we were nearing Melk, all of our group chose to visit the Abbey. The Abbey is pretty spectacular, built in a Baroque style with frescoed ceilings, a marble hall….that really isn’t, it’s just painted to look like marble and a library that consists of 12 rooms and houses over 80,000 books and 2,000 manuscripts. The Abbey is still a working Abbey, not just a museum.
It is responsible for 23 parishes, holds mass each week and also has a secondary school with over 900 students in attendance. Another pretty full day but we’re not done yet! Since this is a Beer Theme cruise when we arrived back at the ship there was a Beer Seminar and tasting with Austrian Beerpope, Conrad Seidl, who was accompanying us on this cruise. After the seminar it was time for the Gala dinner as we cruised on to our next port of Grein.