After our visit to the abbey we cruised down the Wachau Valley. The slopes of the valley were filled with vineyards and orchards. It was a lovely afternoon.

At the end of the valley we visited the village of Dürnstein with its distinctive blue church tower overlooked by the ruins of the old fortress.

Wachau Valley

The valley has been settled since Paleolithic times and began to be cleared and cultivated as long ago as the Neolithic. Like so many places we visited on the trip, it has been designated a World Heritage Site.

The upper deck was reopened at Passau, so it was again possible to get upstairs for a full 360-degree view. For those who stayed up there throughout the valley, the staff even brought blankets to protect against the chill.


Grapes were grown along the river beginning in the 9th century and it is now a major Austrian wine region. The ship offered a wine tasting as an option to the visit to Melk and one of our Road Scholars signed up for it. He enjoyed it very much and spent much of the cruise trying to pick out exactly which charming village had hosted the excursion.


I was startled to see this abandoned quarry in the midst of the scenic beauty. The application to UNESCO for heritage status states: "Irreversible, visually very aggressive uses, such as quarries, have been abandoned; their sites are being reintegrated into the texture of the cultural landscape in the course of recultivation." This abandoned quarry near Spitz will be hard to "reintegrate."

While trying to identify the quarry, I came across descriptions of the Mauthausen concentration camp, which was located near Linz at the entrance to the Wachau Valley. Prisoners held there were worked to death in its quarry. It's a grim reminder that the very beautiful and the very ugly can be very close.

This quarry was not associated with Mauthausen.


As on the Rhein, castles loomed on the high places.

One of the travelers who joined us in Nuremberg asked if the Rhein and Wachau valleys were comparable. Yes & no. The Rhein gorge was much more spectacular in my thinking.


The area is also known for its orchards. Apricots are a major crop.

The Bailoni distillery is the oldest in the Wachau region. We were delighted to see that. On our skiing honeymoon many years ago, we had a harrowing bus ride over a snowy pass in Northern Italy. A friend recommend the liqueur as a nerve-calming device. It must have worked because we survived the trip. We still have that little bottle as a memento.


We continued to see freight traffic, but not as much as before.


Our afternoon destination was the village of Dürnstein. The ruined fortress on the hill had once imprisoned Richard I of England who had offended the Duke of Austria. The huge ransom demanded for his release was credited as funding many infrastructure improvements to medieval Austria.

The blue tower belongs to the former Augustinian Dürnstein Abbey. It is now a parish church, but still under the umbrella of the Augustinian canons. There are some fabulous interior pictures at the link. Much better than I could get.


It may be almost December, but the mild climate of the valley allowed some flowers to remain. I had a rosebush at our house in Reston, VA, that bloomed well into the fall -- once as late as Thanksgiving.

Buildings adjacent to the wall

The crenallated town wall is in the background. The wall was used extensively as part of adjacent buildings.

Wine shop

This was our first introduction to Heurigen, or wine-taverns. We were to see more of them outside Vienna. The straw wheel indicates that the tavern is open. There was a different signal at the Vienna Heurigen. There were local shops that had opened specially for us and a Viking Cruise ship that was visiting at the same time, but Jim and I didn't visit any.

Apparently there was only one mooring barge open because the Viking ship tied up adjacent to us and the Viking folks had to troop through our lobby to go ashore. At a different location the roles were reversed and we had to troop through a Viking ship.

Since our cabin was on the river side of the ship and right across from a couple of the Viking cabins, we tried to peer in to get a comparison. Rats! They kept the curtains closed!

One thing we did notice, though, is that their cabins all had balconies. That sounds good, but it really takes away from the interior cabin space. At this time of year it is completely wasted. The Crystal Mahler didn't have balconies, but the upper half of the picture window slid down to make the entire cabin an open-air space -- complete with a retractable screen to protect against mosquitoes or adventurous birds. We thought that a better plan although we couldn't take advantage of it because of the cold. And rain. And snow.

Duernstein Town Gate

The gate allowing access to the town. This was once the main thoroughfare along the river, but in the mid-20th century a tunnel was put through the mountain to bypass the town. The tunnel needs extensive renovation and will be closed soon, thereby forcing traffic back through the town. That will be madness!


An attractive and clever way to display wines. It was tempting to swipe a bottle!

Town hall

The old town hall is now a guesthouse. The sgraffito decoration was very attractive.


We wandered through the open door of the old Rathaus to find this lovely courtyard. I'll bet it is stunning when everything is green and flowers are put out.

Cloister entrance

The entrance to the cloister. This was also the way to the abbey church, which we would visit later. In recent years it has become the parish church.

Duernstein Abbey Detail

There were four decorated door pediments. They represented the four seasons and the four known (at that time) continents. The cherub on the left represents summer and the figure on the right represents America. We saw numerous such representations and they all featured an "Indian" figure. Several of them also included indications of cannibalism because the Native Americans were often considered to be cannibalistic. At least this one doesn't go that far!


In a hallway I found a poem, based on the writings of St. Augustine:

Late have I loved You, beautiful One,
Ever old and ever new;
Late have I loved You.
It was like this:

You were inside me,
You were beside me,
You called to me,
You cried out,
You wrapped me in your fragrance.

But I was outside,
I was not beside you.
You ripped apart my deafness
And I breathed you in;
Now I pant for you.

Late have I loved You, beautiful One,
Ever old and ever new;
Late have I loved You.
It was like this:


After our tour we were treated to a concert on the original 1724 Christof Pantzner organ. It was much better than the previous concert we had heard in Regensburg.

By then it was dark as we walked back along the river to the dock.

Our ship is closer to shore. The Viking ship is beside it. Later in the evening the Viking ship cast off and headed upstream. We turned and cruised downstream toward Vienna.

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