It seems I have fallen back into a bad habit. For some reason, I am unable to post my vacation stories or pictures in a timely manner no matter what the trip is or how good my intentions are to get everything up. I just finished my first semester of college though, so I feel like that’s a somewhat acceptable excuse/explanation to why I haven’t been updating this blog as often as I should. Going into the new year I am going to try a lot harder to put time aside to take a break from my hectic school schedule and write.
Without further ado, let’s continue into the Austrian part of my summer river cruise!
Day 4: Vienna
Vienna was one of the bigger cities we traveled to and it had gotten mixed reviews from my relatives who had visited before. I knew it had a rich history and was the epicenter of the Habsburg empire that influenced so many of the places we stopped at along the Danube, but I was weary of how touristy and big it was going to be. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
Everyone got up early to take a tour of the old city. Leah and I actually had to be woken up five minutes before the tour left because we overslept, so that was a fun start to the day. While Vienna is huge, the old city section makes it feel smaller and I liked it more than I thought I would. We were able to see government buildings, Holocaust memorials, old streets lined with traditional shops, and St. Stephen’s Cathedral. At the end of the tour we had some free time before going back to the boat and we found a traditional bakery with amazing Austrian pastries.
In the afternoon I made the last minute decision to visit the Schönbrunn Palace- the Habsburg’s summer palace. Leah and Uncle Jon went shopping while the rest of our party stayed on the boat, so I went alone. I am really happy I made this decision and I am proud of myself for doing what I wanted to do instead of going along with the group. The palace was extremely hot but very beautiful, and it gave me a lot more insight into the history of Vienna and Maria Theresia. I was able to meet other guests from the boat that I wouldn’t have talked to otherwise, and I enjoyed talking with them. Once the tour was over we had time to explore the gardens by ourselves so I wandered around and took pictures until another woman by herself offered to take pictures of me. She spoke very limited English and was not from the boat, but we swapped cameras and got a few nice pictures out of the whole exchange, which I thought was very cool.
After dinner on the boat Pat, my grandpa’s girlfriend, Leah, and I went to a Mozart and Strauss concert in a concert hall in the city. Not only was there beautiful orchestra music, but opera singing and traditional dancing. It was and unforgettable and unique experience.
Day 5: Dürnstein, the Wachau Valley, and Melk
This morning we woke up in Dürnstein, Austria. It’s a village of about 200 people, although that number goes up during tourist season. The town is basically straight from Beauty and the Beast. Set on a hillside with the castle ruins that once held Richard the Lionheart above it, the town only has one main road and is full of adorable shops. It is best known for its monastery with a blue steeple. Leah and I were fascinated by the town cemetery and spent a good amount of time wandering through it.
After a tour of the town Leah and I went on an 18 mile bike ride through the Wachau Valley, a valley known for its mountains, small towns, vineyards, and apricot products. It was almost 100 degrees out and the ride was hilly and long, but Leah and I made it through with only a few blisters and we were happy we got to experience the valley in that unique way. We have decided visiting the valley again when we graduate college because staying the the towns along the river sounds like a great trip.
At the end of the ride we arrived in Melk, grabbed something to eat quickly on the boat, and headed back out to tour the Melk Abbey. The abbey sits on a hill above the town and is massive. It is yellow (a common color for Austrian buildings) and features guest rooms, a school, a museum and a church. Maria Theresia stayed there once and many other famous Europeans have visited. The library was my favorite part because it looked exactly like the library from the Beast’s castle or Harry Potter. The abbey also had breathtaking views of the town below it and our beloved Danube.
Day 6: Salzburg
Today we took a day trip to Salzburg, Austria. We got off the boat in Linz, Austria, where Adolf Hitler was born, early in the morning and boarded and bus for a 2.5 hour ride through Austria’s Lake District, one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Our first stop was in Mondsee to visit the church where Maria and Captain Von Trapp were married in The Sound of Music. A large part of our day was centered around scenes from the movie and Leah and I luckily decided to refresh our Sound of Music knowledge by watching the movie the night before.
Mondsee was right on a lake at the foot of the mountains and its beauty was a wonderful introduction to the district. Uncle Jon and Leah and I were able to sit down at a cafe and drink the best iced coffee I have ever had, complete with ice cream on top. We then continued on to Salzburg, passing by one lake and small town after another. My pictures won’t do any justice but it was unbelievable how stunning the scenery was. Leah and I have decided that the Lake District is definitely a place we would like to live in for a while.
Salzburg was bigger than I thought it would be, although it is the 4th largest city in Austria so I’m not sure what I was expecting. When we drove up the first thing we noticed was the massive fortress situated on a mountain above the town. We started our tour at the Mirabelle Gardens, where part of the song “Do Re Mi” was filmed for the movie. There was a wedding party taking pictures while we were there and it was fun to watch. We then spent an hour getting a tour of the old city. Salzburg has a main shopping street full of very interesting shop signs. The oldest sign in the city actually hangs above a McDonald’s, which I found fairly amusing. We also saw the building where Mozart lived and a very traditional market. Next, we made our way to the fountain and square used a few times in The Sound of Music and our guide told us how much uproar the movie caused because it had to hang up Nazi flags for a scene.
After our tour ended we went to lunch at a local restaurant Uncle Jon found in a quieter part of town. It was nice to get away from the crowds. I order the “Austrian Dumpling Mystery” (that was its actual name) and got 6 dumplings, paired off into three different kinds, that were all very good. I also tried Austrian Herbal Lemonade, which was delicious. We wandered around after lunch a little more and then got back on the bus to meet up with the boat in Passau, Germany. There was no border patrol or checkpoints between Austria and Germany because they are both a part of the EU, so we drove right in, which was very weird in comparison to our borders.
Leah and I wandered around Passau for about 30 minutes, quickly finding the town square and cathedral, before we had to be back on the boat for dinner. I wish we had had more time to explore, but that’s why we need to go back!
Click on images below to enlarge and view as a slideshow.