A change of pace…..
After a few nights in the big smoke, we were looking forward to some time in the countryside, so we hopped on the train for the 1 hour trip to Krems an der Donau (Krems on the Danube). Katharina was at the station to take us to the inn run by her family, which was about 10km on the other side of the Danube, amongst apricot trees and vines. As we sipped on a cold glass of apricot bubbly, we received a warm welcome from Katharina’s parents, Ilse and Adie before being shown to our room. The room turned out to be a suite, with bedroom, sitting room and bathroom. Nicely decorated in apricot colouring – we were soon to find out that the marille (apricot) is central to the region and to the Aufreiter family business (https://www.weinhof.at/). Marille jam, wine, soap, liqueur, chocolate.
Before dinner, we took a walk up the hill behind the inn, amongst the vines. We were rewarded with a lovely view of the Danube and the abbey nearby. Dinner was a low key affair in the dining room, enjoying Ilse’s cooking and a glass of wine made at the family winery up the road.
In search of the Blue Danube…..
Following a hearty breakfast the next morning, Adi set us up with the bicycles we’d rented from them and we set off on the 40+km ride to the town of Melk. Melk lies at the other end of what is called the Wachau Valley. Passing though little villages and alongside vines laden with grapes – it was the middle of harvesting – we followed the river, stopping along the way to enjoy the views and take photos.
About 10km out of Melk, we got caught up in the middle of a large group of cyclists from Canada and the US. They pushed us along, but we definitely held our own – not too bad given they had much better bikes than us! And we discovered when we arrived in Melk that they had a full support truck and crew!
Melk is known for its Benedictine Abbey, so we had to stop and have a look. We parked the bikes, climbed the steep hill up to the colourful structure and had a look around the outside. We also enjoyed the views across the town and countryside. Time was not on our side as we still had close to 50km to cycle home, so we didn’t pay the entrance fee to visit the inside of the abbey.
We crossed the Danube and cycled back on the opposite bank. Whilst there were still lots of vineyards – some of them high up the hills – the towns were much bigger and there were more tourists wondering through the streets than we’d had in the morning on our way out. Not having the time to do so, we decided we’d come back again the next day to visit some of the popular towns like Durnstein and Krems itself.
Glenda was pretty exhausted by the time we arrived back home. After lying down for half an hour, it was time for shower and dinner. Dinner tonight was home made schnitzel and the most amazing, yummiest apricot tiramisu!! Bedtime in the Wachau Valley was about two hours earlier than what it is in Florence. In fact, as this is being written, we are waiting to go out to dinner with friends – they are collecting us from the bus at 8:30pm to take us to their place for dinner. A few days ago, dinner was done by 7pm.
Continuing our search for the Blue Danube…..
Having only seen a green Danube by this time, we took on board the recommendation of friends and family – drink more wine, wear polarised sunglasses – and continued our quest for the blue one. We did manage to find a blue building – the Stift Dürnstein (the abbey church at Durnstein) was sky blue with a tall tower high into the air. It definitely stood out when we took a steep hike up the hill to the Burgruine Durnstein, the ruined castle above the town. The view of the river and valley were worth every step. The only downside was that Glenda managed to stick her hand on a bee that proceeded to sting her. Fortunately she’s not allergic!
Larger video available on youtube @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nXLShUr15o
Our final day in the Wachau valley…..
The weather forecast for out last day was gloomy – very wet and cold – and we were extremely grateful that it was wrong! Whilst there had been a fair bit of rain overnight, by the time we finished breakfast, it had stopped. Having expected a lazy day, a short cycle through the vineyards behind the inn (up a few steeps hills) to the Gottweig Abbey was enough of an outing. We couldn’t join the guided tour as it was in German, but we spent an hour or so wondering around the part of the HUGE complex that is open to tourists. The rest of it is still inhabited by a group of Benedictine monks.
Good thing we’d planned a short day. When we arrived back at the inn, we were chatting to Ilse and found out that they had a tasting at their winery up the road that evening before dinner. So after a rest and shower, we took a slow stroll along the road through the village. As we did so, a procession of cars from a wedding party passed by, honking their horns.
We had no idea what was going on at the tasting as naturally everything was in German. Although if truth be told, our very out of date knowledge of Afrikaans did help us catch a few things. Either way, it didn’t stop us from enjoying the wines, chocolates and liqueurs on offer. Little did we know that when we returned to the inn for dinner, they would continue filling our glasses with wine and liqueur. A fun night was had by all and we retreated to bed feeling a bit the worse for wear.
Ilse, Adi and the family were busy preparing for a big birthday party- someone was turning 80 – so they couldn’t take us to the station. They called us a taxi and after a sad farewell we left.
We’d chosen to go a bit early as we knew there was a marathon finishing in Krems and roads would be blocked. It turned out in our favour as after having to walk a little way from where the taxi was forced to drop us off, we meandered down to the finish line and watched the competitors coming in. We were too early for the full marathon, but did see the quarter marathon (11km) and as we were heading back to the station, we were passed by the leaders of the half marathon.