We started our day with a boating adventure on the most popular river route in Europe. We cruised through the famous Schlonger Schlinge in Austria, where the Danube snakes through steep, forested mountains in a series of sharp and scenic bends. The weather did not cooperate however, and it was cold and wet on the top deck of the boat, where we spent most of our time watching the scenery, cruise boats and towns pass us by. It was fun going through the locks as it was the first locks I have been through on a boat. Watching as the water lowered, then the gates opened and we passed through to the other side. We began biking at Schlogen along the Danube, and headed toward Aschach through a beautiful forest. Loved seeing the wild swans following us on the Danube as we pedaled along the bike path.
We stopped for lunch at the bakery, Cafe Konditorei Weltzer Aschach, just as the rain began to fall. Aschach is an old town in the state of Upper Austria, first mentioned in history in the year 777. We had a delicious Austrian sandwich and the famous Austrian Linzer cookies (Linzerkekse) for dessert. The rain stopped after lunch so we continued riding along the bike path, and crossed over the Danube on a dam.We rode to Ottensheim where we were transfered by private coach to our hotel at Weissenkirchen, in Austria’s Wachau Valley wine region. This charming village is dominated by St Michael’s Church, which dates to 987. The small white steeple on the church is the name given to the town, meaning White Church. Our hotel, the Raffelsberger Hof is one of the many Renaissance buildings with a romantic inner courtyard. We checked into the hotel and then headed out to explore the town and have dinner with some of our group. Click on thumbnail to view image
Boat Cruise and Ride
Day 2 Wachau Valley
Started the day with a delicious Austrian style breakfast in the romantic dining room of the Raffelsberger Hof. Our bike ride today takes us through the beautiful Wachau Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is 40 km in length, without a single bridge across the Danube until we reach the town of Melk. The architectural elegance of its ancient monasteries, castles and ruins combined with the urban architecture of its villages, and the cultivation of vines as an important agricultural produce are the dominant features of the valley. On our ride we rode through many of these villages along the cobbled, narrow streets and stopped in Wosendorf to visit St Michael Church, a fortified Gothic church on the north bank of the Danube, that dates back to the 10th century, and is one of the oldest parish churches in the Wachau Valley. The Renaissance bell tower pinnacle was built in 1544 after a fire. We climbed up the winding staircase in the tower to the top overlooking the church and cemetery with panoramic views of the Danube valley. Painting on the walls inside the tower depict the local history of the Danube valley. We saw the sculptures of the “7 rabbits of St Michael” on the roof ridge of the church from the tower, there are several interpretations of the story of these 7 rabbits placed there when the church was built. Back on the bikes we continued to Willendorf to visit the Venus statue. The real Venus of Willendorf is a 4.4 in tall Venus figurine estimated to have been made 30,000 BCE, it was found on August 7, 1908, and is now in a Museum in Vienna. This one is a replica and stands much taller, but it was fun to go and take a look at it. We arrived at Melk with plenty of time to tour the Abbey and have lunch before heading back. The Melk Abbey or Stift Melk is a Benedictine Abbey, and one of the world’s most famous monastic sites. it is located above the town of Melk on a a granite rocky outcrop at 748 feet overlooking the Danube River. It is built over an area of 17,500 square metres (188,000 sq ft). The Abbey was founded in 1089 AD and the monks have lived here since then. Today’s impressive Baroque abbey was built between 1702 and 1736, as one of the “most significant and magnificent Baroque monasteries in all of Austria”. Bob, Erin and I took the tour through the monastery, and even though no photography was allowed, Bob got a few good shots to remember it. We walked through Imperial Chambers, now the museum showing the historical, artistic, and current significance of the monastery. Then we came into the Marble Hall, the door frames and the gables above the doors are made of real marble, the walls are stucco marble. Leaving this room we went out onto the massive balcony, connecting to the library. The Melk abbey library contains over 100,000 volumes, and we couldn’t get any photos here but it was magnificent. We took the spiral staircase into the abbey and we were blown away by its magnificence. The architecture of the room, the colors of the ceiling frescos, the stucco marble on the walls, and the colors of the galleries (gold, orange, ocher, gray and green) combine to create a symphony of color and form, in the spirit of the Baroque period.
We stopped for a quick sandwich before heading back to the van and our bikes. We were hoping to miss the rain on the ride back but we rode most of the way in a downpour. We made it to the ferry and took it across the Danube back to Weissenkirchen. The farewell dinner was in a wine cellar near the hotel, and what a fabulous ending to a great trip. Despite the inclement weather throughout the week we only got really wet on the last ride back. Petr and Hana were fun, knowledgeable leaders and made the trip a success. Click on thumbnail to view image