Wachau Valley-Danube River-Melk to Krems, Austria

The description below is from Wikipedia but was so very good I couldn’t resist copying it. We travelled this valley on the Danube river in the late fall of 2013. It was cool as you might guess, but it  was more or less jacket weather and the number of tourist was much less so the crowds were very light. This made our trip much more enjoyable.

Modern history[edit]

From 1700 onwards (considered under the modern period) many renovation works were undertaken. These included the Melk Abbey rebuilt in 1702, the refurbishing of the Canons’ Abbey in Dürnstein between 1715 and 1733 and major reconstruction works of Göttweig Abbey that began in 1719. However, in the late 18th and 19th centuries, there was a decline in its importance as a result of closure of monasteries under the secular rule of the Bavarians. However, many events changed the situation with all local communities between Krems and Melk coming together to ensure economic development of the Wachau, since 1904, duly integrating historical legacy with modernity. Tourism and vineyards development protected by Government Laws are now the byword for the “Golden Wachau,” as it is now nicknamed.[3] In the modern period though, the 18th-century buildings are now integrated with the town layout, and they are used for promotion of trade and crafts. The 15th and 16th centuries’ ambiance is witnessed in the “towns’ taverns or inns, stations for changing draught horses, boat operators’ and toll houses, mills, smithies, or salt storehouses”. The valley and the towns, still preserve a number of castles of vintage value.[2][3] The Wachau was inscribed as “Wachau Cultural Landscape” in the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites in December 2000 under category (ii) for its riverine landscape and under category (iv) for the medieval landscape that depicts architectural monuments, human settlements, and the agricultural use of its land.[2] Even prior to the UNESCO recognition, on September 5, 1994, the Wachau area was officially brought under the ambit of the “Natura 2000”, a network of European sites of the European Union, to ensure that development in the designated areas follow all rules and regulations. The designated area has 5000 historic monuments, though most of them are privately owned. However, the Federal Office of Historic Monuments (they also maintain a complete list of all historic monuments in Austria) and the Landeskonservatorat für Niederösterreich are responsible for the conservation of the historic cultural landscape of the Wachau.[3]

Geography[edit]

Maps of the Wachau valley (click each one three times to view clearly). Left: Upper Wachau, with the city of Melk in the southwest. Right: Lower Wachau, with the city of Krems in the northeast.

The Danube valley in Austria between the cities of Melk and Krems in southern Austria is called the Wachau. This stretch of the valley includes the hills and the adjacent Dunkelsteiner Wald (Dunkelsteiner Forest) and the southern Waldviertel. The Danube river flows north-northeast from Melk to Dürnstein through a meander from which it flows southeast, then east past the city of Krems.[10][11] In the Wachau, the town of Spitz lies on the Danube’s western bank and the city of Melk on its eastern bank. Other important towns in the valley are Dürnstein, Weißenkirchen in der Wachau and Emmersdorf an der Donau, which have a galaxy of old homestead buildings dating from the mid-6th century. The railway line built in 1909 between Krems and Emmersdorf is a topographical marvel.[3] Other settlements of note in the Wachau valley include Aggsbach, Bachamsdorf, Bergern im Dunkelsteinerwald, Furth bei Göttweig, Joching, Maria Laach am Jauerling, Mautern an der Donau, Mühldorf, Oberamsdorf, Oberloiben, Rossatz-Arnsdorf, Ruhrsdorf, Schwallenbach, Schönbühel-Aggsbach, Unterloiben and Willendorf. The Danube River has a good network consisting of an inland navigation system. The Wachau valley historic sights can be visited by steamer boats; the best season to visit is between May and September. Autobahn services are also available from Vienna to visit all the important places in the Wachau. The well-developed road network between Melk and Krems follows the contour of the valley. However, there are no bridges across the Danube River in this region, and ferries are the only way to cross the river.[12]

Melk Abbey and Kelms, Austria

Melk Abby was founded in 1089 and is a Bendictine Abby.The Abby sits above the Danube River in Austria just east of the German border.  It was occupied by Nepolean  during the 1800’s and the Nazi’s in the 1900’s. The abbey is at the very western end of the beautiful Wachau Valley. Looking up at the Abby is a sight I will never forget. The impression is that here is one great work of architecture and it is just that. We toured the inside of the abbey and it was equally impressive as the outside. The town of Kelms lies just below the abbey so we spend several hours there seeing the shops and what they had to offer. Then back to the ship to cruise overnight to Vienna, Austria. I was excited since I have heard so much about the great composers and their music that originated in Vienna. The Guenberg Bible (first written bible) was kept here until it was sold to an Harvard University several years ago. There are still over 80,000 valuable manuscripts stored in the Melk library

Passau, Germany Revisited

Romanian Entertainer & Boris

Sylvia,Romanian Entertainer & Boris, Our Tour Guide from Vienna, Austria

Passau is a city in lower Bavarian Germany. Three rivers run around and through Passau, the Danube, Inn, and Liz Rivers. The University of Passau is located in Passau. One of the pilots on our plane from Budapest to London attended college there. It was fairly cool since December was on a few days away. It s snowed lightly while we were in Passau. The area was settled in 2 BC by a tribe from northern Italy. The city was destroyed by a flood in 1662 and tends to flood on  a regular basis. The Passau Cathedral is a wonderful place to visit and has the second largest organ in the worldwith over 16,0000 pipes!

To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.

~ Aldous Huxley

Regensberg, Germany Revisited

Regensberg (Altstadt-The Old City) was established in the middle ages in AD 1245. During the Stone Age most of the city was built from stone so much of Regensberg survives today for us to see and enjoy. Regensberg is not the original name. During the stone ages the city had several other names. Since we arrived on the Danube River we were able to see how the city is affected by flooding. It has been flooded many times and much has been destroyed by those floods over the years. Regensberg has two rivers, the Regen and the Danube. Regensberg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We saw the city gate and Fort Porta Praetoria (AD 179) and that was very interesting. I got some pictures for sure. Regensberg had a population of 23,000 in AD 800. The Crusades also passed through Regensberg and Charlemagne (AD 792) used Regensberg as one of his headquarter cities.

Much earlier Emperor Marcus Aurlelius built Fort Castra Regina in AD 179. We were able to see that fort too. Regensberg was heavily bombed during WW II but due to the strategic (selective) bombing much of the old city survives today. We appreciate that since we were able to enjoy Regensberg stone age relics and sites.

St. Peters is a truly beautiful Cathedral. The cathedral is over a 1000 years old!

Nuremberg, Germany Revisited

Our trip into Nuremberg on the bus was somewhat serious for me as I thought back about my days as a child playing war games in Memphis in the early 1940’s. No one wanted to be the German or Japanese soldier since we were at war with those two countries so we made the guys we didn’t like (or could whip) be Germans. Hitler was in power in Germany. Now we were on the way to the very center of Nazi power where Hitler ruled in the late 20’s and through the 30’s until the Nazi’s declared war on some country near their boarder. It may have been Poland. I’m just not sure. Anyway, here we are on a bus driving up to these great memorials to Nazi power of over 70-80 years ago. The memorials were old and mostly run down since the Germans are not exactly proud of that portion of their history. I felt what I perceived as some shame by the German lady that showed us around the complex. It was in her facial expression and her body language. I felt compassion for her. Someone had to show this mostly American & British group around and she was the chosen one. She did show some courage and the German determination to finish the job. Thanks so much. I take my hat off to you.

After the war memorials we toured the old city of Nuremberg that was founded in 1050 and was once consider the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire. We toured the Palace of Justice where on November 18, 1945 the Nuremberg War Trials were held for the guilty Nazis. Twelve were sentenced to death for their crimes against mankind during WW II. After that we went to a great German Toy Museum.

Bamberg, Germany-Revisited, Bavarian,7 Hills, 7 Churches, Franconian Rome!

Bamberg is located on the Regnitz River that runs into the Main River. We were travelling on the Main River on the Viking Skadi river boat when we arrived in Bamberg. Bamberg is called the Franconian Rome since it has seven churches on seven hills like Rome. Bamberg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pope Clement II is actually buried in the Bamberg Cathedral. This carhedral was constructed between 1004 and 1012. As I was walking around the Pope’s tomb and a German walked over to me and motioned that I had my hat on and should take it off in respect. I quickly agreed and took it off. Germans are real nice people. We were a little late getting back to the ship fro supper and darkness had descended on Bamberg. Nice day! By the way, this was the first place we saw Christmas Markets on display. Later we saw some really nice Christmas Markets in Vienna. The markets are a European tradition and are all over Europe.

Sights of the Romantic Road and Wurzburg Palace, Wurzburg, Germany

The Romantic Road  is chocked full of wonderful scenery and we surely enjoyed riding the tour bus on a portion of that road. Maybe we liked the Wurzburg Palace and museum more than the Romantic Road. The Palace was almost overwhelming with the amount of art and sculptures inside the museum. Germany has art work and much of it is very old and done by masters of their work.

Miltenberg & Wurtzburg, Germany Revisited- Beautiful Bavaria is nice

Miltenberg and Wurzburg are both excellent example of Bavarian Germany in earlier times. We had a rainy day but tour guide Boris did a great job. The night time tour of Wurzburg was especially different and  fascinating. He was so good at his job I thought the wood sided building(Boris called the houses half wooded) and jut the architecture were very interesting and so different from the US.

 

Kinderdijk, Netherlands Revisited

 

We were excited about seeing the windmills of the Netherlands we had only seen in our history books in school. We were not disappointed with the close up views we were offered by our tour guides. Inside the windmills (mills to the natives) we were able to see the operation of the mills and how they turned to “find” the wind. The people of the Netherland have reclaimed much land from the sea using windmills. They are a clever in ingenious people.

The beautiful Rhine River from Cologne to Kolbenz, Germany

This area too is worth revisiting. We saw vineyards with lovely homes right in the vineyards. We noticed that the tow boats captains had their car right on the back of the boat so they could drive home at the end of their journey. All in all the Rhine River is important to the European economy. In earlier time, before roads were so good, it was a major source of travelling across Europe and further.