During the last days of July, I started to plan our big trip of the year. The goal was to secure airfare and accommodation for mid-October.
Things turned out better than I was expecting. A flight departing the last week of August was of better price than all the flights I was researching in October. I ended up booking that flight.
The thing is that that purchase gave us only seven weeks before the trip. I bought the tickets on a Thursday and told my husband I was going to ground myself on Saturday afternoon. I decided on the final route, booked accommodation and transportation.
Everything was ready except for one thing: a daytrip I wanted to make from Vienna.
I procrastinated for two months. I ended up booking an excursion to the Wachau Valley my first night in Vienna. I couldn’t decide between exploring independently or going on a guided tour.
In retrospective, I believe my indecision was trying to save me from the inevitable. The tour performance ended up being terrible. Their disorganization drove me crazy on several occasions.
But, here is the main point I want to make. No tour company or guide or individual or weather condition or service provided, was strong enough to tarnish my day in the Wachau Valley.
This 24 mile (40 km) stretch of the Danube between the towns of Krems and Melk is as pretty as river valleys come. The place is a dream come true. I am not exaggerating. I felt like most of the people around were dancing on their tiptoes to the tune of imaginary music.
The Wachau Valley has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is one of the most prominent destinations in Lower Austria.
The town of Krems is located 48 miles (76.6 km) from Vienna. This makes the area an easy daytrip (or weekend trip) form the big city.
The first part of the tour was a bus ride through the storybook towns of Krems and Durnstein (there are other small towns on the route). The towns themselves are worth a visit. They have attractions such as the Gottwaig Abbey, the Steiner Tor (medieval gate) and the Durnstein Castle.
The panorama in the valley is famous for its vineyards and orchards. The wines produced in the region are some of the most prized in Austria.
The second part of the tour included a boat ride from Spitz to Melk. While waiting for the boat to arrive, we had a chance to take a look at several buildings in the town. For what I learned, the arrival and departure times of the boats are estimated. It depends on how the river current is on that particular day.
Suddenly, it was time to board the boat and that is when the best part of the day started. We chose to sit in the uncovered area to have a good view of the surroundings. Semi and total covered areas were available too.
In just seconds, we were in the middle of the river. The houses got smaller and the sky bigger. The views from the Danube were so different from the ones on shore.
South of Spitz, a nearly thousand year old medieval fortress, called Hinterhaus, stands with its Gothic bulwark and Renaissance fortifications. Locals assure the castle is haunted and many tales and legends have grown up around these ruins.
This tiny town is known among pre-historians as the town where the oldest piece of European art was found. The Venus of Willendorf, a 30,000-year-old fertility symbol, was found here.
The cool thing about visiting the valley for the first time is that you do not know what you are going to find after each turn and twist.
I got really excited when I spotted the Aggstein Castle in the distance. Can you tell I am a castle lover?
This castle is located 300 meters (980 ft) above the Danube. I was lucky to get some decent photos using my camera’s zoom.
Aggsbach Markt and Aggsbacg Dorf
I loved passing by these colorful and cute towns.
This monastery was founded in the 17th by an aristocratic family who had converted to Catholicism. It was as a pilgrimage church that the monastic church gained fame.
Even after seeing a lot of beautiful sights along the valley, I was still waiting to pass by one particular place. I knew we had arrived because the boat slowed down. We were passing by Schönbühel Castle. This is one of the most famous landmarks in the Valley (and in the entire country).
The origins of the castle date from the early 12th century. The castle is built on rock approximately 40 metres (130 ft) above the level of the river Danube. A Roman fortress may have stood there before. Through the years, the castle has had many owners.
To me, this castle lived up to the expectations. I found it very unique and regal. I wish I could have stopped there and get a closer look. Hope this is something I can do in the future.
This is another small and colorful town in the valley. This town is distinct because it has a structure that resembles an aqueduct (but I am not sure what it is).
All good things come to an end and our trip ended in Melk, home to the Benedictine Abbey of the same time. This place is another of Austria’s treasures. It is considered the highlight of the entire area.
We toured the Abbey but I will leave that story for later.
After Melk, we returned to Vienna by bus. Our hearts were bursting with joy. Till this day we talk about our day in the Wachau Valley. With Cesky Krumlov, it was our favorite destination of the trip. I long for the day when I can return to this place that stole my heart.
- I visited the area with Vienna Sightseeing. I do not recommend the company (huge number of people on each tour, disorganization, missed a stop because people arrived late, etc.).
- If you chose to visit on a tour, pick a company that specializes on small groups. Also, make sure they have a clear itinerary (and you know what places are going to be visited).
- You can visit the valley on your own by taking a train from Vienna to Krems. After that, you can stop by Durnstein and take a boat from there to Melk. Visit the Abbey and go back to Vienna by train. Or, you can do the trip in reverse. Keep in mind the day will be extremely busy if you chose to do something like that.
- To be honest, one day in the Wachau is difficult. I believe the area deserves two or three days. There are tons to see there.
- This site can help you to plan your trip: http://www.donau.com/en/wachau-nibelungengau-kremstal/
Have you visited the Wachau Valley?
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