Our last Danube river cruise only offered a tantalizing glimpse of Durnstein in the Wachau Valley of Austria. It was just long enough for Blonde’s wallet to get a catch of thwarted longing in its throat. But on this cruise the wallet’s dreams were fulfilled (and the wallet was emptied).
Durnstein appears to have received its first mention in recorded history in 1112 when Richard the Lionhearted was held captive by a Duke of Austria who was chapped about some disagreement they had during one of the Crusades. Maybe the Duke acted hastily, or perhaps he didn’t put much in the collection plate, but Pope Celestine III subsequently excommunicated the Duke for capturing another crusader. (Apparently that was considered to be bad form.)
We didn’t have long in Dürnstein. We could have used the time to walk up the hill to the castle ruins or we could shop. We did not walk up the hill to the castle ruins.
But we weren’t total dunderheads – we at least went to the Dürnstein Abbey so we could see the grounds and get a better view of the Danube.
The abbey was originally an Augustine convent founded in 1410 and later a church and cloister were added. They were all renovated in the 17th century when it was given a “Baroque facelift”. (Blonde is considering getting the same thing done as right now she more closely resembles the castle ruins.)
The church is the town’s parish church.
Dürnstein has a year-round population of less than 1,000 people but over 1.5 million tourists visit each year. We’re thinking the river cruise must be raining euros on Dürnstein!
If you pay the modest entrance fee to the abbey you get access to some fairytale-like views of the Danube complete with thoughtful, heart-hefting Baroque angels.
The Wachau Valley is known for its wineries. In the late 19th century a “phylloxera plague” destroyed many of the grape vines in Europe. Some former wineries turned to growing apricots as an alternative, phlox resistant, crop. You can get apricot liqueurs, hand soap, candies, brandies, jams and apricot kernels which have had their inherent cyanide heated and deconstructed so they won’t kill you! (And who doesn’t prefer a snack that won’t kill them!?)
There are also artists of various sorts selling their crafts along the windy cobblestone road that is the main drag of Dürnstein. (Why couldn’t Europeans ever just build a straight street?)
Blonde managed to buy a silk blouse and a cotton sweater from Italy when she was in Dürnstein. OK, she may not have benefitted local craftspeople but she doesn’t have the hips for a dirndl and at least the profits of her purchases stayed in town!
We meandered our way back to the Emerald Waterways “Emerald Sun” ship where we were offered (and eagerly accepted) wine as we spent the afternoon on the upper deck continuing our way along the Danube. Another tough day in our lives!