Wednesday, November 06, 2013

RTW 2013 / Austria / Duernstein Part 2

From the forecast it looked like this would be our first day of rain for the whole trip so far.
But shortly after breakfast it stopped to a drizzle and we decided to head back to Melk for a closer look at the abbey, this time, by bus.
So we followed the same basic route as the boat up river. Land transport was a lot quicker and we got to see a little of the wine villages like Weissenkirchen, Spitz and Emmersdorf as we stopped to pick up and drop off passengers.

This time the abbey was all but deserted.
It was founded in 1089 when Leopold II gave one of his castles to the Benedictine monks from Lambach Abbey. A monastic school was founded in the 12th century, and the monastic library soon became renowned for its extensive manuscript collection.
Today's impressive Baroque abbey was built between 1702 and 1736;
Of note is the abbey church and the impressive library (no pics allowed but plenty on the web) with countless medieval manuscripts.
We took the self guided tour through the museum, the marble hall, the library and the church.
What can you say about all this but amazing, some might even think a little over the top.
The tour can be followed in more detail on the Melk Abbey web site.
Then we explored the abbey park and the baroque garden pavilion outside the main building.
Down into the old town for lunch and a yarn shop visit which had quite an attention getting relic outside.

It had started out a cold, cloudy and windy day but the rain had held off and the sun was trying to peep through. It appeared the weather gods were still with us.
We had an equally enjoyable trip back to Duernstein by bus in the late afternoon. Monday night found most eating places closed in town so we headed back to Heuriger Stockingerhof for another good meal of smoked trout, carpaccio, wine and kaiserschmarrn as a dessert. The latter is a scratched pancake traditionally served with a plum compote. Very yummy.

Next morning we went 'next door' to visit the Duernstein Abbey.
In 1371 a chapel to honour St. Mary was built on this site. The monastery was established by Augustinian monks from Bohemia in 1410 and was built in the Gothic style.
Three hundred years on the building was in such poor condition is was 'modernized' in the baroque style.
It has been fully restored again in the late 20th century.
A mini Melk in a lot of ways but with a little more charm.
The view back over the Danube valley from under the iconic blue and white spire is lovely.
And of course being in wine country, the donation box in the church was an old barrel.

It was another stunning day, so we walked through the vineyards to the neighbouring villages of Oberloiben and Unterloiben.
On the way we came across a memorial. It meant little to us but, on checking the internet back at the hotel, we found it commemorated the Battle of Duernstein in November, 1805 when the Austrians and Russians took on the French during the Third Coalition phase of the Napoleonic Wars. This battle, while quite bloody but inconclusive, destroyed the surrounding towns and vineyards and was a prelude to the final French victory over the Russo-Austrian army at the Battle at Austerlitz a few weeks later. I should really have paid attention during my European history classes while at school. But really, with the heavy British influence on our culture at that time, we probably only heard about the victories of the Brits against Napoleon at Trafalgar and Waterloo anyway.

We had a quiet beer at our turning point and then walked back along the river to Duernstein.
Lunch was at the Altes Presshaus. Excellent wine to go with the pork cutlet, field mushrooms and wild rice.
At the bakers across the road, we bought Morillentopfen and Pflaumenkuchen (with coffee to go) for dessert and headed for our hotel garden for an afternoon of relaxation.

One could really get used to life in Duernstein.
After a farewell bottle of wine by the river, we opted for another dinner in the hotel garden which, although interrupted by rain and a rush to tables hastily prepared inside, was as enjoyable as the first one.
Our last whole day in Austria was mostly a travel day. We took a taxi late morning to Krems then a regional train to Vienna-Spittelau followed by the U-bahn to Wien Mitte station with our hotel just across the road.
Lunch was a hamburger, chips and beer. We were a bit Austrian fooded out.
Back to hotel for a long siesta and a repack.
Exhaustion seemed to have taken over. We had now been on the go for over 2 weeks so little wonder.
So it was a supermarket (Interspar) dinner in the room that night and mental preparation for the long multi leg journey to the USA the next day.
Destination: Las Vegas via Zurich and LA.
Tschüss Österreich und vielen Dank für eine wunderbare Erfahrung.

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