(These events took place in September while we were on a Riverboat tour.)
With the Danube closed due to a broken lock, our vessel was moored in the middle of nowhere. Our visit to Vienna would again have to be done by bus. We were advised to pack for one, possibly two, nights.
Yesterday had not been a good day but things started improving as soon as we got on the bus to Vienna. It was a much better bus than the day before. The air conditioning actually worked and there was enough room between the seats! And the journey was on a proper highway!
These liquid eyes belong to one of the famous Lipizzan Stallions.
Vienna (or Wien as the Austrians spell it) is lovely! I wish we had more time there to explore! (In fact, at the end of the cruise many people chose Vienna as their highlight). First we went to lunch at the Restaurant Griechenbeisl, which has been in business since, get this: 1447! We were following in the eating shadows of Schubert, Strauss and even Mark Twain! Having just spent a week and a half in Hungary, it was ironic that we were served goulash! Actually, it was more like the stew with paprika that we are used to back home, not the soup “golas” that is the original Hungarian style. It was lovely! Beautifully slow cooked beef, nice hearty gravy.
This statue symbolizes the hard battle against the Black Death
The service was a bit slow but only because the poor waiters had to carry all of our big groups’ dishes up and down the spiral staircase. Not easy! Near the end, part of our group from other rooms were leaving, but we hadn’t had our dessert yet – and since it was Sachre Tort (super chocolate layered cake) there was no way we were leaving. No worries, they held the walking tour and we got our delectable cake!
We decided early that Vienna is on our “We-shall-return list,” so even though we battled crowds and did the “interrupted standing” that large walking tours become, we still had a thoroughly enjoyable time in the city. We had an excellent, informative guide who made all the sights interesting. The architecture in Vienna is beautiful.
Our accommodation that night was the Imperial Riding School Renaissance Vienna Hotel, and it was lovely! Except that it only had wifi in the lobby (unless you wanted to pay through the nose) but the beds were very comfy and the pillows… Oh those pillows!!! Leaning onto them was like falling into a cloud!
A good night’s sleep sure helps one’s perspective! The next morning after a very good breakfast, we went on our own for a stroll around the area. Most things weren’t open yet (we had hoped for the Botanic Gardens but they didn’t open until 10 and our bus left at 11) but we did find Belvedere Palace with amazing grounds and even more interesting statues and fountains.
This is the castle where Richard the Lionheart was held captive for (pardon, I have to say it) a king’s ransom.
In between Vienna and Melk we passed through the Wacchau. (Pronounced Vack-how with a clear-your-throat sound in the middle). This was a lovely area, with ruins (including the castle where Richard the Lion Hearted was held captive), rough hillsides, and lots of grapevines and apricot trees squished into every arable corner. We have decided that when we go back to visit Vienna, we shall find ourselves a place to stay in either Durnstein or Weissenkirchen.
Taken from our bus window: We all cheer as we pass our ship chugging up the Danube.
While we were on the bus after lunch, driving alongside the Danube, we had a wonderful sight! Our river boat!! The Emerald Star! It was chugging along the river! It had made it through the broken lock and this was a sure sign that we would be joining it in Melk. Jubilation! Celebration! Victory dances! (At least as wild a victory dance as you can make while seatbelted into a bus seat). Now we knew we were indeed going to be back on the ship that night instead of spending yet one more day on the road.
Top of the Stairs leading down to Melk Abbey
Next stop was Melk Abbey/Monastery. It was a place of contrasts and I am sure we would have enjoyed it more if it had been a brighter day. The lovely views were pretty socked in and the colours muted. Still, the buildings were full of intrigue and the actual abbey? – jaw droppingly beautiful! Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed inside so you will just have to imagine the dripping gold, the vaulted ceilings, the lofty pillars, and the intense colours. Maybe there are some images on Google? Oh! There are! Get thee to Google!
Finally, we were returned to our vessel. We were greeted by the crew and the stay-behind passengers like long-lost friends! It felt like we had been away for ages and it sure felt good to be “home!”
The Wanderers in front of Melk Abbey