So you are in Vienna and have seen almost all the tourist attractions there. What next? You must see the Wachau Valley, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. No wonder, the Wachau Valley is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Austria. For those who just want to sit back and enjoy the beauty of the picturesque location, try the DDSG Blue Danube Cruise, which starts from Krems to Melk, and back. This 24-mile fairytale stretch between the towns of Melk and Krems is called as The Wachau Valley, which is formed by the Danube River flowing in Vienna.
We did this relaxed trip on the very next day of our arrival in Vienna on 13th May, 2017. Since we knew we would be quite jet-lagged on the next day too, not to forget that we were travelling with kids, we planned this trip (on 14th May, 2017) well in advance, so that we could enjoy the day without feeling tired.
The Danube river cruise operates from April to October. We travelled from Vienna to Melk comfortably by train, with a changeover at St. Polten. The train tickets are available at the Austrian Rail official website: OBB and can be booked months in advance. (Opt for combi-tickets for some discount.)
Once you reach Melk, you have to walk down a bit, but a pleasant walk, until you reach the DDSG Blue Danube pickup point by the river.
The Benedictine Melk Abbey in Melk
This walk was very de-stressing. Melk was peaceful in the morning hours. The sleepy town of Melk is a wonderful place to be, and you will especially enjoy the silence and the vibe if you are coming from a jam-packed city like Mumbai. Anyways, since we had some time in our hand and we landed at Melk without having breakfast, we stopped at a café to have light breakfast and most importantly, coffee! We went to the famous Baroque monastery called Melk Abbey (Stift Melk in German) after that. Napoleon was a former occupant here!
The rustic frescos and wood carvings at the Melk Abbey were very attractive. When we entered the chapel we were mesmerised by the gold decorations all around. Literally, it was history written in gold! Golden pillars, gold altars, golden figures, golden window sills… all stood magical in front of our eyes. The library and the treasure room were stunning.
The Blue Danube Cruise
Our Austrian Danube river cruise curved through picture-perfect villages, churches, castles, wine regions and greenery. A leisurely Danube Cruise starting from Melk till Krems and back, will take you around the Wachau Valley and open your eyes to this beautiful part of Austria. The steep hills of the winemaking region of Wachau produces good Austrian dry whites like Grüner Veltliner and Riesling.
Wachau is famous for apricots. Do try Wachau apricots and their derivatives. Cultivated in the Wachau valley for thousands of years, apricots find their way into cakes, pastries and even Apricot Brandy. Luckily, the buffet on board had a tasty Apricot Cake, which we relished till the last bite.
The cruise covers Melk, Emmersdorf, Spitz, Dürnstein, Krems and back. The boat is very well-maintained. During the entire cruise, you might choose to walk around, sit in A/C cabins or outside. During the cruise, commentary in both English and German followed, though at some places, the commentary was only in German. The serving staff speak German and are not too comfortable with English. Non-German tourists might even find them a bit indifferent. Also, the food or drink order might reach late to you. You might order something special from the menu (have to pay extra for that) or go for the buffet. But overall, the cruise is totally worth the experience because of the scenic beauty and good food!
It is such a pleasure to sit on the deck and bask the gentle sunlight, while beautiful scenery entices you. On our cruise, we saw the town of Dürnstein was particularly beautiful because of its blue Baroque church from the Medieval times. We saw the ruins of Dürnstein Castle, where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned in the 12th century.
Note: The trip downstream takes 1 hour 50 minutes, while going upstream takes about 3 hours.
Exploring the Wachau Valley: Alternatives to the Danube River Cruise
For a first-timer in Austria, especially if you are travelling with kids, a relaxing river cruise offers an excellent overview of the entire Wachau Valley. However, if you are adventurous and want to spend the day in active sports, you might consider hiking, biking or canoeing the stretch between Melk and Krems, through the scenic villages dotting the Wachau Valley.
Canoe from Spitz and paddle your way down the Danube! Or, hit the bike trails along the Danube, cycling from Spitz to Krems and picnicking on the way if you please! Whatever you do, do stop at Dürnstein and have a look at its famous blue tower. And, do stop for wine tastings and Apricot cakes wherever you get the opportunity. If you have time in hand and want to do something different, exploring a local apricot orchard is a nice idea too.
Enjoy the pictures and stay tuned to where we went next!
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