Got up early and went up on deck to see the trees pass by. I got a lucky break in the trees that exposed a large castle on a distant hilltop.
After we docked at Dürnstein, we walked about the town a bit. Not too much there, but it's a very authentic little Austrian village with a pretty abbey with a tall blue bell tower, and a graveyard and ossuary at the other end. In between... plenty of souvenir shops, really, selling the local apricot wine and apricot brandy and apricot marmelade, and apricot.... There are also vineyards in the area that climb steep terraces on the banks of the river. So we saw some of the Grüner Veltliner grapes growing on the vine.
Back on board we spent some time on deack as we passed through the Wachau Valley portion of the Danube, with its lovely scenery. More vineyards, churches, little towns, castles and so on. One interesting detail was that some of the ferries are tethered to a cable crossing the river so tat they can only go straight across. One of the villages along the way was Willendorf, near which the Venus of Willendorf was found. It's housed in the Natural History Museum in Vienna, where we saw it the last time we were in Austria.
Had the buffet lunch and we were joined by several others, including Russ, a high school English teacher who teaches a senior seminar on fantasy fiction, with a pretty good syllabus: the Hobbit, Harry Potter, The Once & Future King, A Wizard of Earthsea. So we swapped fantasy-nerd talk for a while. Now we've docked again near Melk for the tour of the Abbey. I realize Maria Theresa liked yellow, and I realize she liked baroque, but we're all getting sick of it now.
Melk was both the same and different from how I remember it. We didn't have time to take the tour last time; we only strolled about the grounds, and peeked in a few doors here and there. This time on the tour, we were surprised by the very modern and artsy installations in the first few rooms. All lit by primary colors and filled with clear plastic displays. Saw some historical documents and figures and paintings and reliquaries and other artifacts. All housed in rooms originally inhabited by the Hapsburgs whenever they were in town.
Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed in the library, but it was neat to walk through it anyway, even packed with tourists. I was amused by the huge globes -- one of the earth, and the other of the heavens -- that were not only well behind the velvet rope, but had signs on them that said "turning forbidden". Then into the abbey church, a golden baroque fantasy that would make some cathedrals envious. A few more looks around the grounds and then back down the hill into the town of Melk, where we stopped for some of the local wine, and Judith had a Radler, a mixture of beer and lemon soda. The a stroll through a wooded island and back to the ship.
Went through a couple more locks during the disembarkation briefing and dinner. The lamb and lamb kebab at dinner was pretty fantastic.
Monday 13 August
Arrived in Linz during the night. Cute from what I can see, but the project for the day is to take a bus to Salzburg after breakfast.
The bus made a pitstop at a restaurant overlooking the Mondsee. Took a couple pictures and then on to Salzburg. The old town is pretty small, so perforce we saw many of the same things as we had on our first trip: the Mirabell Gardens; the Bridge over the Salzach, where lovers leave locks attached to it, tossing the key into the river; the main shopping lane, which is also the street where Mozart's birth house is located; the cathedral.
One new thing was lunch at the abbey, at what is probably the oldest restaurant in Europe, the St. Peter Stiftskeller, founded in 803. Our group has a room to ourselves, and the staff was pretty quick about serving us all. Beef broth with crepe schnibbles, a turkey-based Wienerschnitzel, which was very good, accompanied by a nice, mustardy potato salad. I had a Stiegl beer, the light this time rather than the dark, which had a great bitter bite to it. We skipped out on the Sachertorte in order to have a little more time in town; we had heard the line for the funicular was bad. As it turned out, there were no lines when we went up or down, but there was a line waiting at the other end both times.
We took a quick spin through the cemetery at the abbey, and past the catacombs. Then we rode the funicular up to the castle area, where we had a little time to look around before we had to head back down. We also managed to figure out the machine to smash a coin for Emily. Back down the funicular, where the exit, strangely, takes you through an amber and jewelry store.
Accidentally, we came across a brass band marching in the street, playing for some sort of beer/chef affair. We ducked in for a couple of fresh Mozartkugeln at Fürst, the place where they were invented in 1890. I have to say honestly I remember the fresh one from the previous trip (from some other chocolatier) as being much smoother and better, but this one wasn't bad!
As with the last visit, one of the great things about Salzburg you notice are the street musicians. Best in the world, I'm guessing. The best one this time was the harpist in the Mirabell Garden. Carol bitterly regretting not picking up his CD. There was classical guitar, clarinet, a couple jazz combos, and a huge gypsy family that made an enthusiastic racket near our gathering point. Then to the bus and the ride back to the ship during which I have caught up to the present time.
We took a little detour to see a nice hilltop view of Linz. I was on the wrong side of the bus for a good picture, but you could see it all laid out below, with their giant new Cathedral, which seats 20,000. Then through the main square and its requisite plague column, and then to the ship.
Speaking of requisite, as it is the last night on board ship, they trotted out the baked alaska for dessert at dinner.