Where Nature, Wine, and History Meet
Wachau’s exposure to the sun, and the beautiful, albeit not really blue, Danube that runs through the region make this one of Austria’s most productive and scenic wine-growing areas. Fortified abbeys and castles crown the valley’s rolling hills, on which steeply terraced vineyards alternate with forested slopes and orchards of apricot trees that bloom in late spring.
The little walled town of Dürnstein—famous as the site where Richard the Lionhearted of England was imprisoned in 1192 following an altercation with Leopold V—is justly popular. For lovely accommodations, you needn’t go any farther than the leafy terrace of the Schloss Dürnstein Hotel, featuring liltingly beautiful views of the river, excellent dining, and an attractive wine list. (Have a glass of the local launer vetliner on the terrace.)
Dürnstein’s hilltop Kuenringer Castle was destroyed and replaced in 1650; the ruins of the original structure can be reached by foot for some remarkable views of the surroundings, said to have inspired the tales of the magic kingdoms of the Brothers Grimm. Leave the charming castle grounds for a delightful side trip to Melk Abbey (Stift Melk), a recently renovated 1,000-year-old Benedictine monastery, filled with manuscripts and precious works of art, including the famous Melk crucifix. This particularly picturesque stretch of the Danube is a favorite for short boat cruises, a wonderful way to see the area.