Melk, Dürnstein, Krems

During our stay in a vibrant Austria, along with a new group of friends, yours truly went on a day trip to a few interesting places along the Wachau valley: Melk, Dürnstein and Krems. The Wachau valley that is formed by the river Danube has a culturally scenic landscape. This landscape of Wachau is on the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.

The Abbey Museum, room oneThe Abbey Museum, room two View from the Abbey

The Stift Melk Abbey, an Austrian Benedictine Abbey in Melk, founded in the year 1089 looked aesthetically beautiful what with river Danube overlooking it and the Wachau valley flowing close to it. Stift Melk Abbey is one of the most important monastic sites in the world. The Abbey Museum was special in that every room had a unique coloured lighting and a rich history to showcase – mostly about the Monastery and its values in the form of paintings and portraits. There were eleven rooms in varied vibrant hues.

The next visit was to the Monastery’s library – it was an ancient one and housed numerous medieval manuscripts. The library also housed books on medicine, philosophy, theology, geography, astronomy, history, Baroque lexicon, etc. Frescos by the Austrian painter, Paul Troger of the Baroque period looked marvellous.  We had lunch at the Abbey’s restaurant. Luckily, an all-vegetarian meal was available.

The Abbey LibraryThe Abbey ChurchThe Castle

We hopped on our vehicle to go to Dürnstein of the Krems district in Lower Austria – one of the nine states in Austria. Walking along the narrow cobbled lane streets was a great pleasure as always. Dürnstein is also popular for the ruins of its Kuenringer Castle. Terraced vineyards too were seen in this pretty town.

Dürnstein A lane in Dürnstein Danube river

Our final halt was at Krems. It was another hot spot by the Wachau valley of Lower Austria. Krems is both a municipality and a district.

Steiner Tor in KremsParish Church of St Vitus

We saw the Steiner Tor gate built in the Baroque style, which is considered to be a symbol of the town of Krems. The Parish Church of St Vitus was ornamental. Well, it was 5 pm and it was time to leave. We had an ice cream before waving a goodbye to the Wachau region of Austria. 🙂

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Vibrant Vienna

As we reached Vienna (known as Wien in German), the capital city of Austria, we realized we were about to have a taste of some exquisite cultural extravaganza. You see musical legends such as Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Schubert, Strauss, Brahms, Mahler, Schoenberg and so on have left their artistic legacies behind in this very land.

There stood king-size, palatial buildings in almost every part of the city we traversed. Those buildings housed government offices, museums, cathedrals, opera house, etc. We thought that the imperial past of the country had indeed retained its identity. Btw, the City Centre is on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Anker ClockThe Austrian ParliamentStephansdom

We watched the Anker Clock, which was designed in 1911, connecting two buildings in Vienna’s oldest square called Hoher Markt. The clock was unique in that the time was shown using historical figures that passed by the clock face. Every hour a different historical figure passed by. At 12 o’clock in the noon, we saw some 12 historical figures walking one after another in succession, each bearing a roman number (I through XII)  on their face. It was amusing! The Parliament House of Austria stood majestically showcasing its neoclassical facade and magnificent Greek pillars.

Some Indian food in ViennaThe horses at the Spanish Riding SchoolShopping street in Stephansplatz

The Stephansdom (St Stephen’s Cathedral) in Stephansplatz was truly a Romanesque-Gothic masterpiece. The busy shopping street there was classy and the goods were expensive. We ended up paying almost double the price for the knick-knacks we bought. We chose to visit an Indian restaurant where we had some good North Indian food and a pot tea each. Pretty expensive, but the food did more than satiate our hunger. We tried coffee at different places. On one occasion, we went to a Cafe Coffee Day outlet in Vienna! As we walked ahead, we saw some Lipizzan horses (specific to this region) at the Spanish Riding School.

One of Gustav Klimt's paintingsParticle of the True CrossA medieval harpArmoured troops

We stepped into the Museum Quarters. The Kunsthistorisches Museum housed popular paintings including ones from Gustav Klimt, Austria’s most celebrated painter whose 150th birth anniversary was celebrated in July 2012. There were halls exhibiting collections from the Egyptian and near Eastern times as well as Greek and Roman times. There was an interesting picture gallery devoted to German, Dutch, Flemish and Italian painters.

We visited the Schatz Kammer Museum (a part of the Hofburg Palace) where we saw some prized “secular” and “ecclesiastical” treasury from the time of Hofburg dynasty, rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Treasury also had a variety of gems and the largest cut emerald in the world.  We located the particle of the True Cross here in this museum. We went to the Neue Burg Museums as well where we saw a collection of ancient musical instruments; artifacts from Ephesus, a place in Turkey; arms and armours mainly from the 15th and 16th centuries.

Concert venueThe live concertMozarthaus

We had a glance at the Opera House and we were planning to treat ourselves to a concert. We could see so many men from different music bands – who were dressed like choirboys – trying to sell off their tickets to tourists. We did a quick survey of the available concerts and based on convenience of location and time, we decided to buy tickets to one of the Strauss and Mozart concerts in a hall close to Stadtpark. Well, we enjoyed every bit of the concert that had different segments to it. Btw, we were thrilled to see Mozart’s home, Mozarthaus during one of our exploratory walks.

Sigmund Freud's home-turned-museum in ViennaFreud parkUniversity of Vienna-exterior

The psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s home-turned-museum had a neat collection of his belongings and his work. There was also a guidebook that offered insights into the collection on display. Had an opportunity to sit in one of Freud’s rooms and watch a documentary about his life. There was a neat Freud park a couple of kilometers away. Further down, the University of Vienna was located. Founded in 1365, it is one of the oldest universities in Central Europe. It did look like yet another palace to me!

The NaschmarktWe visited the Naschmarkt, Vienna’s most popular market where fresh fruits, vegetables, spices, souvenirs, etc were sold. We later went to Prater, an amusement park. The public transport system in Vienna seemed impeccable. We explored the city pretty much on foot as well as with the aid of metros and trams. I happened to make friends with a couple, T & B, and we went out shopping together on one of the days. Gosh! Vienna was indeed a vibrant place and had so much to offer in terms of sightseeing. It definitely deserves a second visit. 🙂

PS: You just need to point your cursor to the pictures to read the captions and you need to click the pictures to see them in their original size.