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  • Writer's pictureSElliott

Day 11 - Ostentatious Abbeys and the Minstrel who Found a King

Updated: Dec 25, 2022

We started today in Melk - Tiggy and Polar had a lovely view as we arrived! Melk has been an important spiritual and cultural centre in Austria for over 1,000 years. It used to be the residence of the royal Babenberg family until it was no longer the centre of Austria and they moved. However, it was still the location of their tombs so they were eager that Melk kept its spiritual importance. In 1089 Melk became the home to the Benedictine Monastery, founded by Leopold II. For over 900 years monks have continually lived and worked in Stift Melk following the rules laid down by St. Benedict.

Pictures 1, 2, 3 and 4 – Melk Abbey

We were transferred by coach to Melk Abbey before having a tour through the abbey museum, marble hall, balcony and library before visiting the abbey church. The abbey buildings were rebuilt in the 18th century in the Baroque style and are really grand. They include the imperial state apartments where the royal family would stay when they visited.

It was an interesting museum, especially as I had no knowledge of the background of Benedictines and the guide was really knowledgeable. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take photos. The marble hall was all stucco marble with a trompe-l’œil ceiling - this is an optical illusion that tricks the viewer into perceiving painted objects or spaces as real. In this instance the illusion is that the ceiling of the hall is arched and higher than it actually is.

Picture 5 - Marble Hall Ceiling

There were lovely views from the balcony over the river valley below.

Picture 6 – View from Melk Abbey

The library was lovely as well, I would love to have a library like this in my house – they have eleven so I’m sure they won’t notice if one goes missing!

Picture 7 - Library

The last place we visited in the abbey was the abbey chapel - this was another overdose of grand, fancy, ornate, gold covered baroque architecture.

Picture 8 – Melk Abbey Chapel

Mum and I decided that we were going to walk down to the ship. Before we left we walked around the Shiftspark, or abbey gardens. It was a nice quiet walk with some pretty surroundings although there weren’t many flowers. There were some misbehaving crows however.

Picture 9 – Misbehaving Crows

From the abbey we walked down the Stiftsweq to the Rathausplatz, the main road through the town. We crossed Sankt Leopold Brücke over the Melk river and then meandered our way through the Heiratswald, which is a wooded area between the Melk and the Danube, to the ship.


This afternoon we sailed further down the Danube, through the Wachau valley to Dürnstein. The Wachau valley is one of the most beautiful and famous regions in Austria. It is similar to the Rhine Gorge, with its picturesque landscape, cultural heritage and vineyards – it does have a few less castles however…


It was a bit too hot and windy on the sun deck so I watched the ship’s progress in the lounge with the bow camera on the TV (and through the windows!). There were some impressive views – the first was the magnificent cliff-side castle at Schönbühel an der Donau.

Pictures 10, 11 and 12 – Views along the Danube

The best views were taken as we were arriving at Dürnstein. This picturesque town with its monastery’s notable blue spire is overlooked by the Kuenringer Castle. This castle was where King Richard the Lionheart was held captive in 1192.

Picture 13 – Durnstein

Once we docked, Mum and I, armed with a map complete with walk, headed into town. We walked along beside the river for a while before walking through a tunnel and up steps to the Haupstraße, the main street. Notable along this street are the New Castle, built in 1630, and the Rathaus, the town hall, built in 1547.

Pictures 14, 15 and 16 – Durnstein

We then turned down to the monastery along Klostergasse. The first monastery was built here in 1410 but was replaced by a Baroque building in the 18th century. As I mentioned above, the blue spire is a notable landmark in the Danube Valley. Close to this area are the remains of St. Clara’s Church and Nunnery which died out in 1571.

Picture 17 – Monastry, Durnstein

Nearing the end of the walk I decided to walk up to the ruins of Kuenringer Castle. I followed the signs and started on the “official” path up the 500 steps to the castle. It was hard going and rough underfoot! Mum was waiting at the bottom of the path so I had to make sure to get some nice pictures for her!!

Picture 18 – View over Durnstein

I got to the top at the castle! The castle was built in the 12th century but was destroyed in 1645 by the Swedes during the 30yrs war. Only ruins remain but there were lovely views over Dürnstein and the Danube. There were also some information boards about King Richard III and his loyal minstrel Blondel. The legend is that, when King Richard was captured no-one knew where he was being held (apart from his captors of course!). His loyal minstrel went from castle to castle in Austria playing King Richard's favourite songs. Eventually, outside the walls of Kuenringer, he heard the king join in the chorus with him. And that was how we found out where King Richard was being held! Not sure how true this is but it’s a nice story.

Picture 19 – View from Durnstein Castle

At the castle I met a group that had walked up to the castle from the ship. They had come up on a road so I joined them on the way down, to see what the road was like. It was lovely! So much better than the path I climbed up!


At the bottom I met up with mum and we went in the search of ice cream! We then tried some of the local apricot schnapps before heading back to the ship.


Tonight we set sail for Vienna.


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