Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Durnstein, Austria

We drove through Poland, and the Czech republic in order to get to Austria, about a 5 hour drive. Now a word about "vignettes". No, not the literary device. I'm talking about a road tax that you must pay, and then put a little slip of paper on your windshield as you drive through Slovenia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Austria. Additionally, if you are driving through Switzerland, Bulgaria, Hungary or Romania, which we did not, you also have to pay. It is not always obvious that this toll is required, so be attentive when you cross borders and see if people are pulling over for some type of sticker. Our friends Dorothee and Mike were subjected to a big fine going through Austria so be attentive.

So we arrived in Austria to the little town of Durnstein in the Wachau area which is part of the Danube Valley. There are many wineries in this area, and some of the best white wine that I have had in Europe. Nancy picked this town for us because it was a five hour drive out, and she knew the area. It is picturesque and peaceful.

Durnstein's major claim to fame involves Richard the Lionhearted. Barbarossa, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1188 had promised the pope that he would participate in the third crusade to retake Jerusalem. As luck would have it, Barbarossa died on the trip and infighting broke about among the leaders as to who would get the loot and who would be in control. Richard tore down the Austrian flag and this ticked off Duke of Babenberg from Austria. On the way home back to England Richard was shipwrecked off the coast of Italy. He tried to get home through Germany but was recognized when his servant attempted to pay for food with a "suspicious" Byzantine coin. He was taken prisoner and imprisoned in.....Durnstein. (You knew there had to be a point here somewhere, right?) His imprisonment wasn't too bad as he could have visitors and troubadours to amuse him. The English paid a king's ransom for him and he was returned to England in 1194 after a 2 year stay.

Richard's mother was Eleonor of Aquitaine, one of my favorite historical figures. She was strong, smart and determined. Here is a placque about her.

These plaques were used throughout town and always explained the characters using the first person which I thought was quite creative.

We again stayed in a lovely, historic hotel, the Hotel Richard Lowenherz, which was a former Augustinian monestary originally built in 1340.It was later repurposed to a tavern, and then the current owners, the Thiery family, bought it in 1884 and have managed it as a hotel since then. This is the back of the property which shows the remaining monestary wall.

This monastery, called the Durnstein Monastery was built in 1720 on a site of an older building form 1410. I loved the blue color. It was recently cleaned last summer and is like an exquisite piece of sculpture.

This is the clock tower. Lovely isn't it?

.We took a river boat cruise down the Danube to Melk. Very tranquil trip inspite of the storm.

Tomorrow, we return to Italy!

No comments:

Post a Comment