Dürnstein and The Legend of Blondel


Amsterdam to Budapest River Cruise – Avalon Waterways – Day 11

Durnstein-Stiftskirche Follow Me on Pinterest

The Wedgewood blue tower of Durnstein-Stiftskirche

By late morning, we were back on the ship in Melk and sailing for Dürnstein, frequently referred to as the “Pearl of the Wachau”.

Dürnstein is only a short distance away from Melk, on the next bend of the Danube. Along this stretch of the Wachau valley, charming little riverside towns, rolling hills covered with vineyards and topped with a castle or two make up the scenic landscape. It was so relaxing that a few passengers fell asleep in their deckchairs whilst waiting for their next Kodak moment.

Dürnstein’s Iconic Abbey

You’ll know that you’re approaching Dürnstein when you see the tall Wedgewood blue church tower of Stift Dürnstein. The Stiftskirche has one of the finest baroque towers in all of Austria, and this iconic image is featured on many river cruise travel brochures. As we approached, everyone went on deck and amidst all the oohs and aahs, you could hear the cameras firing away.

Dürnstein Castle

Another landmark that Dürnstein is famous for is the Dürnstein Castle on top of the hill. This was where Richard the Lionheart was supposed to have been held captive during the Third Crusade.

Dürnstein Town

Dürnstein Town centre is about 15 minutes walk from where our ship was moored and as such most passengers walked into town. Our very thoughtful cruise director made arrangements for a small tourist train to transport passengers with mobility problems into town.

Wachau vineyards Follow Me on Pinterest

Wachau valley vineyards

Tony’s 89-year old mum was one of these passengers and she was treated to a tour around the vineyards into town. The Wachau valley is a well-known wine growing area and the Grüner Veltliner is the most prominent white variety followed by Gemischter Satz and then Riesling.

Exploring Dürnstein

Dürnstein Follow Me on Pinterest

Medieval Dürnstein

As the seat of the powerful Kuenring dynasty, Dürnstein was an important fortified town during the medieval period. As we walked around the narrow but picturesque streets, we were painted a medieval picture of wealthy traders or ruthless robber barons, crusaders, merry abbots, ship captains and ordinary town folks milling around the small square doing their business or going to the monastery wine cellars.

The town is only small and there are nice gift shops to browse in or heurigens at which to taste some Wachau wine. We didn’t spend too much time exploring as we had Tony’s mum with us and she wasn’t keen on the cobbled streets.

The Legend of Blondel

Dürnstein is also famous for its castle where the English monarch Richard the Lionheart was held captive. According to the legend, it was during the Third Crusade that King Richard had offended Duke Leopold of Austria by throwing the Austrian flag from the walls of Acre. Richard was also accused of plotting the murder of Leopold’s cousin. As the story goes, King Richard was returning from the Third Crusade and due to a storm he had to make the journey inland through Austria which he did under disguise.

Dürnstein Castle Follow Me on Pinterest

Dürnstein Castle

Unfortunately, he was recognized, captured and held in the Dürnstein fortress for three months. His faithful minstrel Blondel traveled through half of Europe trying to locate his master. He would sing the first verse of King Richard’s favourite song under the battlements of each castle he came to. When Blondel did his usual first verse in Dürnstein, he heard the second verse being sung back from the castle and knew that he had found the king.

A ransom of 150,000 silver marks had to be paid to secure Richard the Lionheart’s release. Whatever the real truth of the King’s captivity and release is, most people like the romantic Blondel story. Dürnstein still celebrates Richard the Lionheart’s faithful minstrel Blondel, with the best hotel in town named after him.

Actually, Richard the Lionheart was also imprisoned at Trifels Castle, but for convenience of the legend, only Dürnstein Castle is mentioned.

Captain’s Dinner

Tonight was the Captain’s Dinner and although everyone dressed up for the occasion, it was a bit of a fizzle. Our elusive captain may be a good mariner but he was either unsociable or shy of people and did not show in spite of this being the second attempt at a Captain’s Dinner. Notwithstanding this, the rest of the restaurant staff, the hotel manager and restaurant manager were great and they made up somewhat for the lack of PR by the captain.

Note: If you’ve been on ocean cruises, you’ll most certainly need to tone down your expectations for the Captain’s dinner on river cruises.

As we were having dinner, the ship sailed for Vienna.

Photos of Dürnstein: Dürnstein Photo Gallery

Next page: Vienna

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