The Benedictine Monastery at Melk
The ship arrives in Melk at 7:30 a.m. and shortly after breakfast, we were taken by coach to visit Melk Abbey.
A word of advice: pay attention to where the ship is moored because after the Abbey visit, you'll have the choice of transferring back to the ship by coach or making your own way back. It's not far, but at the excitement of seeing Melk Abbey, we weren't paying attention to our return route. Do not follow the sign to the port as we did. One couple nearly missed departure time.
Another word of caution: when your tour director tells you that it's only 15 minutes back to the boat, check out his height and stride and see if you need more time!
Melk Abbey or Stift Melk is one of the world's most famous monastic sites and well worth a visit. We arrived early before 8:30 am and spent some time in the garden and its small palace next to the entrance - not to be missed. The Abbey itself contains extensive exhibition rooms, containing all manner of sacred and profane objects imaginatively displayed. One of the exhibits was an idea by Joseph II for a reusable coffin (an invention you could say "died away" without success). After the Church, the Library is the second most important room, holding some 100,000 books, including impressive manuscripts from before 15th C. to modern works.
The Abbey visit justifiably takes a while, and afterwards you can make your own way back to the ship through Melk village. It's a pretty place and this is your opportunity to stop for an espresso coffee at one of the little cafes or try some local cheeses or pastries in the shops.
By late morning, we were back on the ship (just) and sailing for Dürnstein. You'll know when you're nearing Dürnstein as a tall wedgewood blue church tower marks your arrival. The Stiftskirche has one of the finest baroque towers in all of Austria, so make sure you have your cameras ready. The town itself is about 15 minutes walk from where the boat is moored. Arrangements were made to transport passengers with mobility problems by a small train. My 89-year old mother-in-law was one of these passengers and she was treated to a tour around the vineyards into town.
Richard the Lionheart's faithful
Blondel, has Dürnstein's
best hotel named after him
Dürnstein, known as "Pearl of the Wachau", is also famous for its castle where
where the English monarch Richard the Lionheart was confined in 1192. The actual castle is NOT the one at the top of the hill in Dürnstein, but the ruins a little lower down; even some guides get that wrong! The town still celebrates Richard the Lionheart's faithful minstrel, Blondel, with the best hotel in town named after him.
Tonight was the Captain's Dinner and although everyone dressed up, it was a bit of a fizzer. Our captain might have been a good mariner but must suffer from stage-fright and did not communicate well with his passengers. Notwithstanding this, the rest of the restaurant staff and hotel manager were great and they made up somewhat for the lack of PR by the captain. For those who are used to ocean cruises, please be aware not to expect anything as fancy on a river cruise.
As you're having dinner, the ship is sailing for Vienna.