It's day three and we're back onboard the River Beatrice and continuing with my review of this fantastic river cruise down the Danube.
We awake having docked overnight in the Austrian city of Linz. Chosen by the European Union as the 2009 Capital of Culture, Linz is a vibrant city and a popular stop for musicians. During World War 2 Linz was a major industrial area manufacturing chemicals and steel for the Nazi war machine. As a result the city was quite heavily bombed.
While docked in Linz I take a day trip with the group to the gorgeous city of Salzburg – birthplace of one Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the setting for the musical The Sound of Music.
Salzburg is a very pretty little city divided by a small river. As you cross over the bridge to the old town you will be greeted by the ‘love lock’ phenomenon that started in Italy but has since spread the world over. Lovers buy a lock, write their names on it, lock to the railing of the bridge and throw the keys into the river to symbolise their eternal bond. A very romantic notion.
Today we will be visiting the famous Benedictine Abbey which has a library containing nearly 100 000 books, manuscripts and optical illusions. The Melk Abbey is simply spectacular. The paintings, murals, stucco images and ornate designs are covered in gold leaf and are incredibly beautiful. There is so much gold in this church that it radiates light throughout reflecting off every surface. As we all take our seats in the church the organist strikes his first chord. I am mesmerised by the haunting organ concert we are treated to, with the music penetrating every ounce of my being.
I catch myself humming some hymns on the bus ride back to the ship. We set sail for Durnstein at 12:30 pm, just as lunch is served.
You might be wondering if any of the guests ever get left behind? With a fair helping of free time to explore the various ports of call it is easy to lose track of time. Uniworld’s solution is to ensure that every guest has a boarding pass on hand when they leave the ship. Room key’s are swapped for boarding passes and a count is done to ensure all are on board before the sailors push the ship back and the captain sets sail.
After lunch a fellow traveller joins me for a trip to the Wachau Valley wine co-op. We taste four white wines produced in the area, there are no red wines on offer as the climate does not lend itself to producing a good red. We try the Erste Steinfeder, a deliciously light and fruity white that is quickly followed by a Gruner Veltliner Federspiel, a Riesling Federspiel and the Riesling Smaragd.
Any tipsy feelings are quickly dispelled by the cold air we encounter on our tour of the underground cellars. Thousands of litres of wine are stored in ornately carved barrels that are the size of a small garage.
Tonight’s dinner is an epicurean affair and the chefs onboard The River Beatrice have crafted a tasty menu of pink roasted rack of lamb followed by the traditional Sacher Torte accompanied by the delicious wines of the region. It must be noted that unlimited quantities of excellent red and white wine are included with your dinner every night at no additional cost. This is a very helpful inclusion as bar bills can often leave you with a credit card hangover if you’re not careful.
As dawn breaks our luxurious home away from home docks in the most famous city in all of Austria - Vienna. Shortly after breakfast we have a signature lecture by local historian Regine Neuhauser in the lounge, which sets the tone for all we will experience here.
Vienna is a city of music, coffee and pastries, and orienting yourself is as easy as finding the ring boulevard that encircles the city. On the walking tour I discover Sissi’s Rose Garden, the magnificent and imposing Imperial Palace and St Stephans Church. We also walk under the balcony where a six year old Mozart gave his first public concert.
Dinner this night is all things Viennese with the classic Wiener Schnitzel taking centre stage. The starter is a sublime south Tyrolean air dried ham with freshly saved parmesan and pickled cucumbers while the dessert of Austrian apple crumble finishes off the evening (and my waistline).
Read my next blog posting for the final days spent onboard the River Beatrice.