This is the third installment of our European river cruise:
We left Budapest and headed for Vienna, the capital of Austria. During the cruise program director’s port overview, we were intrigued enough to purchase an optional tour, a classical concert in Vienna. Steve and I are not known to be highly cultured folk, but being in Vienna we decided to broaden our horizons, if only for one night. We were after all in the center of European classical music, where Mozart and Strauss composed many of their masterpieces.
We were not disappointed, as we enjoyed the beautiful strains of Strauss waltzes and selections from Mozart by a small orchestra of talented musicians. The evening was topped off by opera singers and ballet/waltz dancers accompanying some of the pieces, and some added humor. Being cultured for a night wasn’t so bad after all!
I managed to record my favorite waltz of all time, the Blue Danube Waltz by Strauss. It is my favorite for it reminded me of my high school days when I danced the waltz.
Watch and listen…it gives me goosebumps each time I replay it!
An included walking tour of the city was a must for us first-timers. It was then that we got the sense and taste of Austria’s opulent past. For centuries Vienna was the seat of the Hapsburg Dynasty and center of the Holy Roman Empire, but I won’t bore you with all that. Our glimpse of the city focused primarily on buildings that still reflect 18th- and 19th-century elegance from when this place was at the forefront of the arts and sciences.
We walked around the area known as the Ringstrasse, a boulevard of grand and elegant architecture encircling the historic center of Vienna that was built in the 19th century.
A sampling of marvelous head-turning architecture:
On another optional excursion we joined a tour of the sprawling summer home of the Hapsburg Dynasty, the Schönbrunn Palace. We were forewarned this was the most visited tourist attraction in Vienna, and yes, the crowds were there! Thankfully our group got to skip the line and moved right along.
Our guide showed us just a few of the palace’s 1,441 rooms, as we heard rich stories of its former residents. We were free to take photos outside, but not in the 12 imperial apartments that we toured inside.
Our next stop was a charming city set amidst an important wine-growing region at the confluence of the Danube and Melk rivers, and at the base of the Wachau Valley.
This was a memorable stop for Steve, as some very nice people at an eyeglass store fixed his glasses for free!
The renowned Melk Abbey, rebuilt in the 18th century, was the main objective for our stop along the Danube at another UNESCO World Heritage site. Since we’d never been to an abbey, we didn’t know what to expect. This one is perched on a dramatic hilltop overlooking the Danube.
Originally a royal palace, this abbey was gifted to Benedictine monks in the 11th century. Since 1089 the monastic community of Melk and black-robed Benedictine monks have worked and lived in the restored abbey. What we saw is an 18th-century Baroque considered one of the famous abbeys of Austria. The institution currently relies on agriculture and tourist fees to support its existence.
Wachau Valley, Austria
About 24 miles of the Danube as it makes its way toward Vienna is locally known as “The Wachau.” This stretch has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its outstanding example of a riverine landscape. Our program director complemented the passage with a commentary about the region’s history and culture.
Our timing for this trip was good, as the fall foliage added much beauty to the terraced vineyards on the hills:
As expected my camera was in overdrive, and now I find it challenging to choose which pictures to include in my post!
Note: In every port, guests may choose to join the included tour, purchase an optional tour or go out on their own. The ship provides a map of each city, along with contact information and the ship’s location so folks can find their way back.
Next up: Grand European River Cruise – Germany