If you are going on a European river cruise, you are very likely to stop at Dürnstein, in the Wachau region of lower Austria. Dürnstein is a cute village situated on the Danube river and steeped in history and charm. My travelling companion and I happily explored this place and we both fell in love with it.
The village gets its name from the ruins of the medieval Dürnstein castle on the hill which overlooks the village. In the German language, “duerr/dürr means “dry” and “Stein” means “stone”. The stone castle was dry as it is situated high above the village and the river. King Richard I of England, famously known as Richard the Lionheart was held captive here by Leopold V, Duke of Austria for apparently insulting Leopold. You can walk up to the castle but it’s pretty steep and it takes time away from looking at the village.
The area around Dürnstein is known for wine growing and you’ll see heaps of vines both on the flat of the valley and creeping up the hill. It’s a short walk into the village from the river’s dock but my friend and I decided to take a ride in one of the little carriages pulled by a cute mini train-like truck. This I recommend as it meandered around some of the surrounding vineyards giving us a good look at the countryside before dropping us off in the village. It was fun too and we laughed like kids.
I loved the quaint shops, cute buildings and the cobbled streets, laid centuries ago – much more durable (and pretty) than our NZ roads! The shops sell the most wonderful things including quaint souvenirs, apricot relishes and delicious apricot brandy as apricots are grown locally.
We visited the Dürnstein church, a former Augustinian monastery. The church has a gorgeous blue and white Baroque steeple. Apparently, the colours represent Heaven while the main body of the church is in shades of yellow and soft brown representing earth. There is a small fee to enter the church. Someone later said that the bones of St James are in the church, but I don’t know how true that is. Anyhow bones have no appeal to me.
What I really loved was that although Dürnstein was full of tourists (including me although of course I didn’t consider myself one), the village was extremely charming and friendly. The shop owners were delightful and one of them and I even shared a song together. It was quite mad really.
So, enjoy your time in Dürnstein and don’t forget to buy some apricot flavoured brandy. It’s delicious and your family and friends in New Zealand will love it on your return . . . that’s if you don’t drink it first.