Catholic Bling, Awesome Ruins and Really a Lot of Apricots

The daughter is home from college and brought a friend with her to visit. I offered to drive the two of them to a famous abbey yesterday. Road trip!

Traveling with college girls was slightly different than other family trips have been lately. No moaning, no groaning, no dragging anyone out of bed. Instead I was presented with itinerary, some Google maps, and printouts with background information on the sights du jour. I was also instructed to get us all to the abbey in time for an 11 AM English-language tour. Well, OK, then.

I was asked if I minded doing a little hiking to see some way cool ruins. Of course not! How old do y’all think I am, anyway?

First stop, Stift Melk. Baubles and bones, as usual, but on an impressive scale and with truly stunning views of the Wachau valley from the massive terraces. Popular with tour buses, the place was overrun by hordes of Japanese tourists, some of whom actually walked down the main aisle of the church during a service to take photos. Oy.

Next stop, the ruins of 13th century Schloss Hinterhaus, situated on a large hill overlooking the village of Spitz on the Danube. We walked up a zigzag path to the isolated ruins, which are in quite good condition and include a very spooky dungeon. (I got very weird vibes in that place—I just know bad things happened there.)

Finally, we stopped at Dürnstein to explore the ruins of a 15th century castle in which Richard the Lion Heart of England was once held captive by Duke Leopold of Austria. It was a pretty good hike on a rocky path straight up to the ruins.

Once we got up there and caught our breath, we found a lot of friendly, red-faced Australian tourists and some small, noisy and apparently unsupervised Austrian kids who were constantly in imminent danger of a very nasty fall. We were up there exploring the ruins for about an hour, and none of could ever tell who the parents of these little terrors were. Maybe they are actually feral children, emerging from the woods around the castle every now and then to harass tourists.

By the time we hiked down from the castle, my knees were informing me in no uncertain terms that they were done for the day. So, we strolled the main drag in town for a while, and bought some of the local specialities: Wachau valley wine and marille (apricots) in every form from jam to schnapps. The jam was heavenly, and the schnapps were powerful, to say the least. I believe the term “slammable” came up at one point.

I can’t wait to try the chocolate-apricot spread. Please don’t be a hater 🙂

More wineries on the way down.
More wineries on the way down.
Melk Abbey.
Melk Abbey.
Got Melk?
Got Melk?
A modern take on the history of the abbey.
A modern take on the history of the abbey.
Mixed with lots of nice paintings etc.
Mixed with lots of nice paintings etc.
And bones.  Always with the bones.
And bones. Always with the bones.
Inside the abbey church.
Inside the abbey church.
An especially graphic altar painting.
An especially graphic altar painting.
Baroque drawing room in the guest quarters at the abbey.
Baroque drawing room in the guest quarters at the abbey.
Detail from the drawing room.
Detail from the drawing room.
Very cool spiral staircase.
Very cool spiral staircase.
View from the terrace. It was good to be a monk.
View from the terrace. It was good to be a monk.
Another view from the abbey terrace over the town of Melk.
Another view from the abbey terrace over the town of Melk.
More Melk.
More Melk.
On to Spitz.  I just liked this sign.
On to Spitz. I just liked this sign.
The ruins of Schloss Hinterhaus.
The ruins of Schloss Hinterhaus.
Wineries on the way up the hill.
Wineries on the way up the hill.
View from the top.
View from the top.
The castle itself.
The castle itself.
Another gorgeous day in the Wachau Valley.
Another gorgeous day in the Wachau Valley.
The abbey at Durnberg,
The abbey at Durnberg,
The town has grown up around medieval walls and buildings.
The town has grown up around medieval walls and buildings.
There are stores selling Wachau Valley specialties all through Durnberg.
There are stores selling Wachau Valley specialties all through Durnberg.
Could be Italy...
Could be Italy…
Schloss Durnberg from the start of the trail. Yes, this was very uphill.
Schloss Durnberg from the start of the trail. Yes, this was very uphill.
And they mean it!
And they mean it!
Enjoying the view from the castle.
Enjoying the view from the castle.
View from the other side.
View from the other side.
Stift Durnberg through a gap in the castle wall.
Stift Durnberg through a gap in the castle wall.
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