Austria day 3 – mountain gorges and the Wachau Valley

With so little to do in Admont we were able to hit the road a little earlier than expected. Good thing as the drive took longer and the breathtaking views required frequent stops.

Our route took us through the Gesause National Park Alpine Region on a mountain road nestled between a rushing white water paradise and the mountain.

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From this particular stopping point, we knew we were in for a visual treat.

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Our car was full of “wow, look at that” exclamations for the next hour until the rains started. Soon we were cutting north through villages that seemed too narrow for traffic to eventually join the Autobahn and speed into Melk. And speed is right. High speeds seem the norm whether it’s a sleepy village, rain slick mountain roads or those Autobahns.

Melk Abby is the star attraction of the town and an impressive sight indeed.

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While we knew we would encounter other tourists we weren’t expecting the sheer hoards from the Viking River Cruise. What seemed like swarming masses with their giant umbrellas filled the Abby courtyard and wound through the featured exhibits. One reason I prefer off-season is the smaller crowds. Unfortunately our timing just simply wasn’t good!

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However, the Abby and church were gorgeously baroque. Elaborate gilded interiors and cherubs by the thousands filled every nook and cranny. So much gold that it became blinding.

Eventually the tourist hoards had us moving on toward our next goal – the Aggstein castle ruins. While the rains had stopped clouds shrouded the ruins offering tantalizing glimpses. After driving up the steep mountain road were luckily able to park just outside the ruins.

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The site is amazing as you can simply wander in your own, or pick up an audio guide. We did a bit of both and were thrilled to have the ruins nearly to ourselves.

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After clambering all over the castle it was time to head toward Durnstein where we’d base for the next two nights.

Our treat for this trip was the Hotel Schloss Durnstein. To reach the hotel you drive through the historic city center which is pedestrian only unless you’re a guest of a hotel. Then you squeeze your car down a tiny narrow cobblestone lane packed with tourists. Occasionally revving the engine gets the attention of the more oblivious ones.

Schloss Durnstein offers a stately exterior and interiors that provide a wow factor.

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After an extremely gracious greeting we were soon escorted to our room. What a room!

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We’ve rarely treated ourselves to a hotel like this and even though this is a “standard double/twin room” it is beautiful and such a welcome delight after last night.

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The beds are something we’ve discovered as very common for Austria and Germany. You’ll typically find twins often pushed together to form a king bed or like this, pulled a few inches apart to create two separate beds. The duvet serves as top sheet and in this case are super fluffy down plushness. And the pillows . . . . mmmmmmm, more fluffy down squishyness.

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The pool is directly below our room and with the windows open the fountain provides nice soft background ambience.

After refreshing ourselves we wandered back through the city center we terrorized with our car toward an old wine tavern just outside the city wall. A highlight of many of the meals has been the local wines. Here we enjoyed a lovely dry local wine with dinner.

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Most of our meals have been easily shared as a single entrĂ©e with an appetizer or soup. The meals here are rather large and if you don’t clean your plate the waiters seem surprised.

After dinner our room beckoned. Yet another full day and so much more to explore tomorrow!

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