Day Six: Gottweig Abbey, Krems, and the Wachau Valley

If raindrops greeted our tour of Vienna on Saturday, then fog was to be our greeter on Sunday morning, October 16 in Krems, Austria. No matter where my eyes wandered, fog shrouded every view.

Our destination this morning was the Gottweig Abbey, and the ride to the Abbey was pretty, but at times the comments of our guide were hampered by the fog—“if you look over there, no, no sorry, you can’t see it.”

A fog shrouded tower at the Gottweig Abbey (Photo by Bill Pike)

And while the fog was an unwanted intruder, its hovering gray could not conceal the beauty of the Abbey’s buildings, grounds, and artwork.

Construction of the Abbey goes back to the 11th century. Like many cherished buildings, it survived a severe fire in 1580 followed by a devastating complete burn down in 1718. But the emperor at the time saw the value of the site and assigned his architect to reconstruct the Abbey.

The value in this land and buildings was confirmed again in 2001 when UNESCO proclaimed the Abbey as a World Heritage Site.

Today, the Abbey is still full of life. Forty monks provide care for the facility including its vineyards and orchards. The making of wine at the Abbey dates back to 1083.

Our tour wove us around the grounds, through assorted buildings, and a quick peak at the cathedral where a service was taking place with a guest choir.

Yes, the interior designs are stunning including the variety of artwork showcased on wall panels and ceilings. We learned the guardian angels of ceiling frescos stumbled upon a mixture of cheap bread and glue as a good tool for cleaning these beautiful artistic creations.

A ceiling fresco and a wall panel at the Gottweig Abbey (Photo by Bill Pike)

What I liked about the Abbey is that it still holds an active role in the community. The fertile land encompassing the Abbey is used by the monks to wisely harvest valued timber, row after row of grapes for winemaking, and beautiful orchards full of apricot trees. A thoughtfully designed visitor’s center and gift shop for sampling their agricultural products is a part of our visit.

One of the many products available at the Gottweig Abbey store (Photo by Bill Pike)

And one final observation about the Abbey, I sensed a serenity, a calmness up on that hilltop. Something that we could all use a dose of in the hectic pace of our lives.

After the Abbey, we had a short window of time to explore Krems by foot. For myself, if there was one regret about our Danube cruise, it would be that I wish we had more time to spend in Krems.

On this foggy, Sunday morning, Krems was still sleepy. But no matter where we looked, we loved the simple beauty and vistas we discovered. The homes, shops, and churches perched above the river were postcard perfect.

A cobblestone path in Krems (Photo by Bill Pike)

Despite not being able to spend more time in Krems, the afternoon promised to be very special. The ship would be sailing us through the stunning Wachau Valley.

After lunch, we made our way to the top deck of the ship. For almost two hours, we were treated to striking views of castles, towns, vineyards, and churches carved into the landscape on both sides of the Danube.

Our program director pointed out all of the landmarks with historical and cultural significance. Way up on a hilltop, I marveled at how an ancient castle was constructed and continued to endure for all these years.

But in truth, the land, the majestic rolling hills were the stars for me. I particularly loved the terraced vineyards, carefully planted to utilize every foot of this rich terrain.

Those grape vines were now wearing weathered leaves with blended hues of gold and yellow casting stunning images never to be forgotten by me on a perfect October afternoon.

Vineyards on the hillsides Wachau Valley along the Danube River (Photo by Bill Pike)

And seeking more perfection of the bounty found in the Wachau Valley, we headed toward the lounge where Chef Mihai would provide instruction for making an Austrian favorite, apple strudel.

We received our usual late afternoon briefing about our next stop, Linz, Austria.

For dinner this evening, the menu featured a taste of Austria, and after dinner we had the opportunity to play the game, Majority Rules.

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