Traveling in the Wachau

After two hut-to-hut treks (Along the Gosaukamm and the Karwendel Transverse) we decided to try something more comforting to our aging bones. We had hiked over difficult terrain, slept in dormitory style bunks, and enjoyed cold water on frigid mornings. Now, we thought, we had earned a few days of easy wandering through landscapes at least as stimulating as the Alps, but not as rustic. Hot baths or showers at the end of the day, for instance, would be just fine, and I in particular, was starving for a greater variety of vegetarian food.

The Wachau – a World Heritage Region on the Danube in Lower Austria – promised all of that and more. The Wachau is a region of sublime beauty and old cultures. One of the oldest statuettes ever found in Europe, the Venus of Willendorf, was found in the Wachau just outside the town of Willendorf.

The Wachau - small towns, woodlands, and terraced vineyards border the Danube

View of a Wachau landscape from the Castle Ruins of Aggstein. Small towns, woodlands and terraced vineyards border the Danube

Between the ancient towns of Melk on the south end and Krems on the north, castles, ruins, abbeys, and medieval towns dot a landscape as rolling as the river that gives it life – the Blue Danube, the second longest river of the European continent.

Also, the Wachau has produced excellent wines since the Romans established their frontier at the Danube.  Scores of vintners grow select varietals of grape like Green Veltliner and Zweigelt.  Some people claim the Riesling was born here in the hills around Spitz, a town in the heart of the Wachau.  And best of all, as far as wine goes, throughout the year one or the other estate opens its doors and offers their new wine – the Heurigen – to the delight of locals and tourists alike.

We set up base camp in a delightful Pension in Emmersdorf, at the southern end of the Wachau and just across the river from Melk. From there we took day trips to many different places on both sides of the Danube.  We saw abbeys

Melk Abbey and the town of Melk are ancient.

Melk Abbey above the Town of Melk. Melk was founded before 831 CE; the abbey is a little younger.

and toured small towns right out of the middle ages.

We hiked up to ancient castle ruins overlooking the Danube.  The castles already stood proud above the river when King Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned in Dürnstein Castle on his return trip from the Crusades, and Schreck vom Wald (a real knight) terrorized the countryside.

Dürnstein Castle Ruins - Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned here on his return from the Crusades

Dürnstein Castle Ruins – Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned here on his return from the Crusades

Aggstein Castle Ruins loom 1000' above the Danube

Aggstein Castle Ruins, once seat of Georg Scheck von Wald, stand 1000′ above the Danube

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We wandered to small villages. Once we took a wrong turn on a hiking trip and ended up in Aggsbach Dorf with an old fortified monastery (the Wachau also has a number of churches which were fortified against Turkish invasions).

Aggsbach Dorf Kartause & Hammerschmiede

Gates to a fortified monastery with Trip-Hammer-Smithy

Along the way we sampled local vintage and Sturm – a refreshing, but intoxicating, drink of grape cider on its way to becoming wine.

Sturm - Good to the Last Drop

Sturm – good to the last drop

We also took a cruise on a river boat from one end of the Region to the other – and back.

 

The MS Austria plies the waters of the Danube with tourists on board

The MS Austria plies the waters of the Danube with tourists on board

We came back convinced that a travelling art journaling course to the Wachau would not only be possible, but highly delightful.

A Typical Breakfast Spread

A typical breakfast spread

Accommodations are relatively inexpensive – you can get a room with 2 beds, including breakfast,  for about the same price as a room for two in an alpine hut.  In contrast to hiking in the Alps, however, even the most basic accommodations come with a shower and hot and cold running water. Also, the variety of available food and drink is far greater than anything you can find in mountain huts.

So why shouldn’t we attempt to put together a travelling art journaling course to the Wachau? This is too good a place not to share with like-minded people, and it should inspire just about any person who has a rudiment of imagination.

In fact, we are now working on the elements of a point-to-point trek in the Wachau.  Technically, it won’t be a hut to hut trek. It may not even be entirely inn-to-inn.  At the moment we believe it’s probably best to stay in one place , an inn for example, and from there go on day trips with a minimum of gear. The Wachau has an excellent transportation system which makes all of it easily accessible from just about anywhere.  Nearly every inn also has a large sitting room we can use for our daily art journaling sessions.

Stay tuned for more on the Wachau. We are working out details and possible itineraries. The largest problem confronting us is what to include and what to leave out – there is an abundance of interesting places, sights and hiking trails. We also need to build in enough time for art, joy and leisure.  Anything more hectic just wouldn’t fit the mood of the Region.

If you are interested in coming to the Wachau with us,  subscribe to this site to find out about the trips and workshops we are offering as soon as they become available. You can also contact us with questions.

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Here are links to previous posts about our 2014 adventures in Europe.

Along the Gosaukamm – An Overview of the 2014 Hut-to-Hut Trek

The Karwendel Transverse: Hut-to-Hut Trekking in the Alps at its Best

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