Apricots, wine and crusaders
Our ship docked nice and early in Dürnstein, and as luck would have it we managed to have a dock on our cabin side for the first time in the trip, meaning we could look out over the vineyards to the castle high above. Somewhat disappointingly we also learned that the ship would also be departing early too, with everyone being required back on board by 10:00 am, so we wolfed down a quick breakfast and headed up on to the shore by 8:30 am.
Our walk from the ship into town took us past the vineyards of Domain Wachau. During our first trip to Dürnstein in 2014 we developed a great liking for Wachau Valley Grüner Veltliners, but we hadn’t realised until now that one of our favourites was produced right here in the old town.
As we reached the city walls, we took a right turn up into the main town. Dürnstein is a hugely popular tourist destination, despite the fact that it is very tiny – in fact for the most part the town is centred around one very small, cobblestoned street.
Dürnstein’s big claim to fame of course is the fact that the ruined castle that sits high above the town, Burg Dürnstein (meaning ‘dry rock’), was where King Richard I of England (Richard the Lionheart) was imprisoned after a dispute that arose during the Third Crusade.
Apparently Leopold V, Duke of Austria (Leopold the Virtuous) had taken offence at several actions made by his fellow crusader, and had him imprisoned upon his return. The ransom that was eventually paid for his release was used to finance the building of the Vienna city walls.
Meanwhile, back in present day Dürnstein, it was a grey morning with a persistent light drizzle, and being so early in the morning, only the most enterprising of kitschy tourist shops was open. We resisted the temptation to stop in and buy a “No Kangaroos in Austria” t-shirt or a packet of the local delicacy, “Rabbit Shit” (small, round pieces of apricot coated in chocolate) and instead continued to make our way towards the end of town.
In our previous trip to Dürnstein, Vanessa had been unable to walk properly after her infamous Salzburg injury, and had opted to stay on the boat. I had been along on a quick guided walk which hadn’t ventured beyond the large hotel at the end of the street, so I was keen to see what there was beyond.
It turns out that some of the finest homes in Dürnstein are located at this end of the town, along with some of the finest views to go with them. With the ruins of Burg Dürnstein towering above them, the houses along here are built back into the rock wall. They all look well maintained with colourful window displays, brightly painted walls, and prestige vehicles parked outside – obviously we’d found the ‘Toorak end’ of Dürnstein.
With the road starting to slope back down towards the river, and neither of us wanting to walk back uphill on wet cobblestones, we headed back into the main street, where a few more shops had started to open. We stopped at one that specialised in locally distilled spirits and homemade jams, picking up several bottles and packs of goodies for us, and for the folks back home. As the rain continued to fall, we carefully made our way back down the slope and on to the boat, in readiness for part II of our day, the cruise from Dürnstein through to Melk