Saturday, March 19, 2016

Europe 2015 Day 9 - Riding The Danube & Wachau Wine Valley

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Europe 2015 Day 9 - A Wachau Wine Valley Cycling Experience
Vienna, Austria - 2nd October 2015
It's cycling day again! Today, I took leave from my travelling companions to soothe my itchy cycling legs and went for a ride. 

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 Cycling route Krems>Dürnstein>Burgruine Dürnstein (Dürnstein Castle)>Dürnsteinerhof>Weißenkirchen>Stift Dürnstein>Krems.
And it was not just a ride in Vienna, instead I joined a cycling tour that took us on a hour's train journey to Krems to ride around the famed Wachau Wine Valley. It was a tour that took us to two medieval towns, three wineries and also a prison!

Sounds exciting isn't it.... it was!

In the morning from our hotel (Motel One at Wein Westbahnhof) I took the Vienna U-Bahn U3 train to Stephansplatz and then switched to the U1 which took me to Schwedenplatz.
On board, I noticed a blind passenger with his guide dog patiently sitting beside him. It was a heart-warming sight that dogs are allowed onto the trains here, in many other countries this would not have been possible. Thumbs up!

My destination was the Vienna Explorer shop at Schottenring (GPS:48.217113, 16.371277). The previous day. through the helpful Vienna Tourism office at Albertinaplatz, I had booked a guided cycling tour. At €59-00, it is a good deal as it includes a train ride to the Wachau region and wine tasting at three wineries.

Together with our guide Josè and the other tour cyclsist, we took a short walk to the Schottenring station and hopped onto a U4 which took us to the Friedensbrücke Station. Another short walk and we were at the Franz-Josefs-Bahnhof a major station that serves regional trains.
We boarded the "Wiesel" the inter-city shuttle train that will take us to Krems. Such an interesting name the "Wiesel", and it was sleek and fast as a weasel. Comfortable too, with double-decker coaches!

As we hit the outskirts, the sight of green vineyards with rows and rows of grape vines tug on my heart-strings.... giving me a glimpse of what was to come and making me all the more excited about reaching Krems.

At Vienna Explorer's store in Krems we selected our bicycles and helmets and were soon riding out of the town. Happy as larks we admired the structures of the town.

Some memorable moments from our ride:
Cycling along quiet rustic roads...

... and into the wine valleys. The sky is so blue and the earth so green!

Onto tracks along the Danube, the evening sun came to warm us a bit.

In the vineyards! Do I look like Maria von Trapp from the Sound of Music? No? But it was really a singing moment for me!

The vineyards crawl up the terraces to the tops of hill, a wooden hut comes in to complete the scenery.

Grapes to be seen, felt, smelt - BUT no plucking!

On a hill high above Dürnstein is the Burgruine Dürnstein (Dürnstein Castle), a castle ruin that it was once the prison of Richard the Lionheart. It's a half an hour hike to get up there, was it worth it to sweat just to see an old dilapidated castle?

On the castle wall, a new plaque show how the castle looked like back centuries ago. It was not a large castle, but overlooking the green valleys with just villages and small towns, it would have been a majestic sight.

On the hike up were metal posters depicting King Richard 1 (the one with the lion's heart who was unfortunately captured), the story of his capture and release. There even one of Robin Hood, that jolly fellow with the tight leotards who goes around with his gay friends.... oops, I mean merry men... apologies Robin - that was the other Robin, the one who hangs around with a batty chap.

Up in the castle, poor Richard was held in a small and cold stone cell; his only view out was this small window which gave him a peek of a beautiful scenery downhill which must have stoked his yearning for freedom....

... and a much, much proper and extensive view like this one of the Danube and villages spotting the valleys. Yes, I saw this as I hiked up... it was definitely worth the sweat!

Back down in Dürnstein, at the Durnsteinerhof Restaurant, a cozy meal at a warm restaurant made all the warmer by the jolly owner, Robin... oops, I mean Her Lescak.
They serve the best goulash that I have tasted so far - thick, full of spices and served with two slices of authentic, traditional bread.

At one of the shops, T-shirts shouting out " No Kangaroos In Austria!"
Do people really as that? I wonder, are there bears in Australia? Aiks... there are! ... koalas!

Somewhere along the cycling trail, a minstrel serenading a Crusader night... perhaps it;s poor Richard!

Cycled pass the Stift Dürnstein, it's bright pastel blue standing out from the earthy colours of the surrounding buildings.

Just on at the edge of Dürnstein old town, is the Weingut Domäne Wachau, it's entrance guarded by a stone bishop.

This is a wine shop / show room, it's bright, clinically clean and with shelves and shelves of different wine.

We tasted four of the renown wines - starting with the uniquely named Katzensprung.
The Grüner Veltliner Steinfeder Katzensprung is one of the most famous and most popular white wines in Austria. The wine made history when it was poured at the celebratory banquet for the signing of the Austrian State Treaty.
Next was the Grüner Veltliner which is the most important grape variety in Austria.
Our third wine, the Loinbenberg was a vintage Riesling in a broader style with ripe lemon, pear and white pepper on the palate, and notes of peach as the wine opened up in the glass. Perfect charcuterie wine.
We finished off with a Zweigelt Rose; this beautiful coral pink, onion skin colored wine offered playful aromas of raspberry, redcurrant and gooseberry backed by hints of lime and liquorice. Fresh and racy on the palate, light-bodied and very balanced.

Winery No.2 was the Weingut Hermenegild Mang right at the far end of our cycling route, on the outskirts of the Medieval town of Weißenkirche (Weissenkriche). This was a lovely place to enjoy wine, we drank in their large shady gardens, slowly sipping the wine as we took in the surrounding landscaping. This winery is a favourite with locals and tourists, and we were lucky that we were here during off-peak season; during summers the place is packed to the brim.

One of the wines we tasted, their Mang Hermengild Sankt Laurent, a 6-year old wine.

Our last winery was Weingut Brustbauer, situated just outside Dürnstein and sitting near the banks of the Danube. I like this place best of all; it's a smaller winery with a beautiful, cosy and quiet garden, peppered with flowers.

The cheerful owner, Herr Josef, with his warm smile, gives this place a personal touch. Together with his helpers, he harvest the grapes from his vineyard, crush them by hand, etc. Yes, this place with close to 600 years of history, still make their wine manually.

Their vine with a label showing their iconic cottage house with a clock on the gable end. One of the wine we tasted was their Gruner Velliner Federspiel - Durnsteiner Schiilt.
A beautiful wine, as friendly and warm as the owner.

We rode back to Krems, did a loop around town and passed this interesting pair statues of a fat man & fat woman in front of the Caricature Museum. Both of them smiling away happily, is it true, fat people are more jovial; perhaps it is look at Santa Claus!

It was a good trip - with good wine, beautiful weather, nice blue skies and great companions.
We rode back still happy as larks....
(... read more of Wachau Wine Valley Cycling at AhPekBiker's blog)

... and slightly tips like this elf.

GOOD DAY.... hiccup!

(For more photos of the day Click Here)

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