My Kremser Experience

IMG_0181
Statue (1682) to returning crusaders

Stunning medieval architecture and extraordinarily beautiful countryside is found throughout Lower Austria. Captured in photos of Aggstein, Durnstein, Rosaatz, and Melk I have shared on Facebook many of the old structures, castle ruins, monuments, stone-terraced vineyards, and the picturesque Danube River that make the World Heritage Site of the Wachau Valley unique and special.

While many find the charm of Austria to revolve about Vienna, I have opted for a more rural area in which to holiday for the past three months. My residence has centered on Krems an der Donau, maybe the oldest of communities in all of Austria. Here people are referred to as “Kremsers.”

Part of the Rathaus 1452
Part of the Rathaus 1452

Located down river at the end of the Wachau Valley, the town of 25,000 inhabitants even today remembers and celebrates ancestors from the Middle Ages and their influence in creating Krems. The town is very long on memory, pride, and tradition including personal dress, food, wine, religion, and music.

In this blog I am primarily sharing photographs. While I can tell stories, the photos speak! They shout of the history and pride that Kremsers feel for their community, their ancestors, their architecture, their food and drink, their traditions…their way of life.

As I enjoy a slice of cinnamon-sweet apple strudel at my favorite outdoor cafe, I pause to listen to the chimes of the Steiner Tor. I hear the commuter trains in the background. I see lovers holding hands and smell roasted coffee which beckons me to sip a caramel latte. I hope you enjoy my reminiscences about Krems and can envision the beauty that makes Krems a wonderful place to feel the past while in the present.

Old Testament scenes etched in 1561
Old Testament scenes etched in 1561

I have deeply absorbed Krems’ preservation. It is there for the taking by Kremsers, me, and future generations. The soul of this community is in, and its voices come from, its landmarks, traditions, and people. So gathered here is my collection of photographs that I have found particularly interesting to these ends as I explain in captions.

Medieval mural in Krems center
Medieval mural in Krems center
Bell tower in Krems Stein
Bell tower in Krems Stein
A typical Krems street
A typical Krems street
A favorite stop for coffee and strudel
A favorite stop for coffee and strudel
House built in 1210
House built in 1210
The status Simandl is about the hen-pecked husband begging for the house keys so he can stay out late with the boys
The statue “Simandl” is about the hen-pecked husband begging for the house keys so he can stay out late with the boys
Typical alley in Krems
Typical alley in Krems

Advertisements

Nude in the Sauna

Hello, friends! I thought that the title of today’s blog may catch your interest and bring you here to find out what I have been up to!image4

Last week I ventured by train to the foothills of the Alps to the town of Semmering in Lower Austria. As you may recall, I don’t have a car anymore and I have been walking everyday since I arrived in Mijas Pueblo, Spain in October.

image9The walking has built up my leg muscles and that really paid off as getting to my hotel at 3000 feet required a hike on highway and following marked trails through the woods. With backpack and water, I set out for the Hotel Panhans from the Semmering train station in what seemed to be at a minimum a 30 degree angle (which I am sure it isn’t). Had I not been doing so much walking since my arrival in Europe, it is questionable if I could have completed the trek. But I did! On arrival it was wonderful to relax with a coffee and some strudel.

I found Hotel Panhans on a web travel site and really didn’t know anything about it. On arrival I could tell that this was going to be special, image6Everything was spotless and well maintained. The staff provided service the way one would imagine it to be at a first class hotel from the 1800’s… which is exactly Hotel Panhans! My room was front-facing and the view of the mountains was breathtaking from my over-sized balcony with table and chairs on a tiled floor. The hotel has wonderful accommodations for their guests. One feature is the spa with sauna, pools, etc…. Actually there are three saunas and three pools each set at different temperatures.

When I went into the sauna I wore my swimming trunks without giving it a thought. I spread my towel on the hot wood planks and immediately the sweat oozed from my forehead and then the rest of me as my body began to turn pink. So this is what it feels like for a salmon to bake on a plank! Soon others arrived BUT none of the six people in their 30’s had anything on! I mean not a stitch! I was a bit uneasy and the heat in the room wasn’t just caused by the sauna’s thermostat settings! I found it difficult to find a place to fix my eyes and not be offending anyone! Soon I left and came to learn that in many places in Europe that my experience was not unique and that wearing something wasn’t considered to be appropriate. Who knew!

image5So that’s my story today from the mountains in Semmering where food delicacies abound and are complimented with new experiences in the sauna!  Semmering is a beautiful, fairy tale place and I am enclosing above a panoramic photo of the view of the mountains from my balcony.

Wine, Pork, Apricots, and Apple Strudel in Lower Austria

IMG_0358
Danube River in the Wachau Valley

Lower Austria is a state in Austria where the Danube River flows through the country. The state is in the northeastern part of Austria and is named “lower” to indicate elevation which is lower than in the mountainous regions of the country. I am presently residing in Krems which is at the end of the Wachau Valley in Lower Austria and have previously documented the beauty of the region in other blog posts.

In this entry I want to tell you more about the food and wine. Food and wine are very serious topics for which there is great pride in heritage, taste and visual effects. Principle meat products in the region come from pigs. Beef is extremely expensive. In addition, chicken is available but overall pork wins out as the primary dietary meat component. Roasted and smoked pork products are in huge demand and are sold in grocery stores, markets and are everywhere during festivals. Pork is on every menu and it appears to me to be in just about every lunch and dinner. I like eating the roast pork and schnitzel.

FullSizeRender (13)
Terraced Vineyards in Spitz, Austria
220px-Gruener_Veltliner_Weinsberg_20060909
Gruener Veltliner Grapes

Wine is sacred in the Wachau Valley! Vines are grown all along the Danube River in the terraced slopes on the hillside in the Wachau. The stone terraced slopes (pictured) are traditional everywhere in the Wachau.¬†Gruener Veltliner (picture copyright Wikipedia) is the main grape grown here and makes up about 35% of Austria’s wine production. That is more than any other grape in the country. It dates back to Roman times and makes a dry white wine that white wine lovers enjoy… I personally prefer a red.¬†I have been on two winery tours since arriving in Austria and they were both very worthwhile. In the tours you obtain a sense of the wine production methods, quality control and how intensely important wine production is to the people who live in Lower Austria.

marillehupft_neu
Apricots (marilee) are another main crop in the Wachau Valley. They were introduced to the region before the Romans arrived, more than 2000 years ago. While wine grapes are mainly grown on the slopes of the left bank of the Danube, the largest apricot growing region comes from the right bank near Rossatz. The area orchards are often referred to as the “apricot mile.” So far, I have enjoyed the jam and liqueurs that are made from them. Soon, though, there will be an abundance of fresh apricots on sale everywhere here. I will be stuffing myself with them!

Just as wine is sacred to the residents of Lower Austria, apple strudel is sacred to me!!! Every restaurant and bakery has an abundance of sweet apple strudel, served warm and enhanced by vanilla sauce and / or real whipped cream. I enjoy the strudel any time of the day but especially at breakfast with a nice, aromatic coffee. Frankly, I haven’t found an apple strudel that I didn’t enjoy!

That’s the update from Austria today. I hope you enjoyed my observations about local wine and foods!