Reflections in Photos of My Austrian Summer

This statue in Krems is called
This statue in Krems is called “Simandl.” It is about the hen-pecked husband begging for the house keys so he can stay out late with the boys.

In three weeks the time on the clocks will change here in Central Europe and we will be on “Winter Time.” Summer has come and gone as I spent much of it exploring Austria on holiday and in two weeks I return to Spain.

A grand Danube River View from Aggstein Castle in Wachau Valley
A grand Danube River View from Aggstein Castle in the beautiful Wachau Valley

I have most recently been living in a small village in Wolkersdorf but my travels have taken me far and wide throughout the country to Krems, Horn, Melk, Tulln, Semmering, Salzburg, Graz, Innsbruck, Villach, the Wachau Valley, and Vienna. Many of these beautiful places, people, and artwork have been captured in photographs that I have shared on Facebook, blog entries and in messages to friends and family.

It is both happy and sad to be returning to Spain in two weeks. I have greatly enjoyed my holiday in Austria and with Winter cold and snow coming and the time change bringing darkness earlier in the day, I am anticipating the warmth on the Costa del Sol and friends there. I will miss the people I have met in Austria, the confectionaries, lattes, apple strudel, wiener schnitzel, and this distinct culture that I have appreciated.

In Salzburg, Pegasus in Mirabell Gardens. It was also in The Sound of Music 50 Years Ago
In Salzburg, Pegasus in Mirabell Gardens. It was also in The Sound of Music 50 Years Ago

Today’s blog is all about places I have captured in photos while in Austria. I hope you enjoy them!

Melk is at the beginning of the Wachau Valley and is also on the Danube River. It's famous Benedictine Stift Melk Abbey dwarfs the little town.
Melk is at the beginning of the Wachau Valley and is also on the Danube River. It’s famous Benedictine Stift Melk Abbey dwarfs the little town.

My initial stop in Austria was in Krems an der Donau. It is one of the oldest settled communities in all of Austria and was an excellent place to begin my Austrian holiday. Many people speak English in all of Austria but especially in Krems. I wrote a few entries in my blog about Krems but my favorite one is here. Following Krems, I stayed awhile in Melk. In Melk I particularly enjoyed the park at the Abbey and wrote about my Melk holiday. Krems and Melk are the bookends of the Wachau Valley. Famous for apricots and grapes for wine, the Danube River flows through the Wachau passing many small villages with Spitz, Durnstein, Rossatz, and Emmersdorf among my favorites. The castle ruins at Aggstein are in the Valley and well worth the visit. I wrote about Aggstein and its famous “Little Rose Garden.” I especially enjoyed visiting the ruins during a Renaissance festival and loved the food and writing about my visit to Aggstein.

Lake Wolfgang near Salzburg was in the opening scenes of the movie
Lake Wolfgang near Salzburg was in the opening scenes of the movie “The Sound of Music.”

A beautiful view of the Alps in Bavaria from Eagle's Nest
A beautiful view of the Alps in Bavaria from Eagle’s Nest

In many of the places I have mentioned I went by train and boat to visit towns and cities in Austria. Most notable to me was Salzburg and is certainly one of the places I want to visit again someday. Salzburg is the location for the movie “The Sound of Music.” The scenery in the mountains and lakes is stunning and in the mountains one cannot help hearing Julie Andrews singing “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” While in Salzburg I visited Hitler’s “Eagles Nest” where the beautiful mountain views take your breath away. I wrote two blogs about my visit to Salzburg and Eagles Nest. One can’t help but to be inspired to write in these places with beautiful skies and spectacular peaks.

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Schönbrunn Palace, the Summer residence of the Hapsburgs

Johann Strauss in beautiful Stadtplaz in Vienna
Johann Strauss in beautiful Stadtpark in Vienna

I have taken so many photos that it is always difficult to determine which to include in any blog or to post on Facebook. Staying in Vienna presented a problem in that there are so many places one wants to visit and if I were to reflect on them all, the blog would be way too long. The city offers so much… classical music by Strauss and Mozart among others, opera, historic, beautiful monuments and architecture, and wonderful food and drink. I narrowed my photo selections to a few and decided to write about the “City of Dreams” from a perspective that focused on present day Vienna as dreams that have been realized. There are also memories in Vienna that are sad such as the 65,000 Jews who never returned during the Holocaust, the NAZI annexation of the entire country during World War II, and the oppression by the occupying Russian forces following the war. Vienna was also the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and there are wonderful and sad stories throughout the history of the Empire. These are captured in the numerous museums throughout the city.

A Wachau Vally trail marker
A Wachau Vally trail marker

Hiking along the Wachau Valley Trails brings you to many of the famous places I have mentioned previously. There are many selections of trails to take and one can always find solitude and reflection somewhere in the Wachau. Surprisingly often you find yourself in one of many vineyards. The grapes from the Wachau are particularly desired for making Gruner Veltliner wine which is loved throughout Austria and Germany.

An original 14th century walkway to the Danube inside the Durnstein walls
An original 14th century walkway to the Danube inside the Durnstein walls

Two of the towns in the Wachau Valley are Rossatz and Durnstein. Each are known for many things but my adventures were often focused on taking photographs, eating different foods, learning about history, and tasting wines.

Rossatz early in the Summer
Rossatz early in the Summer

Rossatz in particular is quite beautiful. Located across the river from Durnstein in the Valley, the town is often identified as the heart of the Apricot Mile. In the Summer when apricots are ripe, they are for sale everywhere. In addition to fresh apricots, apricot dumplings are particularly popular. There are all sorts of drinks and syrups made from apricots. But in Rossatz I enjoyed its quiet charm. Many just don’t know about it and the serenity found there in the vineyards, throughout the community, and along the beach. That’s right, there is a beach on the Danube very close to Rossatz. It also turns out that there are several along the Danube.

The Jester in Villach
The Jester in Villach

My excursions have taken me to many fascinating places in Austria and I have captured some of those memories in this blog. I enjoyed my Summer holiday very much and look forward to returning sometime and reliving many of the memories that I have described and many more. So for now I will say “Auf Wiedersehen” from Austria as I plan my return to Mijas Pueblo, Espana, later this month.

Are You “Regular?”

Okay, everyone… I am sure this is a topic that few blog about and I do understand the very personal nature of the subject. I will endeavor to keep this blog story at an appropriate level of discretion.

I am certain that many of you recall TV commercials in our youth about Ex-Lax,  the likely parental discussion we had as children about what it meant to be “regular,” and the specific purpose of a laxative. I recall my dad putting it into terms that I would readily understand… “A laxative helps make you poop!”

Indeed throughout our lives, we of a certain age have learned that our bodies respond to different FullSizeRender (24)foods in curious ways. Gone are the days in which we discuss these effects only attributed to prunes! Some could say there is a movement beyond that created by prunes. The laxative responses we get to various fruits and other foods leads me to conclude that doctors and others giving medicinal advice have their favorite remedies to keep us “regular.”

In February I had hernia surgery in Spain. My care was excellent and very efficient. That is certainly a topic for another blog as my surgical experience was quite different from what is done in the U.S. Regardless, the prescription from the Mijas town doctor following surgery was to eat two kiwis a day even though I told him that orange juice would work just as well! He is a determined, friendly man so I enjoyed two kiwis a day as well as a glass of orange juice!

My fresh apricots
My fresh apricots

I have discovered a new fruit that also does the trick!! It was a bit difficult to narrow it down as there is currently an abundance of fresh strawberries and cherries at the end of their season and the beginning of apricot time in Austria. However, through process of elimination (I proudly chuckle at my choice of words) I have found the magical properties to exist with apricots! Yes, they keep me “regular” and running (I chuckle once again) to the nearest toilet. Last week as I enjoyed fresh apricots, apricot dumplings, apricot liquor, apricot jam, and so on, I made sure to always be aware of the location of the nearest toilet…just in case!

Fresh apricots (“marille”) are wonderful and abundant now in Austria.They are sold at weekly town markets in Melk, Spitz and Krems,  in grocery stores, and in roadside stands throughout the Wachau Valley. What a special time to be here and experience the “Apricot Mile” near Rosaatz! I hope you enjoy this story…and I send along my wishes for your regularity!

Apricot Dumplings
Apricot Dumplings

My Melk Holiday

Melk Abbey towers
Melk Abbey towers

I extended my stay in the Austrian Wachau Valley where I am now exploring in and around the town of Melk an der Donau. Melk is at the beginning of the gorgeous Wachau Valley with the Danube River running through it. The Wachau extends about 35 kilometers down river to Krems. Melk is a small community of about 5000 and is dominated by the picturesque 11th century Benedictine Monastery, Melk Abbey (German: Stift Melk).

The Abbey is the principle tourist destination for the numerous Danube River cruise tours that tie-up here enroute from Amsterdam and elsewhere to Vienna, Budapest, and beyond. My apartment is in the older part of the town with the massive Abbey immediately behind me.

Overlooking the Danube, the Melk Abbey has a long history. It was founded in 1089. You can read more about the Abbey and the history of Melk here. For now, though, I am going to share with you some of my pictures and my observations.

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Melk Abbey sitting above the Danube River

The town has a rich history and the town government provides numerous placards (in German and English) throughout Melk that provide the tourist with a great deal of information about the early inhabitants, their relationship to the Catholic church, the influence of the reformation, the first ruling dynasty in Austria, the impact of World War II, the buildings, the town growth, and the flooding of the Danube in recent times as well as the recording of the massive flooding in 1501.

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From the 13th century when bakers sold their wares from this little building

Melk is a chameleon. It takes on a typical tourist hot spot in the daytime as tourists flock to the Abbey. There are many places to have a coffee as well as a good wine and schnitzel. In the evenings, however, the tour groups from the river boats are mostly gone and those in town are residents and numerous bicycle riders who have stopped for the night.

Weekly there are band concerts with participants in traditional Austrian dress playing music on the Rathausplatz. This is when the community just sits back and relaxes with a large beer-in-hand and listens to the music and occasionally sings along.

Abbey tourists enjoy the massive old library, paintings of royalty and old world leaders, statues, and the beautiful artwork of the church interior. The Abbey is beautiful both on the interior as well as the exterior. With a bit of luck you can hear musical rehearsals which in themselves are spectacular. But for me, the exterior gardens are quite special and a place that is often overlooked by the tourists who are visiting with very limited time to absorb the grandeur of the Abbey, the town and the area.

I have found the groomed walkways in the Abbey gardens to be nice but the peace and solitude FullSizeRender (22)found in the garden woods is very special. The smell of evergreens add to this place high over the Danube River flowing by. It is an ideal spot for me to contemplate, listen to nothing except for a few birds and the breeze in the trees. It is a great place to relax in the shade… my next destination.

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My Kremser Experience

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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

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

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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.

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Terraced Vineyards in Spitz, Austria
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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.

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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!

The “Little Rose Garden” of the Wachau Valley

My travel adventures have taken me throughout the United States and every continent. I have fond memories of the terracotta soldiers in China, huge tortoises in the Galápagos, Uluru in Australia, penguins in Antarctica, going inside the Great Pyramid in Egypt, walking around Stonehenge in England, and many more! But I must say that the Wachau Valley in Austria with the Danube River flowing through it is certainly the most beautiful location I have ever visited.

Yesterday, I journeyed to the heart of the Wachau Valley, reminiscent of complicated journeys of the past by tour boat, car ferry, hiking, and bus. The journey itself took plenty of time, particularly when I found myself on the wrong side of the Danube (thus the need for the ferry)! But my digression leads me to the heart of this blog when I visited Burgruine Aggstein, the castle ruin high atop a mountain overlooking the river. There is a fantastic aerial view of the castle by going to this link.

There is a medieval event at the ruins at the moment. People are arriving in costumes and there are tents where people are selling food, drink, medieval-looking toys, jewelry and many other things. My goal was to tour the castle, which I accomplished. However, I also ate a hearty meal of roasted ham, grilled cabbage, and a dough ball that contained I know not what except for the horseradish that lingered through the night!

It is believed that the castle was constructed in the 12th century on a natural rock formation. It is located approximately 300 meters above the river and has excellent views of the river in either direction. The strategic value was to excise bounty from the merchants as they moved their goods past this point by boat. For example, the castle dungeon held many until a handsome ransom would be paid! You can learn more about Aggstein by clicking this link.

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Aggstein Chapel
The castle contains interesting places such as a blacksmith shop, bakery, chapel, etc…but the title of this blog is about the “little rose garden” of owner Jorg Scheck who acquired the castle in 1429. He was a very brutal person. He is someone you just didn’t want to mess with as those he determined he didn’t care for soon found themselves on a rocky outcrop high on the mountain. It is about 1 -2 meters by 7-10 meters. Prisoners had a choice from this perch. They could starve as they were exposed to the elements or they could jump to their death from this steep cliff. Scheck was a cynical person and referred to this outcrop as his “little rose garden.”

The "little rose garden" with a prisoner contemplating his fate
The “little rose garden” with a prisoner contemplating his fate

Rose Garden Entrance
Rose Garden Entrance
I have included a photo leading to the rose garden through the thick castle wall. Note the carved out steps worn smooth over the centuries. And also pictured is the rose garden itself.

Many visit the Wachau Valley but river cruises may not stop at a place convenient to visit Burgruine Aggstein. This is really too bad. If you come to the area, this is one place to not miss.

Inside Aggstein
Inside Aggstein

The Architecture is About the Lines

Hello, Friends.

The past few days as I roamed through parts of the Wachau Trail in Austria, I came to realize that I am taken not only by the beauty of the buildings and ruins but also by their simplicity and unique architectural lines. As I see these buildings with lines that are not straight, have bulges, and often lack symmetry, I understand that I am finding them to be very beautiful. I look at the craftmanship that has gone into the buildings and see works of art.

imageFor example, today I enclose two photos taken in Durnstein and Krems. One is of a Krems house that was built in 1210 and the other is ruins from the Durnstein Castle built in the twelfth century. IMG_0248Notice the lack of symmetry in the house and imagine the castle ruins taking structural shape based on the rocks high in the mountain overlooking the Danube River.

Of course there are architecture representations where engineers of the day constructed buildings that have almost perfect lines, like the Steiner Tor built in the fifteenth century. This photograph isn’t mine as I just can’t seem to capture it well. But it is beautiful at the western entrance to old Krems.

IMG_0271There are numerous statues in Krems many IMG_0181of which are depictions of religious figures. One that I have not yet learned about was constructed in 1682. It appears to me to be an old knight, possibly from the crusades. Crusaders traveled this way.

Signs of Spring are everywhere now! The apricot trees are in bloom and soon the millions of grape vines will be growing again on the Wachau Valley slopes on both sides of the Danube River. Both apricots and wine are specialty products in this area and I am looking forward to enjoying them throughout the Spring and Summer.

One last photo for today is taken from the castle ruins in Durnstein. King Richard I of England was imprisoned here in 1191 on returning from the crusades. The castle overlooks the river valley below, the town of Durnstein, and the numerous vineyards. The Wachau Valley is a very beautiful place!

All for now!

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