Yesterday our school took us on a field trip to the Wachau region of Austria. I am sure glad they printed us out an itinerary or I would never remember all the things we did!
The Wachau region is the part of the Danube river valley stretching between the cities of Melk and Krems.
We started out our day early in the morning on the south side of the Danube, heading to Stift Göttweig. Stift means monastery or abbey in German. Stift Göttweig is a Benedictine monastery built in the 11th century. However, the abbey church was built much later during the Baroque period. This monastery is famous because the first known German language poet lived there. We only had a short time to explore here, but we were able to enjoy the mix of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architecture.
Our next stop was Stift Melk, the largest monastery in Austria. The surviving Baroque monastery was built in the early 18th century. (The Baroque stuck around longer in Austria than in other countries.) Here we visited their unique museum. My favorite part was the library; there were old books lining the walls floor to ceiling. Apparently there are 85,000 books in the collection with 2,000 of them handwritten between 800-1400 CE. We also went inside the Klosterkirche or cloister church; it was the most gaudy church I have ever seen. The walls were covered in decoration with tons of gold-plated figures!
After visiting Stift Melk we crossed the river to the north side of the Danube. We had a picnic here on the banks of the river in a village called Aggsbach. We enjoyed the sunshine while playing on the playground and skipping rocks in the river.
After lunch we hopped back on the bus and went to Willendorf, a small non-touristy village. We walked up to the discovery site of the Venus of Willendorf, the oldest figural sculpture ever found (approx. 25,000 to 30,000 years old). Although the sculpture is actually on display in the Natural History Museum in Vienna, they have erected a large-scale replica of her at the discovery site.
Next we headed to Dürnstein for a small hike up a mountain. At the top of the mountain are the ruins of the castle where Leopold V held King Richard the Lionhearted for ransom after the crusades in the late 12th century. Apparently the English paid the ransom and Leopold V used the money to build the entire city of Wiener Neustadt south of Vienna. When we got up to the top of the mountain, we climbed all over the ruins and looked out over the whole region of Wachau. It was a great way to end our whirlwind tour of Wachau. Before heading back to the bus, Andrea and I went wine tasting at the little shops in Dürnstein. Wachau is well known for its Grüner Veltliner wine and I ended up buying a dry white wine for only 7 Euro. It’s delicious!
It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday and now I hope today will be a bit lazy to make up for it. Because I can’t upload any more photos to Flickr, look at my pictures by clicking here.