Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sailing through Austria with Viking Cruises

Our third day on the Viking Embla was a much more relaxing day than the previous, though I wouldn’t trade my time in Salzburg for anything.

The first stop of the day was in Melk and Tracy decided to go visit the Abbey, which I heard was filled with beautiful art (and wine made by the priests). 

I chose to stay on the ship for a relaxing breakfast and to catch up on some work.

Tracy was back in time for our Viking River Cruise Austrian buffet lunch. It included a selection of meats such as bratwurst, as well as local wine, beer, and apricot schnapps. During lunch we were serenaded by an Austrian accordionist.

The ship sailed along the Danube River in the afternoon, arriving in Durnstein, Austria in the evening.  

We had dinner before heading out to the town. I ordered the Greek appetizer plate which consisted of perfect portions of tasty baba ganouch and hummus, followed by a wonderful Porcini Ravioli, though the beef filet was a bit two rare for me.

Tracy enjoyed the cheese plate for dessert while I had the flan and ice cream.

After dinner we were led by guides from our ship to the Domaine Wachau winery. While the guests took the tour I asked for a private tasting so I could discuss the wines in detail. 

I didn’t have a lot of experience in Austrian wines and I was very curious to see what they had.

I heard all about the winery, which has been there for more than 300 years. It had originally belonged to the monastery and is now owned by a cooperative of local farmers.

We talked about the varietals of the area, including Muscatal, Gruner, Veltliner, and Riesling. We also talked about the popularity of apricot in this area and how it was the best apricot around.

I tasted quite a few wines and I actually liked all of them. 

My favorites were the 2012 Riesling Smigel, a wonderful white peach; 2012 Gruner Veltliner, with an aroma of kiwi and honeysuckle; and the Trockenbeerenauslese, an incredible late harvest of which I purchased two bottles to take home, though I’d never try to pronounce it.

In addition to the wine, Domaine Wachau sells many other products, including jams, chocolates, and evening clothing items.


We all walked back to the ship in the moonlight. It was a chilly night, but we had a nice view of Castle Durnstein. It was once again time to retire early. I was especially eager as the next day would bring another city on the Viking River Cruise I was anxious to explore, Vienna.

*Christmas in August? Yes! I was running a bit behind and I decided to just save my Viking River Christmas Market Cruise report until summer. After all it’s a perfect time to start thinking about booking one of your own while the prices are low!


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Viking Cruises Heads to Austria with the Sound of Music

When I received my itinerary for my Viking River Cruise, this was the day I had highlighted. It was the day I was entering Austria, the birthplace of my maternal grandmother, for the first time. It was also where I would be able to see where the story of the Sound of Music actually took place. It’s always been one of my favorite films.

My friend Tracy and I were up early and headed to the dining room for breakfast. She had an omelet and I chose the blueberry pancakes with some yogurt. We enjoyed talking with some other passengers before we headed outside for our 8:15 tour.

It was a bit cold and very foggy when we got off the boat, but we were assured that it would pass as the day went on. The Viking River Cruise buses were waiting for us outside the boat to take us through the city of Linz and into Salzburg.

The guide told us about how Linz, Austria, the birthplace of Adolph Hitler, was very industrial and even though it had become cleaner, it was still always foggy. It was disheartening to hear that part of the city’s history included the fact that it was the first place to hold a concentration camp.

On the two hour trip to Salzburg, our guide also told us all about the Von Trapp family and how much (very little) we saw in the movie that was fiction. She also filled us in on the remaining family members, the most public of which own the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont.

We stopped at a rest stop to use the bathrooms and were told to meet on the side of the building to see the lake. We were able to see the spectacular views of Mondsee Lake. Behind the lake were the Austrian Alps.

The Alps were as beautiful as I remembered Julie Andrews strolling and singing through with the Von Trapp children. Over the front mountains were the actual ones in the film where “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” I know it probably sounds corny, but I relived that moment before getting on the bus and heading into Salzburg.

I was immediately taken with the town of Salzburg. It was picturesque with all that a European city should have, from cobblestone streets to cafes and bakeries.

The first thing we did was a walking tour of the city with our guide. He quickly reminded us that .50 Euro was required to use public bathrooms and I found out this was very true.

The Sound of Music is not the only thing that put Salzburg so clearly noted on the map. It is also the birthplace of Mozart and the place he was born and where he lived with his family are honored in the city.

In the park we saw more indications of the contemporary Salzburg, through modern artwork and young people in fashionable garb.

The shops and alleyways were all decorated for the holidays and I fought the urge to stop and examine each one.

Everything in Salzburg seemed to carry its own touches. Even McDonald’s had a crest over its doorway.

We had an Austrian lunch at Café Kugel with a fellow writer, Susan Kime. I had an excellent Beef Goulash with a potato ball while they both chose and enjoyed the Weiner Schnitzel. I also had some delicious Apple Strudel.

Tracy and I stopped at the Christmas Market in front of the cathedral. It is the oldest market of its kind in the Alps. We saw lots of handmade items, including many embroidered tablecloths. There was also plenty of Mozart Chocolate, baked goods, and, of course, Glὕhwein.

We had a short time to rest before dinner. We were so tired we decided not to even change.

For dinner we had some wonderful Austrian wine. I chose the Grilled Chicken with Three Sauces. It was tender and the sauces were a nice touch. Dessert was a chocolate soufflé.

In the evening after dinner, we were treated to a “Sound of Music” show with singing and dancing. It was really well done and over by 10:00 pm.

Once again, though, we were ready to go to sleep as soon as possible after a long day. Another day in Austria awaited us, this time in Durnstein and Mell


*Christmas in July? Yes! I was running a bit behind and I decided to just save my Viking River Christmas Market Cruise report until July. After all it’s a perfect time to start thinking about booking one of your own while the prices are low!