The Wachau is an Austrian valley with a landscape of high visibility formed by the Danube River. It is one of the most prominent tourist destinations of Lower Austria, located midway between the towns of Melk and Krems. It is 40 km (25 miles) in length and was already settled in prehistoric times. The architectural elegance of its ancient monasteries, castles and ruins combined with the urban architecture of its towns and villages, and the cultivation of vines are the dominant features of the valley. The winemakers of this region offer their homemade wine at the so-called Heurigen, which are wine-taverns where cold food and local wine is offered.
A well-known place and tourist attraction of Wachau is Dürnstein, where King Richard the Lion-Heart of England was held captive by Duke Leopold V. Dürnstein. Established in 1019 AD on a rocky premonitory on a gentle curve of the Danube River, Dürnstein is described as the “most romantic place for the picturesque ancient terraced vineyards and monuments in the Wachau.” It is 73 km upstream of Vienna and has now a population of 1000. This small walled town is generally known for its picture perfect scenic beauty and also for some of the residential buildings on the main street. One such building is the refurbished building of Chorherrenstift, which was originally a monastery, built in 1410 and restored in the 18th century.
Melk is another small town on the bank of the Danube at the start of the Wachau region at an elevation of 228 meters (748 ft). This ancient town is historicity linked to the Romans (as a border post) and also to Babenbergs’ times (as their strong fortress). Its large enticing popularity is on account of the Benedictine Abbey (founded in 1089 AD), perfect example of a “Baroque synthesis of the arts” which forms the western gateway to the Wachau, which is located on a 200 feet (61 m) high cliff. There is a baroque gateway at the entrance.
The historical monuments in the Wachau valley are more than 5000. Some of them are:
The Benedictine abbeys of Melk – Stift Melk (a massive baroque Benedictine monastery) and Göttweig (a monastery of canons regular).
The Schallaburg castle, a Renaissance style castle 4 km (2.5 miles) from Melk.
The Steiner Tor in Krems or Krems an der Donau, the late-Gothic Piarist church.
The Durnstein castle, and the Burgruine Aggstein. (Learn more on Wikipedia)
Gallery (click to view)