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Austria
Bohemian Rhapsody:
A Warrior, Wine And
Residents of Wien
(Dispatch #11)

Story and photos by Tom Weber

y "band of merry media" and I didn't get up at the crack of dawn today for nothing. We're back on board Insight Vacations' (Insight) luxury coach, 25 guest travel writers and photographers stretched out in business-class legroom seats, motoring away from the Czech Republic and towards Austria, the third leg on this Bohemian Rhapsody journey through Central and Eastern Europe, for a marathon day that involves an imprisoned king, a winery and a world-class city famous for its music, namesake sausage and psychoanalysis.

Insight Vacation's Hungarian Driver Karoly

Rolling through the magnificent Wachau Valley – a 20-mile gorge that carves its way through the state of Lower Austria right alongside the waltzing Danube River and is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site for its architectural and agricultural (read wine) history – Karoly, our expert skipper, brings the sleek motor coach to a full stop along Big Blue's bank on the outskirts of Dürnstein, a postcard-perfect town where the warrior in our title enters stage right.

Danube River scenes at Durnstein, Austria

As explained to us by Neira, our chatty tour director-slash-storyteller, and chronicled in just about every history book and online reference source known to man, Dürnstein's Kuenringer Castle is where Richard the Lionheart (King Richard I of England), while making his way home following the end of the third and final Crusade, was imprisoned for a while by Leopold V of Austria and held for ransom.

views of Dürnstein's Kuenringer Castle ruins

You know how the story ends, right? With actor Errol Flynn and/or Kevin Costner, as Robin Hood, gathering up the loot with the aid of his "band of merry men," paying off the ransom note and setting Richard free to rule once again. Personally, I liked TV's Richard Greene in The Adventures of Robin Hood the best.

But, I digress. We view the castle ruins from afar – via telephoto lenses – as we make our way on foot into the town.

Dürnstein, nestled in the heart of the valley, is filled with numerous photo ops along the cobble.

scenes at Dürnstein town

The combination of breathtaking scenery, traditional architecture, terraced vineyards and its mild year-round climate will make you want to linger for a while. And we do, inside Altes Presshaus, one of the cozy taverns that dot the historic center.

a Zwettler Original lager

It's lunchtime for this hungry and thirsty "band of merry media."

I'll have the goulash soup and a Zwettler Original lager, bitte.

Bellies now satisfied and whistles damp, we put Dürnstein in the rearview mirror and head for the heartbeat of the Wachau Valley, all of those vineyards.

Wachau Valley vineyards

Wine has been cultivated around the valley for centuries. The primary rock soil, an exceptional climate and hillsides that overlook the Danube combine to create excellent harvests that attract connoisseurs and epicureans in search of high-quality grape.

The preservation of this unique cultural landscape is a top priority for Domäne Wachau, one of the preeminent wine producers of Austria, and the second stop on this three-legged jaunt.

the 18th century Domane Wachau Cellar Castle at the Wachau VAlley

We're here for another Insight "signature" moment: a tour of the region's early 18th century Baroque landmark, Cellar Castle, followed by a wine tasting of some of Domäne Wachau's award-winning labels.

Eva, on-premises wine shop manager at Cellar Castle and a former chef

We couldn't be in more capable hands than with Eva, manager of the on-premises wine shop and a former chef with wine and cheese sommelier certifications.

wine cellar of the Domane Wachau Cellar Castle

She leads us into the chateau to admire the furnishings, followed by a very steep climb down a series of centuries-old staircases into the bowels of the cavernous cellar where the winery's superlative vintages lay quiet in oak barrels and barriques.

the Vinothek Shop at the Domane Wachau Cellar Castle

Back above ground, Eva marches us over to Domane Wachau's new and impressive Vinothek Shop where all of the estate's products are on display and for sale. We stop long enough to take a look around, but follow close behind her as she leads us into a large presentation room, seats us at several long tables and begins the tasting session.

wine tasting

We swirl, smell and sip four different and delightful white wines: three Gruner Vetliner and one Riesling. Wunderbar!

After an exchange of Dankeschön-Bitteschön (Thank you-You're welcome), we're back on the motor coach weaving our way out of the Wacha Valley as quickly as we can, gunning it for Wien (Vienna) as a critical 6:00 p.m. appointment fast approaches.

Insight Vacations bus

Off the bus, I grab my suitcase, pick up my room key at the Hilton Vienna Plaza, take the elevator to the third floor, pull out my business-casual outfit (sports coat, long-sleeve shirt, sweater vest and slacks), hang it up in the bathroom, jack the shower up to Mercury and steam my threads until everything is wrinkle free.

Quicker than you can say Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftcapitän (German for "Danube steamship company captain"), I'm dressed to the nines – okay, 7.5 – and back on the Insight carriage with my "band of merry media" in less than 30 minutes. Whew!

Where to?

set-up for a concert at the Auersperg Palace

Oh, just another Insight "signature" moment (the second one today) inside the elegant, early 18th century Palais Auersperg (Auersperg Palace) – where a very young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart once composed and performed for Emperor Franz Josef – for a private concert of music and dance by the world-famous Weiner Residenzorchester (Vienna Residence Orchestra).

the Vienna Residence Orchestra and two opera singers performing at the Auersperg Palace

The 12-piece orchestra, accompanied by two wonderfully-gifted opera singers (one soprano, one baritone) and a ballet couple, entertain us with flawless selections by Mozart and Johann Strauss in two acts, as flutes of champagne are poured during a short intermission.

The highlight of the night is quite a surprise when the violin soloist-slash-conductor plucks me out of the audience, hands me a triangle and makes me a temporary member of the orchestra during one of the Strauss selections. A rousing round of applause swells my head. I now hope to be addressed as il maestro by my fellow travel mates for the remainder of the trip.

Insight Vacation's Bohemian Rhapsody brochure

For complete information on Insights' premium and luxury-escorted itineraries, including the Bohemian Rhapsody and 100 other journeys throughout Europe, just click HERE, or call toll free 1-888-680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna

See you bright and early tomorrow morning when we jumpstart the day inside the Habsbergs' Viennese summer "cottage," and then call it a night on a Danube River dinner cruise as it passes by Budapest. Auf wiedersehen!

Related Articles:
Bohemian Rhapsody: Český Krumlov; Bohemian Rhapsody: Prague's Watering Hole; Bohemian Rhapsody: Prague's Old Town Square; Bohemian Rhapsody: Jewish Quarter; Bohemian Rhapsody: Crossing the Charles Bridge; Bohemian Rhapsody: Storming the Prague Castle; Bohemian Rhapsody: Na Zdraví! (A Brewery and A Wine Cellar);




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Let Tom know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Feedback for Destination Bosnia: Inside Sarajevo's Tunnel of Hope

Spent time in Sarajevo in the fall of 1973…beer was excellent!

--- David

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Hi Tom,

I must say, you're photographs are always amazing. They are top notch. You bring so much class to Traveling Boy. It's photographs like yours that make me want to go out and do my own traveling. Please don't get tired of sending us your amazing adventures. It's such a delight for the soul.

--- Raoul, Whittier, CA

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Hi Tom:

I'm also an American living in Italy. I've read with interest your blog and articles. I'd like to speak with you regarding residency and citizenship for Americans in Italy as you do seem to have a great deal of knowledge on all of these subjects. Would it be possible to give you a call on the phone? If so, please let me know how to reach you. If not, I can ask my questions via email.

Thank you!

--- David

* * * *

Hey Tom – Wow! Love those photos – they are so super that they make me A) Want to start eating NOW. B) Go there myself. C) See all that pristine beauty that looks so restful and peaceful. Great story, superb pix!!! Bravo!!

--- John, Los Angeles, CA

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Feedback for Destination Southwestern France: Saint-Émilion

Good job, Tom, and timely info. St. Émilion is in the list of places Jim Hayes and I will visit in September 2014. If we get the chance, we will exploit your experience to enhance the trip!

--- Bobby Harper, Dameron, MD

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Feedback for Vicenza Walks – Monte Berico

I lived in Vicenza for 4 years in the U.S. ARMY from 1963 to 1967. A wonderful place to explore. Palladio’s works are amazing. Have been back twice since and find new places to visit. My favorite is MONTE BERICO where I have some wonderful photos of my family.

--- Dr. Albert Pizzi, Hanover, MA

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I liked the new TB particularly the Vicenza article that took me back as a youth when we lived in Naples and travelled up there for a baseball tourney (U.S. Military Bases dependent schools played each other.)

Took me back to the plaza.

--- Bill

Feedback for A Canterbury Trail (Sutri)

Very interesting note. I have wedroned which route the early pre-Christian and Christian pilgrims travelled to Rome from England. Is it still possible to travel the Francigena trail?

--- Pawel

You can find out more info on walking tours of Via Francigena at this site: http://www.compagniadeicammini.it/en/. Thanks for stopping by and commenting..

Tom

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Good article, enjoyed reading it. Saved your recommended sights for future use.

--- Dardenne Prairie, MO

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You're going to be great at this Tom. Congrats.

--- Donna Vissa -Montreal




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