We straggled onto our busses for the short ride to the town of Melk situated below the abbey on the Danube. If we had still been on the Maria Theresa, our ship would have been docked there. Then we would have gone on to dock at the ancient town of Krems. Our original tour choices for the day had been a visit to Melk Abbey, which we had just finished, a farm day tour to the pretty little town of Weissenkirchen, or a bike ride along the Danube.
Unfortunately we were not able to chose options two or three this day. The Ramblers enjoyed Melk Abbey but probably would not have taken this option if we had a choice. I was attracted to getting up close to the producers of the wonderful fruits and apricot products of the region in Weissenkirchen. However I did manage to get a variety of fairly priced and attractively packaged apricot gifts in the Melk Abbey gift shop; all was not lost, but still…
Instead of cruising the scenic Wachau valley in wonderful style on the MT, Uniworld had arranged a substitute cruise with a local company, Brandner and we trooped onto the Austria Princess.
It was quite nice and is reviewed well on Trip Adviser, but it was not the MT. The crew and waitstaff would do their best to accommodate the somewhat spoiled passengers from the MT but they were not accustomed to dealing with such a large group at short notice. Uniworld had contracted with them to serve us a buffet lunch, as we were by this time fairly hungry. Unfortunately as I learned later, they don’t usually serve lunch and as it turned out, they probably shouldn’t. To make matters worse, there was barely enough seating for all of us as they usually don’t carry so many passengers.
The Ramblers had not scurried to get into line and found themselves scrambling to find a place in line for the buffet. After we finally did reach the food, it took a while to locate a table where we could sit and eat what we had selected. They did serve wine and had an open bar in the dining room, so all was not lost except for the Senior Ramblers and others who don’t drink alcohol. I don’t want to be too hard on the crew of the Austria Princess. They did their best but the food was certainly not spectacular.
To make matters more difficult, the weather changed and a gusty wind blew in cloudy weather, blowing over glasses and table settings on the upper deck.
This was the best place to view the scenery. We Ramblers had sailed through the Wachau Valley on a Christmas Markets cruise. That day it was chilly and overcast, so no one went up to the top deck. To our surprise, we saw the Beatrice, the ship on which we had taken our first Uniworld cruise, pass us in the other direction. Of course we waved enthusiastically. However no one on the Beatrice knew that the people waving away were actually exiled passengers from the Maria Theresa and didn’t pay much attention to us.
Also since the Beatrice was moving at a good clip going the other way, they were soon out of sight. The Beatrice sails from Passau to Budapest and then from Budapest to Passau. They don’t go as far as the low spot in the Danube which kept us from completing our cruise.
As the Danube flows through the Wachau Valley, it is bordered by a variety of pretty little towns, resort hotels with attached campgrounds and castles. One of the towns we passed is Durnstein. It’s claim to fame is that Richard the Lionhearted was imprisoned in its castle. Durnstein is hard to miss because its church is painted blue and white rather than the more common pink or gold and white. It also has some what of a Disneyesque appeal. However, the Ramblers did miss it. The Princess must have sailed past it as we were standing in the buffet line.
We did see the well kept-up Schloss Schoenbuhel which I learned had been restored in the early 1800’s when it was nearly a pile of rubble.
It is a real castle though, and a fortress has stood on the spot since the 11th century. Not far from Melk, although not visible from the Danube is the museum that houses the famous Venus of Willendorf, the prehistoric fertility figure that was discovered near there.
It had been a busy day and we were not sorry to disembark from the Princess and climb aboard our bus. The first leg of our bus trip had been about 200 miles, but the second would be slightly shorter. According to our schedule, we would arrive in Vienna between 5 and 5:30 PM, depending upon traffic. They do have rush hours in Europe but not like those in Atlanta or Chicago. To be honest, I don’t remember just when we did get to Vienna, just that we were glad to get there. The checking in process didn’t take very long and we were soon headed to our room on the 4th floor. Although I didn’t take a picture, too tired, the Ritz Carlton building started life much earlier and when it was transformed into a 5 star hotel, the builders left some of its earlier features.
Our room was next to a sitting area paneled in dark wood with comfortable chairs and a coffee table. It seemed quite large compared to our cabin on the MT, although it was good sized. The bathroom was spectacular, all marble chrome and mirrors.
In the hallway there was a counter set up with a coffee service. It was my first experience with a Nespresso machine.
Although we were only there for two nights, I used up all the coffee capsules although we were in a city famous for its coffee. I would receive one just like it for Christmas from the Senior Rambler.
All though we didn’t feel much like going anywhere, it was a nice evening and we needed to get a bite to eat. Fortunately we weren’t that far from one of Vienna’s old style coffee shops, the Cafe Schwarzenberg which had opened in the 19th century. We carefully dodged cars, trams, scooters and bicycles to reach our destination and were not disappointed.
We both had traditional Austrian dishes which were excellent. Afterwards we headed back to the hotel. This was one night where we appreciated the comfort of our room, in spite of the fact that the Ritz has a wonderful roof-top bar which provides a view of many of Vienna’s favorite buildings.