It’s our last day in Vienna, but there’s still so much to see and do in this beautiful, fascinating, welcoming city. We want to more, but we have a reservation at a hotel on the Danube, along the “romantic road.”
We packed up the night before, and woke up early this morning. We have breakfast as quickly as we can enjoy it. Of all the things left to see in Vienna, we decide on the Natural History Museum. It’s less than a ten-minute walk away, situated on the Mariatheresienplatz.
We get there just after opening time. The place is magnificent. The architecture is amazing, and it’s also amazing to realize it was designed and built in the 19th century as a museum of natural history. It’s a great natural history museum, comparing to nature museums anywhere I have been before——in many ways, exceeding them. There is a lot in English. And it’s interesting to see a different perspective from the American/British POV.
This place really shows how Vienna was a leading centre in science as well as in music, art and literature.
We spend hours there, far more than we anticipated. When we get out, we’re seriously behind schedule. I give Nic and Roxanne the cameras, and they head to the Stephansdom: Nic is intent on climbing the higher tower.
I head for the car rental agency. I have reserved a crossover SUV from Sixt. The rental agency is in the Hilton hotel, at the U-bahn station that is the first one we got to when we arrived. It seems unavoidable.
Stangely, the Hilton does not have wifi available in the lobby. Poor show, Hilton!
Of course, when I get to the Sixt agency, the lady tells me that she can’t give me the car I reserved. The logic is this: I’m picking up the car in Austria and will drop it off in Switzerland, so the car has to have German licence plates. How can you argue with that?
Sixt upgrades us to a BMW 530d. “Oh, well,” I say. “I guess I’ll take it.” We all have to make sacrifices.
On the way back to the hotel to meet the family, I pass the Greek embassy. There’s one armed guard standing outside, scowling at passers-by.
I meet the family back at the hotel and we head out. it’s not that hard to find the highway—sorry, Autobahn. There is traffic that you would find in any big city, but it moves. Fast. We did not encounter a single traffic jam.
Outside the city, we stop for a fast lunch. To try to make up time, we stop at McDonald’s. Yes, I know. But it was the only fast-food place we could find near the highway, and we really did want to catch up on some of the time we were behind in our itinerary. At least it was cheap, only 10 euros. But coffee, and a gooey dessert for Nicolas, costs more than that.
The drive along the Danube, especially along highway 3 from Krems has been the best part of the day. There are little towns that mix buildings from the medieval to the modern age, but nothing clashes, nothing seems out of place. There are long stretches of park or at least open access to the river. And despite the history I’ve learned, I don’t see a lot of shipping on the Danube. We saw one barge pushing another upriver, and later, we see a cruise boat taking tourists downriver.
We stop at a park to dip our toes in the great river and watch some people standing in canoes. The Danube, just to destroy a myth, is not blue. It’s actually green.
We’re in Oberloiben, home to several small wineries. We enter one to taste the local produce. The owner, or maybe it’s the owners’ son, brings us several samples of gruner wines of various levels of quality. We can have as much as we like, to decide which bottle to buy. While we wait, Garfield the cat hops onto Roxanne’s lap and settles down.
Our destination is the town of Durnstein, which is surmounted by the ancient Burg Durnstein, where Richard the Lionhearted was imprisoned. But the road along the Danube goes through a tunnel under Durnstein, so we almost miss the town.
Our hotel is the Gartenhotel and Weingut (garden hotel and vinyard) Pfeffel Durnstein, which is about two kilometers upriver from the town of Durnstein. Getting in means driving through a narrow tunnel under the rail line that follows the river. It’s a new place, lots of white and big, flowering bushes. High cliffs loom up right behind it.
The room, though, is a little disappointing. It’s big enough, but the third bed is another pull-out. All the furniture looks like 1980s American Motel. There’s free wifi in the lobby, though.
It doubles as a spa, and the common areas look like it. Before supper, we head up to the spa, which is on the top floor, almost merging into the cliffs behind us. Here is the first stainless-steel pool I have ever seen. It’s very pleasant to dry off on a chaise lounge and watch the river flow by.
The restaurant/breakfast room is bright with a wall-length window and a big terrace. It’s nice, and the food is very good, but it’s pricey.
I think if I were to come this way again (and I really hope I do!) I’d stay in one of the hotels in the town itself: the Richard Lowenherz (Richard the Lionhearted, who was imprisoned in the castle above the town) or the Sanger Blonder (the minstrel who rescued him), both of which get good reviews in TripAdvisor.