Durnstein, Austria

Dűrnstein, Austria

The Baroque city of Dűrnstein, Austria is located in the Wachau region of Austria, a well-known wine growing region. Its name comes from the medieval castle situated on a rocky hill above the Danube. In German, “Dűrnstein” combines words that mean “dry” and “stone.” The ship’s cruise manager led a walking tour of this tiny place. King Richard I Lionheart of England was held captive in the castle by Duke Leopold V of Austria after a dispute during the Third Crusade. A tall May pole decorated with a fir tree above a hoop of ribbons was still in place. The local Church of St. Kunigunde is mentioned for the first time in 1289. The local cemetery features well tended family plots with colorful flowers.

On the edge of town our guide pointed out a house where the hangman lived in earlier times. Those who held this position were ostracized by the townspeople. An unmarried hangman could offer a convicted woman clemency if she would marry him. The position was held in such low esteem that most women chose to die. A son often inherited the position because no one else would take on such work. After touring the city, I hiked the steep trail to the castle remains and a scenic overview.

During the afternoon, we sailed through the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Wachau Cultural Landscape” which was recognized for its architectural and agricultural history in 2000. The east side of the Danube through much of this region, although marked with steep hillsides, takes advantage of the sun for the growing of grapes. Apricots can be grown on the opposite shore. Small villages with prominent churches dot the landscape. The Melk Abbey sits high on the edge of the Danube. After passing through the Wachau valley, a crew member from the kitchen demonstrated how to make strudel. Another fine day.