Danube River Cruise on the AMA Waterways Amalyra - Page 3

5/30/09 to 6/11/09


Page 1  -  Budapest, Hungary and ship information 

Page 2  -  Ship/Entertainment;  Bratislava, Slovakia;  Vienna, Austria

Page 3  -   Durnstein, Austria;  Melk, Austria;  Salzburg, Austria;  Passau, Germany;  Regensburg, Germany

Page 4  -   Nuremberg, Germany; Prague, Czech Republic


Durnstein and Melk, Austria

This was going to be an interesting day; but I wished it could have started out later, so we could have had an extra hour of sleep.  We were going to visit the medieval town of Durnstein on an 8:30 AM tour and then cruise to the town of Melk to visit the famous abbey.  Carol had decided to pass on the Durnstein tour so that she would have more stamina for Melk.  As we approached Durnstein, which is in the Wachau Valley, it was quite apparent that we were coming into a much more beautiful section of the Danube.



 Docked behind us was an unusually painted river boat called the A’RosaRiva.  It was the most memorable river boat we saw during the week.


The two main attractions in Durnstein are the Blue Church and the ruins of the castle where Richard the Lion Hearted was imprisoned in 1192.  We started out the walk with a lovely guide named Katrin.  She told us about the history of the area as we walked into town.  She told us that we were quite lucky to be visiting before the tourist season started in a couple weeks.  This town, with less than a thousand inhabitants, receives a million visitors a year. 


Our first destination was the Blue Church.  On the way Katrin discussed the castle ruins on top of the hill.  She told us that we could walk up to it in about 20 minutes.  We finally got a glimpse of the lovely blue church.  She told us that the best view of the church would be from the river when we left town.  I would certainly be on the sundeck to check it out.  I still walked around to try and get a better viewing angle. 



We then walked up the cobblestone streets of the lovely medieval town. 


I could see why so many people come there to vacation in the peaceful environment.  Unfortunately it is a very expensive place to live, with even 1,000 sq. ft. houses selling for $2,000,000. 






The tour lasted about an hour.  Since Katrin had said that it was just a 20 minute walk up to the castle ruins, I thought I would see if I could get up there.  She exaggerated!  Or she was a much faster mountain walker than the tourists that day.  I started climbing up the very steep and narrow path to the castle.  It was not an easy task.  I was pretty much going by myself until I came to a woman who was sitting on a rock.  She told me that she had given up and let her husband go on further.  It just didn’t look that much further to the stone wall that I thought was around the castle.  A little further up the road there were a couple of more women with a similar story.  We men are foolish people.

As I went a bit further, I finally ran into a fellow who was coming down.  At last I could get some feedback on how much further it actually was to the castle.  Unfortunately, he didn’t know since he had given up and was coming down.  Apparently the stone wall wasn’t even close to the ruins.  A couple more guys came down and they had been to the castle and said that I wasn’t even half way up the mountain.  Since I had already made myself miserable for 15 minutes, I threw in the towel and headed down with just a few photos to show for my efforts.  Oh well, at least I had been burning calories, or so I reasoned with myself.


Upon my return to the Amalyra, a group was starting out on a bike ride from Durnstein to Melk.  The ship provides free bicycles.  It is about 20 miles and is supposed to be a beautiful ride.  They would meet us at the dock.  If I were a long distance bike rider, I wouldn’t have missed this ride for anything.  But I’m not, so I didn’t.


I was looking forward to the cruise through the valley to Melk.  We left a bit early and I almost missed the photo op I had been looking forward to.  Katrin was right about the best view of the church being from the Danube.  Durnstein and the surrounding area are quite lovely.


The cruise through the Wachau Valley was most enjoyable.  It is beautiful country.  We even saw some of the bikers from the Amalyra along the way.  I stayed on the sundeck most of the trip, other than for a quick lunch, to be able to take in as much as possible of the lovely valley.




We arrived in Melk around 2:00 PM.  We had seen the massive Melk Abbey up on the hill before we docked.  It looked impressive.  I had read lots about how beautiful it was, but really didn’t know what to expect.  It was a short drive up the hill to the abbey, and we got a great view of our destination through the bus windows.


The original plan was to tour the abbey first and afterwards to tour the gardens.  When we arrived at the gate for the tour at 2:30 PM, we were told we couldn’t start the tour until 3:15 PM. 


So we reversed the order and headed for the gardens.  The gardens were nice and we enjoyed looking down into the valley to admire the area around the town of Melk. 




When we were finally able to start the tour, we walked into a large courtyard.  We were assigned a special Melk Abbey tour guide.  She told us about the history of the Abbey and discussed the architecture and told about life at the Abbey.  Unfortunately, we were standing in the hot sun while she was doing so.  


When we were finally able to enter the building, I was a bit surprised.  The first room we walked into was bathed in green light and was very modern.  It had some photos on the wall and a few displays.  The next room was similar but was blue and the next, I believe yellow.  I was wondering what had happened to this world famous 300 year old Baroque structure.  We then went into a couple of rooms that were more like a normal museum with lots of treasures from the Abbey’s past.  In the next room there was a model showing the full size of the abbey.  This was a big place and we were walking through the whole length of it.


At last we came to the Marble Hall.  This was a large beautiful room.  The tour was getting better.


We then climbed some stairs and came out on the Terrace.  There we got a great view of the church and wonderful panoramas looking down on the town of Melk.


From the Terrace, we walked to the library.  It was a lovely room, but after visiting the awesome Austrian National Library in Vienna, I wasn’t expecting to be as impressed as I was.  The Austrians really know how to put together beautiful libraries. 


Our guide then told us that the tour was over and that we could walk down and visit the church.  As we entered the church, I understood why the Abbey was so famous.  It was incredibly beautiful.  Really overwhelming.



The ceilings were just gorgeous.  Everyone was walking around with their heads facing up.  Most people had cameras aiming up to the ceilings snapping away.  I was worried that people would be bumping into each other or tripping.  This church was why all the tourists came to Melk.



Our guide Peter, who had taken us to the Abbey, told us that we could walk down the hill through town in about 20 minutes or take the bus.  The walk was tempting, but I had been having some joint pains, so we took the bus.  We had to wait a bit for everyone to get to the bus, so by the time the bus got us to the Amalyra, the group that walked was arriving there also. 

Carol and I thought it would be nice to have a beer and Coke on the patio of a restaurant by the river.  It was nice to stop and relax with my darling for awhile.

When we were about done with our drinks, we heard some banging and yelling.  A tour bus was backing up and had bumped into a tourist from another boat.  Fortunately our tour guide Peter was there to beat on the bus to get it to stop moving.  The lady wasn’t badly hurt, but she was shook up.  A couple of ambulances quickly arrived and our peaceful relaxing moments had come to an end, so we boarded the Amalyra to get ready for the Austrian Dinner.  It was a good one too, Tyrolean Style Steak followed by the Crew Show.


Salzburg, Austria; Passau, Germany 

We had been looking forward to this day since we first booked this trip.  We would be traveling to The Sound of Music country, Salzburg.  Having dreamed of visiting this beautiful part of the world from the first time we had seen Julie Andrews dancing on the mountain in the movie many years ago, we were ready to see the real thing.

The boat would make a short stop in the town of Linz to drop us off to take our tour bus to Salzburg.  The passengers who chose to stay on the boat would have a lovely day of cruising down one of the lovelier sections of the Danube.  I wish I could have done both, but Salzburg was a higher priority.  Our tour guide for the day would be Helmut, who was dressed in traditional Bavarian garb.  We could quickly tell that he loved his job and would be a great guide.


The drive to Salzburg was, as expected, quite beautiful.  We were traveling through mountains and the lovely Austrian Lake District.  It was unfortunate that we couldn’t stop the bus to get photos, but I did get some through the windows.


To break up the two plus hour drive to Salzburg, we stopped in the town of Mondsee.  It was one of the towns that was used in the filming of The Sound of Music.  The church was used in the film for the wedding scene. 




The scene where the Von Trapp children were climbing in the trees was also filmed in this town.  The trees had grown a lot in 40 years, but they still looked much like in the movie.  It was impossible not to visualize the children hanging from the branches and squealing.


I decided to walk down to the lake to get a better view.  Since it was still early in the day, it was hazy; but it was a refreshing site.  We were definitely in Austria.


Since this was only a short stop, I wanted to get back and look at the lovely town area.  It was very quaint.


I found a nice shop that had some apple strudel I couldn’t resist.  I took it back to eat on the bus and share with Carol.  We both felt it was the best strudel of the whole trip.

We only stayed in Mondsee for less than an hour.  It was a great place to visit, but we still had an hour’s drive to Salzburg.  We continued the lovely ride through the Lake District. 


We finally arrived at our destination, Salzburg.  Our first stop was at the lovely Mirabell Gardens.  Now this was a garden!  It had lots of flowers, unlike many of the others we had seen that were mostly trees and bushes.



There were lots of gorgeous statues around; as well as a lot of people.  There were wedding parties and crowds of tourists. 


We crossed over the Salzach River on the walking bridge.  There was a nice view of the Fortress high over the city.

Salzburg is arranged so there aren’t many cross streets.  Instead they use passages that pass through buildings.  It is an interesting way to get around, but I had to be careful not to get lost, since it can be confusing to find the right passage. 

We walked over to the Getreidegasse, which is the most important shopping street in the city.  Since the city requires the shop signs to remain in the old style, it really makes the area special.  Even McDonalds had to comply.  Everywhere we went in Salzburg was packed with tourists, especially there.  I guess the season had started early in Salzburg.


Also on that street is the house where Mozart was born.  It is a popular photo stop. 


We got to see the smallest house in Salzburg that was built in 1835 between two existing buildings.  There was a whole interesting story about it that Helmut told us.  The gutter spout on this house was quite unusual.


We then went to Residenz Square where the famous fountain with the Stallions is located.  Unfortunately it was being renovated; and I couldn’t see the full fountain.


Our next stop was to the lovely Salzburg Cathedral.  Once again, here was another building whose exterior was not fully visible due to renovation.  It was frustrating, since there had been so much renovation going on in so many of the cities that took away from their beautiful tourist attractions.  It needs to be done to extend the buildings’ lives and make them look better, but it is a shame that it takes so long and it can’t be done in the off season. 


The interior of the Cathedral was quite beautiful.



Continuing our city tour we came to an unusual statue of a large gold ball with a man on top.  I don’t know the meaning of it; but it surely did look out of place.


We then visited the lovely St. Peter’s Church Cemetery.  It is the one that was reproduced in Hollywood for use in The Sound of Music escape scene.  I enjoyed looking at the unique grave markers.



Another interesting building we saw was the site of the Salzburg Music Festival, which is the one where the Von Trapp family won first place and it was used in the movie. 


Once the tour was ended and we had some free time, we started to look for a restaurant for lunch.  We lucked out when we found the Restaurant Zipfer Bierhaus.  Carol and I both got the garnished sauerkraut with roast pork, smoked sausage and bread dumpling.  A Zipfer beer made this a perfect lunch.  I really liked this restaurant.


After lunch we walked around the market.  The many colors of the items for sale were intoxicating.  This was a very nice market.




It was time to head back to the bus.  We had to join the ship in Passau.  Salzburg was a lovely town; but we were disappointed since it didn’t have the charm we had expected from seeing The Sound of Music.  I don’t know what we had actually expected; but whatever it was, Julie did not pop out and sing to us!  Perhaps there were less tourists and less construction 40 years ago when the movie was made.  I am sure that Salzburg would be much better to visit in the early spring or fall.

It was a two hour trip to Passau and we got back just before 5:30 PM.  I immediately walked into town, since I was determined to see the St. Stephan’s Church.  Based on the photos I had seen of the church during my research, it was one I could not miss.  I originally thought that it closed at 6:00 PM and that I might not get to see it; but Bori told me that it closed at 7:00 PM.

Passau was a lovely old medieval city.  It also didn’t have that many tourists walking around, a great contrast from what we had experienced in Salzburg.  It is also very hilly, so I had to walk up some steep inclines to get into town.  I was glad that Carol had passed on coming along in favor of resting after our long day of touring.  Because the streets were narrow, I couldn’t look up to see the church steeples.  I was concerned if I was going in the right direction. 


At last I found St. Stephan’s Church.  It was also undergoing some renovation; but the inside of the church was what I was most interested in exploring.  Walking through the doors, I knew the walk was worth it.  It was a gorgeous church and quite different from any we had previously visited. 



I so wished that Carol could have seen it, since it was quite stunning.  I knew she was probably getting burned out on churches like many of our fellow travelers were; but this one was a must see for me.


The elaborate detail was exquisite.


One of the many highlights of the church was that it contained the world’s largest cathedral organ.  That makes this one special church.  I really wish I could have heard it being played.



I didn’t get to spend much time in the church, since it was getting late and I needed to get back to the ship to get ready for the evening activities.  Walking back, I wished that we could have spent more time here because it was a lovely city. 



When I got back to the Amalyra, I could see that we were docked right at the junction of the Inn, Ilz and Danube rivers.  It is unusual to have three rivers join like this at one point.  We had the best docking position, even if it was a bit further walk into town.



Rising above the Danube was fortress Veste Oberhaus which was built in 1219.


When I looked out of the balcony just before dinner, I was thrilled to see a hot air balloon floating next to the fortress.  I ran to the sundeck to try to capture the lovely moment.


Later on after dinner and the string quartet, La Strada, entertained us, I went back on the sundeck to take some photos of the illuminated fortress before I retired for the evening.  It had been a very nice day.



Regensburg, Germany

Before we were to arrive at 1:00 PM, we would have a nice cruise up the Danube.  The countryside was scenic and there were interesting structures to look at.  On the way up the river, we got to pass under what I thought were some low bridges.  I would find out the next day that these weren’t that low.  We also passed through some locks and I got a good view of the floating moorings that the boat is attached to while in the locks.




At 11:00 AM we had a “Get in the Mood for Bavaria” pre-meal called Fruehschoppen in the Main Lounge.   We had a white sausage, ham, pretzels and beer.  While in Salzburg, Helmut had told us to try the white sausages, which are called “fresh sausages” because they are supposed to be made the same day they are eaten.  We didn’t get to try them in Salzburg, so I was glad we would get a chance on the boat.  They had a very mild taste, but were quite edible and very different from any sausages we have ever had.


After our snack, we went to lunch at 12:00 PM.  We weren’t exactly hungry anymore.  That was until we saw that for lunch Jozsef was carving a roasted pig.  We had to try a little as well as some of the other items that were being served for the Bavarian Lunch at the buffet.  Way too much delicious food on this cruise!


Not too far before we arrived in Regensburg, we passed Walhalla.  It is a Hall of Fame to honor German-speaking artists, writers, philosophers, scientists, and other historic figures.  It contains 65 plaques and 130 busts.  It looked like the Parthenon in Athens.


We had been looking forward to visiting Regensburg, since our across the street neighbor lived there when he was a young man.  For several years, he had been telling me about the lovely town and the Wurstkuche, the world’s oldest bratwurst restaurant.

By the time we arrived in Regensburg, the rain had started.  We had been most fortunate during the cruise by having wonderful weather every day; but we were due for a rain.  Our tour guide for the day was another Helmut, a common name in Germany.  He was a nice fellow. 


Helmut walked the umbrella laden group along the cobblestones streets as he told us the history of the old town.  


We passed by the Porta Praetoria, which is all that remains of the original Roman gate built in 179 AD and some other pretty places. 



From there we could see the steeples of the Regensburg Cathedral.


We then headed back toward the Danube to see the 850 year old stone bridge.  On the way I got my first glimpse of the Wurstkuche.  Even though I was not the least bit hungry, the smell emanating from the little building was quite enticing.  I promised myself that I would return later.


We then headed back to the main part of the city to see more of the lovely medieval town.  It was really pretty.  I finally felt like I was really in Bavaria.



After seeing many other lovely sights we reached the Cathedral.  The exterior was quite grand and it wasn’t being renovated.  I was pleased.


The cathedral was very large and the most stunning feature was the gorgeous stained glass windows. 



In looking at the map that AMA provided on the ship for the tour, I had seen a photo of a gorgeous church called the Alte Kapelle or Old Church.  It was just around the corner from the cathedral.  Since the official tour ended at the cathedral, I immediately headed over to the Old Church.  When I arrived a wedding was just ending and the happy couple was in the process of leaving while talking with some of the guests.  Not wanting to disturb them, I went around to another door.  When I walked in, I entered a small lovely chapel.  A preview of what was waiting for me.


Then I looked around the corner and couldn’t believe how beautiful this church was.  Just unbelievable!



It was one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen.   The combination of gold designs on the white background and beautiful frescos was hard to believe.




It must have been a beautiful place for the wedding that had just taken place.



As I walked out of the church, the priest quickly shut and locked the door.  I thought that was strange; but when I got back to the ship, Bori told me that I was very lucky, since the Old Church normally isn’t open to the public.  I had been very fortunate indeed.

I walked around the exterior to get some photos of it, but the way the church was placed, I couldn’t get to the front.  But it didn’t matter since the beauty was inside and I had gotten to see it all lit up in its full glory.


I then headed down to the Wurstkuche.  I had waited long enough.  It was still raining; but I lucked out and was able to get a covered seat at one of the long tables.  I placed my order for the standard package, “six with kraut”.  This is what almost everyone orders.  The bratwursts are small, so six isn’t that much.  When the order came, it looked great.  The bratwurst and sauerkraut were so good.  The hard bread and cold beer added to the pleasure.  I was definitely in Bavaria.


I wanted to check out the kitchen to see how they cooked this meal.  It was a very small kitchen for such a busy restaurant. 


I then walked out on the Old Bridge.  It is a very sturdy structure.  I guess it has to be to have survived 850 years of traffic.  I enjoyed the view of Regensburg from the bridge.



After doing a little more sightseeing, it was time to get out of the rain and return to the ship.  I had a wonderful time in Regensburg; but I sure would love to see this beautiful city on a sunny day. 

On my return to the Amalyra, I got a treat when I saw from the dock, my lovely wife sitting in the cabin.  I hollered to her to open the balcony so I could take a photo.


It had been a rainy day but still a very enjoyable one.  We only had one more full day on the Amalyra.


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