On Wednesday morning, we had a much needed relaxing, lazy morning. Globe-trotting is tiring work! We had a delicious champagne brunch as we sailed down the Danube River, passing the Melk Lock and Melk Abbey, en route to Durnstein, Austria.
We arrived in Durnstein around 1:15pm and disembarked our river boat. My tour guide was named Trinka and she was fabulous! Born in Vermont, she has lived in Austria for the last 20 years. Durnstein is a quaint, charming little town.
Located along the famous Danube in Lower Austria, Durnstein is well-known for its wineries and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Wachau region. The city’s name literally means “dry castle” in German, presumably after the stone castle situated high above the main town area.
Durnstein is also known for everything apricot! You name it, they have an apricot version of it: beer, liquor, lip balm, chocolate, gummies, strudel, dumplings, brandy, lotion, just to name a few. One unique item is the drunken apricots. Yes, you read that correctly….drunken apricots. They are apricots soaked in schnapps and apricot liquor. Having one is fine. You should then wait about 20 minutes to decide if you should have another. Two might seem like a good idea, but three is always a bad idea, as you’ll wake the next morning feeling like you got hit by a 2×4! After our tour of the town, we had some free time before our 3:15pm wine tasting. We tasted 5 local wines – 3 whites, a rose and a red. The region is known for their white wine, specifically Reisling.
After the wine tasting, we hurried back to the boat to get dressed for our gala dinner in Vienna. Due to the low water levels of the Danube, another Tauck river boat had to make an itinerary deviation so it caused us to have a deviation as well. While they are getting record-breaking rainfall at home from Hurricane Juaquin, we desperately need rain in Central Europe – the river levels are VERY low. Instead of sailing to Vienna, we had to arrive via coach and our boat met us in Vienna later that evening. So, at 5pm, we boarded the coach buses in Durnstein and set out for Vienna! We arrived around 6pm, not knowing that the evening was going to be the experience of a lifetime! After a short 10 minute walk, we arrived at Palais Pallavicini (http://www.palais-pallavicini.at/en), which is located in the heart of Vienna between the Hofburg Imperial Palace and the Spanish Riding School. Palais Pallavicini’s foundation was laid in 1582 and did not suffer at significant damage during the two World Wars so it can still be admired in its’ original state. We entered Palais Pallavicini and were escorted up a gorgeous spiraling staircase to an elegant state room where we were served champagne and treated to classical music by a trio of Viennese master musicians. The remainder of the evening was truly spectacular! A delicious meal that was accompanied by live music and dance performances. We all felt like royalty by the end of the night.
The Vienna Chabad was out in full force for Sukkot! We had a relaxed afternoon on our own and did some exploring and shopping. I broke down and bought a pair of low boots. …shoes and purses are definitely my weakness! After a light dinner, we went to the Prater and rode the world’s oldest ferris wheel.
We were presented with a choice on Friday morning between visiting the Schonbruun Palace (summer palace) and the Hofburg Palace (winter palace). 90% of our tour chose to go to the Schonbruun and it was spectacular! I couldn’t believe how big it was….ONLY 1,441 rooms!
After touring the palace and gardens, we headed towards the city center for some free time. I walked to the famous Viennese Naschmarkt, a daily market with many different eateries from all over the world and is known for pumpkin seed oil. I then grabbed a bite of lunch with two Tauck colleagues and stopped by the Hotel Sacher to get a famous Sacher Torte (chocolate cake with apricot jam and hard chocolate icing) to share with my colleagues at dinner. My dad would have LOVED this torte!
We headed back to the boat around 3pm for a 4pm Vienna departure, en route to Bratislava, Slovakia. We arrived safely and after dinner enjoyed evening entertainment of a traditional Slovakian folklore show of singing, dancing and live music.
On Saturday morning we had a guest lecturer who spoke about “Slovakia: Past, Present and Future.” Around 9:45, we split into groups for a guided tour around Bratislava. I joined a guide named Alena and she was fabulous! Very energetic and theatrical and kept everyone engaged.
Our city tour concluded around noon at a cafe named Carnevalle. We were treated to a cappuccino and local pastry called a bagel – but not the type of bagel we are used to at home. This bagel is sweet, horseshoe-shaped pastry that has a unique filling flavored with crushed walnuts.
We then had the afternoon to explore on our own. There was some sort of historical reenactment in front of the opera house but I couldn’t understand anything because it was all Slovak. It’s all Slovak to me! My head is spinning between Czech, German, Dutch, Slovak and Hungarian…and for some reason, when I go to say something in the local towns, Hebrew wants to come out of my mouth. Wrong area of the world, Jaime!
I wandered the streets and weaved in and out of the shops.
I wanted to get a little thank you gift for the Tauck Tour Directors and Cruise Director who were so welcoming and helpful during my first training trip. I stumbled upon an artist who was selling her jewelry along the cobblestone streets and I chose a pair of earrings for each of them….and one for myself! In the afternoon, we had a disembarkation briefing and then had time to start packing. The Captain invited us all to his farewell dinner and then I turned in for an early evening.
I started feeling a bit congested and wanted to get a good nights’ rest. Tomorrow, we head to Budapest, Hungary….