Whimsical Wachau Waypoints

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Blake Nicholas
September 18, 2023

Beams of bright sunshine illuminated my room in a similar manner to a gentle alarm clock beeping softly letting me know that I had a great day ahead of me. 

Once I had gotten up, I took the U-Bahn to our meeting point where all of the enthused IES Abroad students congregated: the Schönbrunn Parking lot.

It was about an hour-long bus ride from Schönbrunn to Melk Abbey, a Benedictine monastery operating since 1089. What I found to be most fascinating about the monastery was the Baroque influence on the abbey. 

Our tour guide informed us that the Baroque style emphasized demonstrating visuals of divine glory on earth. This is why the chapel portion of the monastery was especially grand. Gold-leaf statues surrounded the altar of the chapel and there was vibrant gold on the tawny pillars that connected to a stunning ceiling painting of heavenly characters as well.

After the indoor walking tour, we had some free time to eat lunch. I wandered around the surrounding botanical gardens and settled on a well-shaded spot with some lawn chairs. I also had some time to look at some of the more modern plants in the plaza area of the gardens, which I found to be a satisfying, contemporary contrast with the more classical architecture.

Next, we got back on the bus for our second major stop at the Dürnstein ruins. The ruins are the remains of a castle that was destroyed in 1645 under the command of the Swedish General, Lennart Torstenson. The ruins are also located on one of the fourteen stages of the Wachau Heritage Trail. 

We had a bit of a steep climb to the remains of this 12th-century medieval castle, but the view was well worth the twenty-minute hike. We were met with a gorgeous view of the neighboring Rossatz-Arnsdorf mountains and noticed the comforting perennial presence of the Danube River below.

By the time we finished our hike, it was time for some Wachau-famous apricot ice cream to cool off from our hot day. We also had some free time to look around the local shops and lie in the grass near the river.

After that, we headed over to Vineyard Country at Weingut Donabaum for dinner. We had a selection of hams and cheeses for supper, which I thought complemented our grape-picking activity at the vineyard quite well. 

Finally, it was time to head back to Vienna after our long, adventurous day. We took our blue-lit midnight bus and most people slept on the way back. Then my friends and I finished off our day with a late-night ice cream run.

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Blake Nicholas

I was born and raised in San Diego, CA, and go to Occidental College located in Los Angeles. I am a philosophy major and an interdisciplinary writing minor. In most my free time, I like to dance. My favorite styles of dance are ballet and lyrical :)

2023 Fall
Home University:
Occidental College
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