Sailing on the Danube, Day 5: Melk & A Taste of Vienna

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Before I get on to day 5—as I write this we’ve just returned from getting a taste of Vienna—I want to slip back a moment to last night because one of the activities included on the itinerary was a quiz.

As I’ve mentioned in previous entries, taking a river cruise in and of itself has got to be an eye-opening experience for a 13-year-old and when you complement that with a few other “educational” components, well they will be the better for it. As a complement to actually visiting the destinations, last night the crew threw in a geography quiz (40 questions!). We joined in with the other teenager on board and his family and got a quick lesson on European geography. “Which country in Europe is bordered by the most countries and what are those countries” (extra points if you can guess it all correctly)? “What country are the Azores Islands a part of?”  “What three rivers is Passau on?” and so on and so forth. Boring for my teenage daughter? Not at all; she was learning without even realizing it. Again, I stress, you are missing a perfectly great target clientele if you are not thinking about river cruising for families with teenagers (of course, you need to know your families and the teenagers, because the ship offers a very quiet and relaxing atmosphere, so rowdy teenagers need not apply, as you don’t want to scare away the current 55+ demographics).

Anyway, this morning we woke up extra early to get a tour of Melk Abbey— and what a beauty! We learned all about the marvelous history of the Abbey, of course, and could almost picture Empress Maria Theresa arriving at the Abbey for a 2-night stay in her horse-drawn carriage and her entire entourage. We walked through what were once her private guestrooms and strolled through the grand dining room where she ate, and then entered what in our opinion (both my daughter and I) think is the most beautiful room in the Abbey—the library. So beautiful, in fact, that Umberto Eco visited the Abbey and was then inspired to write “The Name of the Rose.” There’s also a gorgeous view over the town and the whole area from the balcony that connects the dining room to the library.

After the Abbey, tell clients to take time to stroll through the gardens, and stop to smell the roses, both literally and figuratively.

My daughter and I walked back to the ship through the very small town where the main street has a market selling all sorts of food items—breads, meats, vegetables. It’s a short stroll through the street to the ship. On this fifth day, though, I must admit teenagers start getting a little tired or bored, perhaps, and maybe because it’s also been a bit hot. Good thing, then, that the rest of the afternoon is spent on board sailing through the Wachau Valley (if they want to sit in the cabin and watch TV, so be it). This is the time to get a good seat on the sun deck to take in all the castles, small medieval towns, terraced vineyards and churches that dot the valley. There are ruined castles, which teenagers will love to view, including one where King Richard the Lionheart was incarcerated.

Vienna Ferris Wheel

Ok, as I mentioned things can get a little hairy around day five with teenagers, but the end of this day is when the ship sails into Vienna…and what is one of the attractions Vienna is famous for? Its grand Ferris wheel, the Riesenrad. Tell clients traveling with teenagers to put their high brow culture aside for the evening and forgo the optional excursion to the Mozart and Strauss concert. Yes, it’s in a Viennese palace, but come on—a Ferris wheel! The Ferris wheel that appeared in “The Third Man” with Orson Welles, no less. Surrounding the Ferris wheel, which grants amazing views of the city, is an amusement park. The Ferris wheel and the other rides, in fact, are located in what used to be the restricted imperial hunting grounds, now known as Prater Park. Best part? I got to hug my daughter extra hard—and she let me—when we rode through one of the “haunted” rides.

Tomorrow we are jam-packing lots of sightseeing into just a few hours—and it’s supposed to be the hottest day of the year for Vienna. Read “Day 6” to see what Vienna was like for me and my daughter (we are definitely taking in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, with its Egyptian and Greek antiquities; I’m with a young teenager, so I have to pinpoint a few galleries within the museum and then it’s off to explore the rest of the city—too much to see, too little time).

“Auf Wiedersehn”

In case you missed the first days of the journey, see Sailing on the Danube with Viking River Cruises & My 13-year-old Daughter and Sailing on the Danube, Days 3 & 4.