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Austria by boat (part 1)



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And when you've had your fill of culture there is always the wine.

Beyond Melk the Danube plunges into a narrow gorge through the foothills of the Bohemian Massif. Known as Wachau Valley the 35 km stretch of river between Melk and Krems is blessed with a unique combination of soil, climate and sun exposure that make it one of the world's great wine producing areas. The Celts began making wine there more than 2,000 years ago, Roman vintners settled in the valley during the middle ages, and during the Renaissance 31 monasteries owned vineyards in the Wachau.

Unlike much of the Danube the Wachau Valley is unspoiled by dams and heavy industry. The river follows its natural course, meandering past charming towns, steep terraced vineyards and the ruins of castles and fortified monasteries still clinging to rocky cliffs high above the shore. From the top deck of the Viking Spirit, with a glass of good local wine beside my deckchair I leaned back, took in the passing scene and thought to myself, "this is river cruising at its very best."

Next stop Vienna.



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