Yesterday, Richard asked me “Did you know that Viking River Cruises has removed Dürnstein from their itinerary?” “No, I did not.” Sigh. “What a shame.”
It is a shame for a couple of reasons. One: although thousands of tourists will still find their way to Dürnstein, it is no longer on one of our favorite trips, one which we have recommended to many partially because of this medieval village. On our first river cruise we traveled on the Danube, Main and Rhine Rivers starting in Vienna. After being submerged in the historic and cultural effluence of Vienna, our ship floated up to our first stop in Dürnstein, a quiet picturesque Austrian village on the Danube.
The river boat pulls aside and we walk a short distance along a grassy path to the village. Besides the hushed conversations of fellow passengers, all you can hear are the movement of the water, birds, the gentle wind through the nearby vineyard, and the murmurs of a small town coming to life.
We actually have had the pleasure of visiting Dürnstein on two occasions. On the first, Richard took two photographs that are magical in capturing one of those quintessential places in Europe. The first photo was the easy one that almost everyone stops to take of the blue tower of the local parish church, Stiftskirch, which was originally part of a 15th century Augustinian monastery.
The second photograph Richard took is not as obvious. You almost have to be there, so for a moment take a walk with me. Imagine yourself standing in the on the cobbled street staring up at that beautiful blue sky and the blue tower, now amble towards the tree and peer into the shadow between the two buildings and the next photo is your reward.
There is something about the serenity of standing in a shadowed covered place and looking through to light beyond that makes me stop in my tracks, go inside myself to a quiet place, and ponder why places like this strike emotional cords. I love it when Richard captures these moments in time.
On our last visit, we stood in these same spots trying to recapture the magic we once experience. It wasn’t quiet the same as this time we were there the week after Christmas and it was so cold that it was hard to stand outside for too long. Maybe a bit disappointed in what we were not capturing, we turned to return to the ship and we saw the beauty that was behind us all along.
These are three great photographs all within 20 feet of each other. One of truths we consistently learn from our travels is that sometimes the moment to be captured is right in front of you, sometimes it is hidden around a corner, and sometimes we need to look at what is behind us.
Two: it is also a shame that people are going to miss out on a good story; and you know how Richard and I love a good story!
It is historical fact that King Richard I Lionheart of England was imprisoned in Dürnstein’s castle in 1192. It seems that Richard personally offended Duke Leopold V of Austria during the Third Crusade by throwing down Austria’s flag and posting England’s; AND Leopold was convinced that Richard murdered his cousin while in the Holy Land. So when the opportunity arose, Leopold captured and put Richard behind locked doors in the castle’s tower. Ah ha! To which made the Pope excommunicate Leopold for imprisoning a fellow Crusader. Oops! (This is exciting stuff, you just can’t make history up any better than this! Oh but wait, there’s still the legend to be told.)
The legend goes that when King Richard was captured that the English authorities didn’t know exactly where he was being held. As it so happens, King Richard’s had a faithful minstrel named Blondel who, as a wandering minstrel, would traverse the countryside singing English ballads. Lo and behold, one day King Richard heard a familiar tune and looked from his tower window and heard his Blondel singing, to which he starting singing a verse of a song that only the two of them knew. Blondel, with great cunning and excitement (I’m sure) let the powers-that-be know where their beloved King was holed up. Upon which, England paid the ransom of 23,000 kilos of silver for Richard’s freedom.
And from that time to today, Dürnstein has had a really great story to tell.