There’s a section of the Danube in Austria that seduces all comers. It’s a bucolic 22-mile stretch, where the river sashays through a valley whose slopes are strung like a harp with vineyards. A valley dotted with monasteries and castles, crowned by forest, whose delightful villages are clusters of pastel-coloured houses. This is the Wachau, Austria’s pre-eminent wine-producing region.
Dotted with small winemaker’s taverns, the region, with its curious water-powered ferries and its fruitful orchards whose 100,000 apricot trees blossom every spring, starts at Melk in the west and finishes at Krems in the east. A large proportion of its visitors just glimpse it in passing, on Danube cruises bound for the likes of Vienna and Budapest. The valley may not have the allure of a big city, but it is a World Heritage Site, and a very sustainable one, too. It is best explored by way of a famous cycle path, local riverboats, and a meandering little train.
The first step is to get to Krems, a handsome transport hub at the Wachau’s downriver end. Trains from Vienna to Krems take just over an hour, and the town itself makes a good base, with a selection of hotels and restaurants. I would recommend staying in the Hotel Unter der Linden, and stopping for dinner in the traditional Gasthaus Jell, with its old wooden dressers and lace tablecloths.
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