Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Danube’

CEMETERY OF THE NAMELESS

Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there; I do not sleep, I am a thousand winds that blow, … the diamond glints on snow,… the sun on ripened grain,… the gentle autumn rain,… the morning’s hush, … the swift uplifting rush, Of quiet birds in circled flight,… the soft stars that shine at night. – Mary Elizabeth Frye, Do Not Stand By My Grave and Weep

A couple evenings ago, a good friend and I met up for dinner after work at a little Vietnamese restaurant at Karlsplatz. The white-shirted, black bow-tied Vietnamese waiter interrupted us. “Sorry, Jennifer, your table by the window will be ready soon.” I stopped mid-sentence. We already had a table. True, wedged by the door, not very gemütlich, but nevertheless one of the rare tables in the beloved restaurant. Not only had my friend apparently snagged us the best seat in the house, but she was obviously on a first-name basis with the man wielding the ultimate power to determine all the diners’ fates. “Jennifer?”

Graves at Cemetery of the Nameless

Graves at Cemetery of the Nameless

There’s something comforting about people knowing your name. I venture even if you end up with some unfortunate name like Engelbert Humperdinck, you get used to your name, and it grows on you. And can there be any sound sweeter than that special someone whispering your name in the dark?

Perhaps that’s part of the tragedy of the picturesque little plots resting under the shady elms along the bank of the Danube – that rather than names, towering over the overgrown mounds of day lilies are crosses bearing inscriptions of dates, male or female and “Nameless” or “Unknown.”

I was a young child when I first visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington, DC. And even at that tender age, I distinctly remember the profound sadness that struck me that someone had left this world, someone who had laughed, and cried and loved and no one knew they had gone. Or perhaps that they had even lived. No one to shoulder a pack on Memorial Day bearing his name in remembrance of him.

Chapel of the Resurrection at the Cemetery of the Nameless in Vienna

Chapel of the Resurrection at the Cemetery of the Nameless in Vienna

I had long heard of and wanted to visit the Cemetery of the Nameless. Once, years ago, at the prospect of soon returning to the States, I actually ventured on a bus that I believed would take me there. I ended up spending the day somewhere completely different. A good day. But not where I meant to go.

So this past weekend, on a Sunday drive back from wine country, the after-rain sun illuminating the world in a friendly glow of promise, with nothing but the road and a lust for life, I punched the “Friedhof der Namenlosen” address into the “Navi.” Not such an easy task since Google refused to betray the address. How Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy managed to find it before sunrise is beyond me. But I’ve always liked a challenge.

Peculiar Chicken Rabbit Grave at the Cemetery of the Nameless

Peculiar Chicken Rabbit Grave at the Cemetery of the Nameless

So I entered the address to the Gasthaus zum Friedhof der Namenlosen (the restaurant with the same name that I ventured would be close by): Albern 54, 1110 Vienna. Despite the Navi, we still almost missed the turn and found ourselves on back roads by the Danube seaport surrounded by menacingly tall buildings with tiny windows, mammoth-sized cranes, concrete silo structures and unattended weeds and overgrowth. In Anytown America, this would have been just another Miracle Mile back alley but in a country where the guys at the dump yard adorn their break-time containers with flower boxes, this placed seemed eerie. And the perfect place to dump a body. Or two. Or a few hundred.

And that’s exactly what the Danube had done here for decades. On the shore of current kilometer 1918, the Danube washed up the remains of Viennese who had grown “life tired” (Lebensmüde) and ended their lives in her cold wet womb.

Entrance Wall Cemetery of the Nameless

Entrance Wall Cemetery of the Nameless

The old cemetery (1840 – 1900) existed on the opposite shore side and the 478 nameless souls who rest there are now only memorialized by a cross. The flow of the Danube flooded the original cemetery so often that in 1900 Vienna moved the cemetery to an area behind a high water dam to where it now stands today. In 1935 the tiny Resurrection Chapel was erected. In 1940 the last burials took place here. Changes in the Danube current stopped the bodies from washing up to shore here years ago and those who get “life tired” nowadays are buried in Vienna’s Central Cemetery. Of the 104 accidental, self-induced and forced victims of drownings buried in the Cemetery of the Nameless, only 43 have been identified – 61 remain nameless.

Rare Sign for the Cemetery of the Nameless

Rare Sign for the Cemetery of the Nameless

As you stroll through the tiny garden of graves, one particular plot is bound to catch your eye with a weathered stuffed elephant and bright orange ribbons tied to his cross: “Here lies Wilhelm Töhn. Drowned by another on June 1, 1904 at age 11.”

But little Willy is not alone. The candles, flowers, toys and stuffed animals adorning many of the graves are testament that perhaps those who died here will forever remain unknown, but they will never be forgotten. The Worker-Fisher-Club (Arbeiter-Fischer-Verein) makes sure of that. Every year, on the afternoon of the first Sunday after All Saint’s Day (November 1), they build a raft and decorate it with wreathes, flowers and a symbolic gravestone with burning candles and send it off down the Danube in remembrance of the desperate souls who tried to find a final peace forsaken them in life.

Print This Post
Poem on the wall of the Cemetery

Cemetery of the Nameless Grave marked "Unknown"

Cemetery of the Nameless Grave marked “Unknown”

Deep in the shade of old elm trees
Crosses gaze here upon gloomy
bank edges
Though no epitaphs
share who sleeps beneath
the cool sand

So silent in the wide eyes
Even the Danube’s
blue surges are held back
For those who sleep here together
who the floods washed ashore
Silent and lonely

All who join together here
Driven by desperation into the cold
Womb of the waves
So the crosses loom
Like the cross that they carried
“Nameless.”

Count von Wickenburg (rough translation: KC Blau)

Find this interesting? Please share
Share

Vienna Side Trips – Wachau: Boat, Bike, Wine

Print This Post One of the most beloved and beautiful outings:  A boat trip along the Danube combined with a bike trip through the Wachau vineyards in Grüner Vetliner country –  Krems / Stein / Dürnstein

A place that has inspired Viennese artists, satisfied wine connoisseurs (Grüner Veltliner land) and a legend of royal loyalty.

The region here along the Danube in Lower Austria is known as the Wachau (if you are hail from NC, you’ll be familiar with Wachovia, settled by Wachau immigrants). What Naples is to California, so is Wachau to Austria — for lovers of romance, white wine and quaint villages.  The mild climate and Danube valley location combine to make the Wachau the perfect place to cultivate white wine and that’s exactly what people have been doing here since the time of the Celtics (over 2000 years ago). Due to the hills, vineyards were planted in the form of terraces which you can see particularly well from the boat tour. The walls of these terraces were built without mortar, simply stone-on-stone.

Total time of outing: a day (no overnight) from Vienna

The direct train from Vienna to Krems takes an hour. Then you hop on a boat heading down the Danube to the town of Dürnstein, walk a half hour to the castle ruins (read castle tale below), bike through vineyards and along the banks of the Danube back to Krems. Along the way, have a meal (and some Grüner Veltliner) somewhere in the vineyards between Dürnstein and Krems. After arriving back in Krems, take a leisurely stroll through the old town, perhaps enjoy a mega decadent ice cream and then catch the train back to Vienna.

Danube Boat Tour from Krems to Dürnstein

Danube Boat Tour from Krems to Dürnstein

Before you go you should:
A) decide how you will get your bike. You can either rent bikes in Krems and take them on the boat with you (not a problem but you a pay a little fee for this. The advantage is that you are good to go as soon as you are off the boat and return is simple) or you sign up for next bike (also good for Neusiedler outing) to reserve bikes from a bike rake at the port in Dürnstein and return the bike to the bike rake at the port in Krems (there is no one present to help you get the bikes and return them and you reserve them online). Read further for more info on both options.
B) Decide if you will take a taxi or walk 30 minutes from the train station in Krems to the boat dock. If you take the taxi, then have your hotel perhaps call a taxi company in Krems (numbers below) and have a taxi waiting for your train.

Map from Friedensbrücke Subway Station to Franz Josefs Train Station

Map from Friedensbrücke Subway Station to Franz Josefs Train Station

Getting there: Direct train from Vienna to Krems/Donau (!). There is a Krems, Steiermark and you DO NOT want to go there for this trip. So be sure to specify Krems/Donau. The best (most direct) is the regional express train (REX) from Vienna’s Franz Josef Bahnhof.

Map from Krems Train Station to Dock where boats leave to Dürnstein

Map from Krems Train Station to Dock where boats leave to Dürnstein

Franz-Josef Bahnhof is easily accessible with the subway (U-4, Station is Friedensbrücke) – it’s about a 5 minute walk from the subway to the train station. There is at least one train every hour (more often on weekdays). The train that leaves 51 minutes after the hour, is direct and arrives about 5 minutes before the next full hour (approx. 1:03 hrs later) in Krems. So if you are spending the day, catch either the 7:51 or the 8:51 am train. At the moment (April 2014), this train leaves from platform 4 and goes directly to Krems (arrival at 8:55 am or 9:54 am). Austrians would take the later train but since you aren’t sure where you are going and still might need to pick up your bike rental and buy boat tickets, maybe opt for the earlier option. The Krems Boat Dock has a lovely little gift shop and a café where you can have a cappuccino along the Danube while waiting to board your boat.

Bike Rental Options:

Map of Bike Rentals in Krems and Stein

Map of Bike Rentals in Krems and Stein

If you choose to rent your bike and take it with you on the boat, you might want to consider this bike rental place located near the dock. Have your hotel call ahead and reserve your bikes for the day you need them (or you call or send an email).

Firma Walter Völkl, Räder-Roller-Zubehör, Steiner Landstraße 103 (Eingang Donaulände),

Tel. +43(0)2732/710 71 http://www.rundumsrad.at/

Or go the do-it-yourself option:

 Next Bike: First register yourself as a user by calling. Then once you reach a bike stand, you call number again, give them the bike number you want and you’ll get a code. You can even reserve bikes if you want to be sure there are ones available when you arrive. https://www.nextbike.at/ausleihen.html?&L=en Just make sure when you return the bikes to the bike stands at the end of your ride that the bikes lock into place or the clock will keep ticking and you will be charged more. (I admit, I did this once!).

Getting from train station to dock: Once you arrive in Krems: You can either walk from Krems train station to the Krems Dock or take a taxi. The distance is about 3-4 km. The walk will be about 20 – 30 minutes but you have no luggage and are fit, so consider this option. I’ve done it. So can you. But it is not a scenic walk since it follows a sidewalk alongside the road. Alternatively, you can have your hotel call Krems and arrange for a taxi to meet your train. Some Krems taxi numbers: 02723/72121; 02732/1718; 02732/85883. I have never done this but it should work.

Map of Dürnstein to Krems

Map of Dürnstein to Krems

Boat Tickets: At the dock, buy your ticket to Dürnstein. One way is about 16 € a person. If you have students in your group, ask about discounts. Boats leave daily at 10:15 am, 1:15 pm and 3:45 pm from Pier No 25 (the port is so small, they will direct you when you buy your tickets where to go). The boat cruise to Dürnstein takes exactly 35 minutes. Get a seat on the upper deck and buy yourself a cool drink – a beer or perhaps the Austrian version of 7-Up/Mountain Dew — Almdudler – a drink so irresistible with the dirndlerd lady and lederhosened guy on the bottle.

Danube Cruise in the Wachau

Video of boat and Dürnstein (it’s the blue church on Video): http://www.krems-wachau.at/mag/sehenswertes/erlebnisse/schiff-donau/

Dürnstein:

Danube Boat Tour from Krems to Dürnstein

Danube Boat Tour from Krems to Dürnstein

Quaintness all bundled up in one little village — at the foot of the Dürnstein castle. If the town of Dürnstein wasn’t situated here in the Danube river valley, it’d be under someone’s Christmas tree. The main road through town is a cobble-stoned pedestrian zone which will require you to walk your bikes. If you are looking for some souvenirs, here’s a great place. The region is known for its apricots and you can get some high quality apricot Schnaps here that will warm you from the inside out. Visit the “Stiftskirche Maria Himmelfahrt” / Church of Marie Accession (the church with the blue towers) built from 1721 – 1724. The blue color of the towers was rediscovered during restoration work in the 1980s and then adopted once again. Read more about Maria Ascension Church in German. Don’t know German? Admire the pretty pictures.

Dürnstein Castle Ruins: Yes. You gotta do this. Walk your bike through the town of Dürnstein and park it somewhere safe (past the cemetery a bit up the trail leading to the castle) so you can walk up to the castle. This isn’t the Bronx, the lock on the bike should suffice. Just don’t block the path; there are bound to be more hikers. Then embark on a short but steep walk. Trust me. It looks far more intimidating than it actually is and is definitely worth the sweat and strain. I’ve schlepped many a visitor up here, and every single one freaks out after about 5 minutes because it’s “so freakin’ steep.”  But think of your tightening derriere muscles and once we’re sitting on top of the castle ruins, you’ll thank me. You will exhale, and exclaim, “Wunderschön!” (Austrians at this point will usually pack out a bar of Milka, an Extrawurstsemmel and a can of Gösser or bottle of Römerquelle as a reward for a walk well done — so you might want to do as the natives too). And once you catch your breath, you’ll be taking the photos because it really does look oh so high and adventurous (who needs to know it only took a half hour?). You’ll get a great view of the Danube from up here and realize why the castle is so well-positioned (exactly at the curve of the river) and you also might spot some climbers on the rocks across the way — a favored climbing spot.

View of Dürnstein and Danube River Valley from Dürnstein Castle Ruins

View of Dürnstein and Danube River Valley from Dürnstein Castle Ruins

The Dürnstein Legend of the Kidnapped King, his Loyal Subject and the Power of Music (or be nice to people or they’ll get you)

No one will tell me the cause of my sorrow
Why they have made me a prisoner here.
Wherefore with dolour I now make my moan;
Friends had I many but help have I none.
Shameful it is that they leave me to ransom,
To languish here two winters long.
(Composed by Richard the Lionheart during his capitvity)

In 1192 (yes, 822 years ago(!)), Richard the Lionheart (Richard Coeur de Lion) was making his way back to England from his failed Crusades. Now you know how it goes, sneaking on your way home from a long journey to fight evil and ungodliness and the only route is through a neighbor’s yard who hates you. You could go the long way around and avoid said neighbor or take a short cut.

You see, Richard knew he had made a lot of enemies over the years. The French King Philippe Auguste was out to get him. And there was always the pirates to consider. So this nixed the idea of returning to the motherland by sea. But on land were the pesky robbers either out to mug or kidnap him. So he disguised himself as a lowly beggar to avoid capture (or maybe the paparazzi).

But life obviously isn’t always greener on the royal side of the fence.

Dumb, that the land route lead him through Austria – home of Duke Leopold – the guy Richard had insulted during the siege of Acre by tearing down his flag and telling him to scram. Leopold had a hissy fit and left but lived by the rule that revenge is best served cold.  So when Leopold’s troops in Austria discovered and captured Richard, Leopold surely did his happy dance.

But what to do? What to do?

There was always the Holy Roman Emperor to consider. The big guy always wanted to have his say in international spats on his territory. But the Emperor was no Richard facebook fan either because Richard once refused to recognize the Emperor’s authority by declaring, “I am born of a rank which recognizes no superior but God.”

Richard sure knew how to rub folks the wrong way.

But even if Henry IV despised Richard, there was of course all of England to consider, which kinda liked their guy. So Henry IV wasn’t sure what to do with their prisoner either. Do we ransom him to the French? To the British? Just kill the pest and be done with it? I know! Let’s pull a Scarlett O’Hara, and think about that tomorrow. Meanwhile we’ll lock him up in that castle in Dürnstein.

The English knew Richard had been captured but who knew where? Spies were sent but 007 didn’t exist yet so they failed, of course.

In walks Blondel de Nesle.

Blondel knew Richard from their escapades together in the Holy Land. Maybe he was a loyal follower of Richard I. Perhaps a faithful believer. The man could have also been simply crazy, stubborn, lost, bored or longing to have his musical talents discovered by royalty. In any case, Blondel trudged around to all the great castles in Europe playing his flute (“Will you tell that flute guy out there to stuff his pipe! We’re trying to eat our drum sticks and count our gold in peace in here!”).

Until finally…

He reached Dürnstein, played his flute and lo and behold, Richard popped his head out the window and started singing along! (OK, maybe not exactly like that). Well, according to legend, Blondel wasted no time getting his king out that very night. According to historical records, a lot of talking heads got together, had coffee and donuts, wine and drum sticks, and when topics for small talk dwindled, the English were able to secure Lionheart’s release.

Leaving Dürnstein, Biking through vineyards up Danube to Krems

Leaving Dürnstein, Biking through vineyards up Danube to Krems

Biking from Dürnstein to Krems: distance: 8 km (if you start in Spitz it is 19 km from Spitz to Krems (about a leisurely 2 hours bike tour)) http://www.planetoutdoor.de/de/touren/detail.htm?tour=52522&region=123

Exit Dürnstein town and bike through the vineyards of the Danube valley. Be sure to stop at one of the restaurants in the vineyards for some wine and lunch or lunch and wine, whichever you prefer and your biking skills can handle.  If you see a vine hanging over a door, it means they are serving this year’s wine and probably food as well. A menu placed outside is another good indicator. Be adventurous and definitely aim for a place in the middle of the vineyards.

Once you have sufficiently eaten and quenched your thirst, continue your tour.

Grüner Veltlener Grapes in Vineyards in Danube River Valley, Dürnstein

Grüner Veltlener Grapes in Vineyards in Danube River Valley, Dürnstein

Bike onward to Unterloiben and get a great view of the Göttweig Monastery across the water up on the hill. Then you reach the town of Stein which inspired some of Egon Schiele’s most beautiful paintings. Here you can go through the Linzer Gate to the cobblestone lane of Steiner Landstrasse, straight ahead. Onward to Schillerstrasse, then veer left to the Wichner Strasse to Südtiroler Platz (square) and the Steiner Gate. On the other side of the Steiner gate, the pedestrian zone for the Old Town of Krems begins. You might want to return your bikes to the dock, though, before doing a walk through town.

Print This Post
Ice Cream Reward in Krems

Ice Cream Reward in Krems

City walking tours in English of Stein and Krems: http://www.krems.gv.at/system/web/zusatzseite.aspx?menuonr=220289711&detailonr=220269569

Back to Vienna:

Direct trains from Krems back to Vienna are usually hourly and generally leave about 2 minutes after the hour and take 1:02 hours.

Back in Vienna, sit back, prop your feet up, admire your cell phone photos, pour yourself a glass of Veltliner and drop me a line about your adventure.

Print This Post
Find this interesting? Please share
Share