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The Not-so-Quiet American

Be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits…
– Elmer Fudd

Speak softly and carry a great guide.
– KC Blau

My first residence in Vienna, not including my dorm room in the 3rd district, was a small apartment on the first floor of a four-story building in the second district. The apartment boasted high ceilings, a shower in the kitchen, and a shared toilet in the hallway (shared with the next door neighbor who liked to chain smoke while using it). I am not sure whether Remaxx would have listed the place as a 2 or 3-room apartment since the kitchen was nothing more than a galley connecting the bedroom and the living room. The apartment had no central heating – just two wood and coal burning stoves that forced me to lug more coal bricks and scrub more soot off of more tall double windows than I care to recall. The bedroom was long and narrow and the best thing about it was the towering oak tree outside the double window.

The tree was multi-functional. First, it served as a home for a woodpecker that liked to peck peck peck at ungodly hours of the morning. Second, and more importantly (in my humble opinion, not Woody’s), its blanketing green leaves served as a screen to the neighbors across the courtyard who liked to hang out on their little balcony in their off-white granny pants while huffing and puffing on their cigarettes. (Austria had a lot of smokers back then). Third, the tree provided shade and kept the bedroom cool all summer. But best of all, the tree absorbed most of the noise that ricocheted throughout the courtyard during the summer months when everyone had their windows open and children liked to play.

But just one floor up lived a Chinese couple who were dear friends and neighbors and Wei did not agree that the tree provided ample sound-buffering. He dreaded the noise from the sandbox play, soccer ball bounces and name calling in not-so-indoor voices. He was a student at the University of Vienna who greatly valued his afternoon naps. Sometimes when very annoyed, he would open his window and yell down and tell them to stop being so loud.

But otherwise, I have to say that Viennese kids, and Europeans tend to speak softly.

And we Americans? It’s not like we’ve never been taught the virtues of being quiet.

You remember, don’t you? The bell rang and the teachers stood holding the doors, ushering the students in from recess or break. Never failed. Amongst the centennials, there was always that one teacher who thought it her God-given duty to lean into the passing students and remind each and everyone of them that it was “Time to use your indoor voices.” How syrupy over-cheerful and very annoying her own sing-song voice chimed out those reminders. And yes, it was always a female teacher doing the dirty work, never the guys.

The Indoor Voice. We all learned about the indoor voice but then– Maybe we were too busy using our outdoor voices to hear the teacher demanding the indoor voices?

"The Quiet American" book jacket

British writer, Graham Greene, wrote a book entitled “The Quiet American.” The American abroad was quiet, and therefore rather suspicious.

Unfortunately, I must concede with the Europeans, we Americans do tend to rarely use our indoor voices –regardless if we are in- or outdoors. And invariably, when I am on the subway and a group of people are being rather loud, the group is almost always a bunch of my fellow countrymen – students or tourists. Or maybe a bunch of Canadians well disguised. The others – like Swedes when they are drunk and visiting Vienna for a soccer match or Russians when they are just drunk, can also be loud but we Americans beat all other nations hands down with our ability to ignore the general tone level of our environment. Even when my fellow Americans are sitting across from one another having a “normal conversation,” unter sich they tend to be loud enough for the rest of the subway car to listen in. Why can’t we just tone it down a bit?

I once spent a whole train ride from Wien Mitte to the airport (about 30 minutes) listening to an American woman and man discuss why a person in their department had to be fired. If you are interested in knowing too, drop me a line, I know every gory detail.

I didn’t write the, “World Citizens Guide, Practical Advice for Americans traveling abroad” but I wish I had. I have kept a copy of it for years because whoever made it was 110% on the money. See the last passage, page three, with the words Be quiet in bold green font. It states, “Less is more. In conversation match your voice level to the environment and other speakers. A loud voice is often perceived as a bragging voice.”

The next edition should be less syrupy overly cheerful and sing-song and simply tell it like it is — that a loud voice is always perceived as an obnoxious voice so keep it down. No innocent bystanders are interested in the turbulance of your plane ride or your encounters with the locals who have the audacity not to speak proper English. Please do me, yourself, your fellow Americans and your host country a great big juicy favor –when traveling abroad, do as the natives do and speak softly, tread gently, and carry a good guide (like my website on your iPad).

Thank you!

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Some must-read literature:

 World Citizens Guide: Some Practical Advice for Americans Traveling Abroad

World Citizens Website with a wealth of valuable information for world travelers


Airport to City — Transportation Options from VIE to Vienna

 One of the first steps in embarking on an adventure to a new place is successfully navigating your way from the airport to town. Preparedness can make all the difference.

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Or not.

A hundred thousand years ago, while backpacking through India, I visited the government tourist agency in Delhi to inquire about the level of safety in the infamously beautiful but conflict-ridden region of Kashmir. “No worries,” the good lady told me, “perfectly safe.”

Well, welcome to Srinagar! Soldiers brandishing machine guns lined the queue to the obligatory tourist registration desk directly situated beside the arrival ramp. But far more menacing than the questions about next-of-kin to contact in case of kidnapping or death, was the hungry mob of taxi drivers waiting to pounce on the rare clueless backpacker still traveling to the region. Punches were thrown, noses bled and one (un)fortunate driver only barely escaped forced captivity in the trunk of his own taxi.

And just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, lo and behold.

Naturally when we located what seemed to be a trustworthy driver who claimed to be willing to take us to the houseboat we wanted without the old “Oh, that burned down, but I know a good place!” or “You come with me. I know a better deal”, we thought the worst was behind us.

And just when I was about to breathe a sigh of relief, the back door of our taxi flung open and a random German traveler resmbling a Ken doll gone safari dive-bombed himself into our backseat, nearly landing in my lap in the process.

“I’m coming with you!” he declared while wrestling the door shut with both hands as a raving mob of drivers outside tried to yank it back open. They wanted him, he wanted us and we wanted neither him nor them. Our uninvited German had apparently violated some kind of lottery system for passengers. Who knew?

What possessed us to take pity on the intruder and convince our driver that he was indeed with us and could stay? I don’t know. I just know that days later, after he also strong-armed his way onto our house boat, I’d be asking myself that very same question, over and over again.

Our taxi driver, though no doubt skeptical of his own judgment in agreeing to transport us to the Dal Lake given the German-induced ruckus, proved good to his word. We arrived at the St. James houseboat safe, sound but a bit rattled.

Given that and other interesting experiences I’ve had making my way from airports to towns, I’ve come to appreciate any advice locals can offer about the safest, most reliable means to successfully arrive at the preferred destination. For this reason, I dedicate this week’s post to all of you, trying to make it the 16 km from Vienna airport in Schwechat to the city.

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Vienna Airport Taxis

Vienna Airport Taxis

Safe, reliable and more expensive than the alternatives are the taxis. However, if you are three people or more, the price difference might not be so great so you might want to opt for the taxi. When you exit customs, go straight out of the airport and there you will see a line of taxis ready and waiting for you. Cost will probably range between 30 and 40 Euros. You can also plan ahead and order a taxi online to pick you up at the airport or hotel. Here are some of the options (Prices as of day of posting this – subject to change so be sure to check):

Airport Driver: 33 Euros (Aug 2014) from Vienna to airport. Book online.

Fluxi: taxi for a set price in a vehicle with free wireless, mineral water and tray. They also offer free car sears for the kids and cars can be booked over their website, Whats app, FB Messenger, Viber or phone. Airport service starts at 28 €.

Red Cab: From Austrian Airlines. 29 Euros to Vienna inner districts for up to 3 passengers and 40 Euros for up to 8 passengers. Book online. Great option for other towns as well.

Blacklane Limousines: Go in style with a BMW, Mercedes or Lincoln Town Car for 34 Euros (Aug 2014).

Airport Taxi: Order online or per SMS. Every 8th service free.

Total Taxi: Starting at 29 Euros (Aug 2014). Book online.

 BUS – Vienna Airport Lines

Vienna Airport Bus

Vienna Airport Bus

The bus is definitely my preferred option. Easy, cheap and fast. When you get to the bus, put your luggage in to the bottom and wait for the driver. When driver arrives, board, and let him/her know one way or return, buy your tickets and then find yourself a seat.

Vienna Airport Bus

Vienna Airport Bus

At the airport, you will find the buses lined up beyond the lines of taxis as you exit directly out the doors when you go through customs. Just make sure you board the bus that will take you to the stop you want to end up at. They leave about every half hour.
Wien Morzinplatz/ Schwedenplatz (U4 & U1)
Wien Donauzentrum (über VIC) (U1)
Wien Westbahnhof (über Meidling Hbf.) (U3)

Rates of the Vienna Airport Lines (as of August 2014)
One way: €8
holders: €7
Children up to 15 years: €4
Children up to 6 years: free

You can purchase tickets from tourist information at the airport and on-board the buses directly from the driver

1. City center – Morzinplatz/Schwedenplatz (Subway U1 and U4)

  • Travel time: 20 minutes
  • Operating hours:
    Morzinplatz/Schwedenplatz – Airport

    Daily 0.30 am; 2.00 am; from 4.00 am to 11.30 pm – every 30 minutes
    Airport – Morzinplatz/Schwedenplatz

    Daily 1.20 am; 2.50 am; every 30 minutes from 4.50 am to 0.20 am

2. Westbahnhof – Vienna Meidling Station (Subway U3)

  • Stops: Vienna Meidling Station/Dörflerstraße and Westbahnhof
  • Travel time:
    Westbahnhof: 45 minutes
    Vienna Meidling Station/Dörflerstraße:  30 minutes
  • Operating hours:
    Westbahnhof  – Airport

    Daily every 30 minutes from 5.10 am –  11.10 pm
    Meidling Station – Airport
    Daily every 30 minutes from 5.25 am – 11.25 pm
    Airport –
    Vienna Meidling Station – Westbahnhof
    Daily every 30 minutes from 6.05 am – 0.04 pm

3. Kaisermühlen Vienna International Centre VIC – Kagran (Subway U1 and U2)

Airport Bus Schedule

Airport Bus Schedule

  • Stops: Donaumarina, Hotel Hilton Danube, Kaisermühlen Vienna Int. Centre, Julius-Payer-Gasse, Donauzentrum, Kagraner Brücke
  • Travel time: about  17 to 42 minutes
  • Operating hours:
    Kagran – Airport

    Daily, hourly from 5.58 am – 6.58 pm
    Airport – Kagran

    Daily, hourly from 7.10 am – 8.10 pm

CAT – City Airport Train (fancy double-decker train option)

CAT Website
TICKETS: You can buy your CAT ticket or from ticket machines and from tourist information at the airport.
Kids will love this double decker train. The station is directly at the airport, just follow the neon green CAT signs. Trains leave about every half hour and will take you directly into Vienna to the U4 and U1 station Wien Mitte, which also has a mall and grocery store and is next the shopping street, Landstrasse. But another reason you might want to opt for CAT is the cool option that if you buy your tickets online, and then go to the station the evening before your flight, you can actually check in for many airlines at the CAT station the evening before. This will help you bypass all the annoying summer queues at the airport. Check out their website to see which airlines will allow you to check in at the CAT station the night before and when check in times are. Just give them your luggage, get your boarding pass and then the only thing you have to worry about on the next day when you fly is catching the CAT train to the airport and getting to your gate on time. Very cool. But don’t try to check in without a CAT ticket. They are very strict and won’t let you (not that I would know).

  • runs between the airport and Wien Mitte/Landstraße

    Blurry image of CAT check in at Wien Mitte

    Blurry image of CAT check in at Wien Mitte

  • Travel time: 16 minutes
  • Operating hours:
  • Wien Mitte/Landstraße –  Airport
    Daily from 5.30 am – 11.00 pm
    Airport – Wien Mitte/Landstraße
    Daily from 6.00 am – 11.30 pm
  • Frequency: every 30 minutes
  • Rates:
    One way:
  • CityAirport Train for less with the Vienna-Card
    One way:
    Children up to 14
    years travel on the CAT free of charge.

EXPRESS TRAIN S7 (public train option) – Subway Station U4 – Wien Mitte

Cheap and reliable, the train will take you directly to the airport.
Runs between the airport and Wien Mitte/Landstrasse

  • Other stops in Vienna: Kaiserebersdorf, Zentralfriedhof S-Bahn, Geiselbergstraße, St. Marx, Rennweg, Praterstern, Traisengasse, Handelskai, Floridsdorf
  • Travel time from/to Wien Mitte/Landstrasse: 26 minutes
  • Operating hours:
    Wien Mitte/Landstrasse – Airport

    Daily from 4.31 am – 11.46 pm
    Airport – Wien Mitte/Landstrasse
    Daily from 4.54 am to 0.18 am
    Timetables for all stations are available at
    Frequency: mostly every 30 minutes
  • Rates:
     You only need to buy one additional ticket for €2,20 in advance. Please validate before boarding. All holders of a multi-day network card of the Vienna Lines (e.g. 24-hour ticket, 72-hour ticket, weekly ticket, etc.) will also need just one additional ticket.

One way tickets:  €4,40 in advance and at ticket machines. Each passenger needs two tickets of €2,20 each. Validate both tickets before boarding.The one way tickets can be purchased from the tourist information desk at the airport and from ticket machines in Vienna and at the airport. Print This Post

Other good sites about Vienna Airport Transportation
Vienna Now or Never

 Trip Advisor Airport Info


Escaping the Heat by Indulging in some “Summer Freshness”

“I am longing to get out, like never before.”
(Ich sehne mich hinaus wie noch nie.)
– Austrian Painted Gustav Klimt, August 1, 1901 in a postcard from Vienna sent to his lady, Emilie Floge at Attersee (the lake in the countryside)

Austrian writers and artists have a long tradition of escaping the oppressive summer heat of Vienna (or maybe they are slipping away from the tourists?)  to spend some cool and artistically productive weeks in the Austrian countryside and the Alps.  They even had a special word for this – not vacation, not holidays, but rather “Sommerfrische” – Summer Freshness.

Sommerfrische referred not only to annual retreat time but also to the destination. When noticing the absence of their beloved coffeehouse poet, patrons of Cafe Central may have asked, “Where praytell is Peter Altenberg these days?” Whereupon the Oberkellner Franz would have no doubt responded, “My madam, Herr Altenberg is currently on Sommerfrische until the end of August.”

The idea of retreating to the countryside during the summer probably dates back to the time of the aristocrats (evidenced in the stories of Jane Austen or Dostoyevsky) in which the landowners had to tend to their fields in summer and returned to the cities for their dose of society and culture in the winter months (where also, no doubt, heating a city flat was much more manageable than maintaining a whole countryside villa or palace throughout the winter). This is why you will still find summer palaces (Schönbrunn which was at one time quite a bit of travel per horse and carriage from the city) as counterparts to the winter palaces (Hofburg).

Countryside around Weyer, Upper Austria

Countryside around Weyer, Upper Austria

As transportation improved, and with the advent of train travel, a greater part of society began taking off for Sommerfrische revitalization. Evidence of some of the most popular destinations remains today in the form of opulent Jugendstil train stations more befitting royalty than the local countryside folk. Those who could not afford a countryside home stayed in Pensionen and hotels. In some of these popular villages you can still find “Kursalons” where turn of the century Viennese would gather to waltz their summer nights away (because a Viennese cannot not waltz, even on vacation).

In addition to dancing, the Sommerfrischler liked to hike, swim, boat, sing, play music, take walks, play chess and one can only imagine stir up trouble for the locals.

Another beloved past time of the Sommerfrische, was the so-called Liebeleien or Gespüssis. Fresh air? Fresh faces? Or the distance that often separated a husband and wife for several weeks at a time (with wife and children tucked away in the countryside while the man often had “important business matters” to attend to in the city)? The fragrant wild lilac bushes, the potent self-brewed Schnaps and thousand-star night skies? These were a particularly “hot” (no pun intended) topic for the writers and many works written during the turn of the century expound on some of these passionately tragic liaisons.

Of course, some say that perhaps so many went on Sommerfrische, not for salacious entertainment, but rather as an act of succumbing to social pressure — who wants to be accused of being too cheap or poor to send the family away for some Alpine recuperation? Favored Austrian Sommerfrische destinations that are still wonderfully suitable today for a cool summer visit with some beautiful traditional Austrian guesthouses:



Salzkammergut: Wolfgangsee, Mondsee,
Weyer: Austrian poet, Peter Altenberg
And the favored swim destinations — Bad is a false cognate meaning “Bath”, NOT bad as in the opposite of good.
Bad Gastein
Bad Fusch
Bad Aussee
Bad Vöslau: Austrian writer, Arthur Schnitzler
Bad Ischl: the Emperor Franz Josef, Johann von Nestroy, Karl Kraus, who noted how many villas were being built for Viennese summer enjoyment, and commented that the mountains started to look more like decorations that had been put up around the Viennese Ringstrasse. Print This Post

More interesting reading on Sommerfrische:
Presse Article on Sommerfrische


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

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. 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):


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))

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.

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Ice Cream Reward in Krems

Ice Cream Reward in Krems

City walking tours in English of Stein and Krems:

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.

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