This morning we gathered at 8:30 for a bike ride. We started our bike ride in the town of Krems.
Our terminus was four miles away in the town of Dürnstein. Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned in a castle here for almost 2 years.
The boat was leaving at 10:45 so we were a little nervous because you can only go as fast as the slowest person.
Austrian agriculture allows them to be self sufficient as a country. There is a specific microclimate that produces fruits. Krems is known for apricots especially drunken apricots have been soaked in schnapps.
Some people got lost on the bike ride. Our guide went ahead of most of the group, and there were many forks in the road. When it was clear that some were left behind, some went back to find the stragglers. One older man was on an electric bicycle for the first time!! It was a little hectic but fun. It was great to get some exercise and ride along the natural shoreline that we had been seeing from the boat.
We are cruising through the Wachau Valley which is a one hour drive from Vienna. It is a UNESCO protected territory. There are many small beautiful villages, soft low hills and vineyards. The red roofs made of local clay. It is quite charming.
Our cruise director was born a Catholic, became a Protestant, dated a Jew, became a Muslim, and is now Buddhist. She is obviously seeking Jesus!! Only He can satisfy.
She would get a little long-winded, and she often say, “It goes without saying…” which cracked me up.
Für Mich Soll’s Rote Rosen Regnen by Hildegard Knef was a song that was playing as we were cruising up river. (We use a Shazam App to determine the name of the song that is playing.)
Near a river, there are lots of bugs and therefore, lots of spider webs…fast food!!
There is a growing interest in industrial revolution archeology in Europe. Currently, they are studying many bridges.
Historically, waterways were the fastest, most efficient way to transport goods and people. Many of the towns were logistical spots for the military … now they are sleepy tourist places.
Rivers were used to dispatch troops for the Crusades. Many Catholics, especially Crusaders, took a pilgrimage because they were told that they would be absolved from their sins if they visited one of three holy sites: The Vatican, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, or St. James of Compostela. Only the rich aristocrats could afford the time and money to do this. A pilgrimage could last a year.
Many castles or large dwellings are missing the roof. They were removed because of a rooftop tax. There was also a window tax. I don’t know if those taxes are still assessed today, but that explains a lot!!
Franz Ferdinand was the last of the Habsburgs to generate income. When he married Sophie, it was a morganatic marriage which means that they were not of the same social status, and therefore, neither his wife or his children have any claim to the throne nor would they inherit anything. She could not even be seen with him during public appearances unless the events were military.
In 1914, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and Sophia in Sarajevo set off events that started the Great War (World War I). He was in Sarajevo to review the military. The assassination was the beginning of the end of the Austrian Empire.
Franz Ferdinand led the Navy Military Office. It was dissolved after the assassination, AND after WWI Austria no longer had access to the sea.
Artstetten Castle was originally a summer home for the Hapsburgs. It was given to Franz Ferdinand so his family would be taken care of regardless of what happened to him. They had three children.
At the end of our tour of the Artstetten Castle, Princess Anita of Hohenburg, the great-granddaughter of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, came to speak with us for about 30 minutes. She is very charming and interacted with our group.
Anita was born in Luxembourg and is about 60 years old. She feels strongly about having family members live in the castle because it gives a “soul” to the building. About 15 years ago Anita decided to create a corporation for the castle. Tourism and forestry are the most profitable family businesses.
After WWII a law was passed disallowing the use of titles but every one knows who they are and their titles.
Franz Ferdinand went on a world tour for 1½ years. He wanted to transform the Austrian Empire of the 1880’s. He visited North America. I was interested in the artifacts that he brought back. These would have been uniquely American at the turn of the century.
Fifteen languages were used and recognized during the Habsburg reign. One could speak any of them, but the written word must be in Hungarian or German. From 1722 to 1918, the western region of Ukraine was part of the Austria-Hungarian Empire.
After our tour of the castle our bus drove us to Ybbs where our boat had docked. of course, Mozart spent some time here and wrote and played some music … but our guide didn’t say what ones.
Merchants didn’t have to pay river tolls if they lived in the city so they built a home at each toll.