Since it has been so unseasonably warm on the U.S. east coast this winter, we had no idea that our Viking River Cruise last December would basically be the only taste of winter we got the entire season. Some of our favorite memories of the trip are from exploring winter in Austria & Germany.
Austria: Göttweig Abbey
The day our ship was docked in Krems, Austria, we took a little excursion to nearby Göttweig Abbey, a working Benedictine monastery. Founded in 1083, the monastery has seen quite a lot of history, from significant decline in the 16th century, to a large fire in the early-1700s, to present day when it is home to 50 monks. Viking River Cruises has a special partnership with the Abbey & has made a number of donations & improvements to the building, including providing the financing for the visitors center. The Abbey is best known for making apricot wine & we were able to sample some during our tour. A light coating of snow from overnight covered the building’s red roofs, giving it a particularly fairy tale-like look as we toured the grounds.
The stunning fresco, which represents Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI as Apollo, was painted in the 1730s & is truly a work to behold. You can’t help but feel like royalty as you descend up & down the grand staircase.
During Advent, a small holiday market takes place at the Abbey, selling crafts & ornaments handmade by the local community. In addition, the Abbey has a rather extensive gift shop that sells local Austria wine.
The Abbey is perhaps best known for its huge library of over 130,000 books & manuscripts, which all largely survived WWII unscathed. Sadly, the library is not open to visitors.
Germany: Bavarian Forest
The morning we were due into Regensburg, Germany, an announcement on the ship said that we were running about an hour behind schedule, due to traffic in the locks. I initially rolled over in bed, happy for a little extra sleep. But unable to sleep, I got up to shuffle down for coffee, peaking out the window of our room to see where we were. And thank goodness I did – as this was the frosty, snowy, wintery, magnificent view! As we cruised past the Bavarian Forest, covered in snow & icicles, it felt like we were heading into a Disney fairytale land. It was truly some of the most beautiful scenery of the trip.