Day two: After a fretful night for me, the three of us rose at 5:00am and got a cab to the airport for our flight to Vienna. Jim and Heike's friend, Christian, met us at the airport and we drove into the center, had breakfast at a chi chi cafe and had a leisurely walk to the train station. Not much of a tour of Vienna but better than nothing. What I saw certainly intrigued me and reinforced the pictures in my mind of an old, elegant city, spotlessly clean, gorgeous architecture, the Danube flowing through.
Then the hour train trip along the Danube to Krems, a largeish city in the middle of wine country.
Markus met us at the train and we drove out of Krems following the Danube through incredibly gorgeous countryside, steep, terraced hillsides rising on either side covered with vineyards, postcard little villages, castles on the hilltops.
One curiosity that we passed as we climbed up to a plateau with farms and fields of agricultural crops, was a large field of marijuana. Yes, really! Actually, we passed it, did a double take, "was that what I think it was?" did a u turn and, sure enough, a field of five foot pot plants. I doubt very much that it was the psychotropic kind but remarkable nonetheless.
The road wound down to a little river, we turned off, parked and set off on a path following the river. I had heard stories from Jim and Heike about Markus' propensity for somewhat extreme adventures so was relieved at the ease of the walk. Well, he was to live up to his reputation as we soon turned off on to a small, muddy, steep trail that went up and up and up. At one point there were cables to grab on to to pull yourself up by, that's how steep it was. My energy wasn't high with about three hours of sleep in the last 48 and I struggled painfully up. But at the top, called Teuffels Rast (Devil's Rest, even the devil has to rest here) we were rewarded by a nice view over the mountains and down to the river.
Then a long walk through the fields and finally back down to the car for the drive to the little town of Weissenkirchen and our residence, Manghof, owned and operated by Hilde and Heinrich Mang. This place was built in the late 15th century and has been in the Mang family since the 1800s. http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B005DH6RQ6?pc_redir=1406681222&robot_redir=1#immersive-view_1412442380839 (google: Manghof Weissenkirchen for more images)
Now to give you some background, much of it gleaned from Markus who is immensely knowledgable about this stuff (and much more, I was to learn). A measure of his dedication to fine wine at its best, he had a wine cooler in the back of his car to keep the wine that he purchased at the correct seven degrees, not six, not eight, seven! The wine from this region is distinct to it, like champagne.
After the usual sort of German/Austrian breakfast of meats, cheeses, bread, musili, yogurt, etc we set off up the valley to the beginning of the day's walk, aka death march. I didn't believe that I was still capable of a hike like that, long and hard but interspersed with more indulgence, history and beautiful scenery.
The trail went up through vineyards and forests, down to another village where we had coffee at a bakery museum where baking equipment from the past was exhibited and where there was a very quaint and elegant tea room also loaded with baking relics.
Fortified with caffeine, we headed up again for our lunch stop in yet another cute little town. Like most of them, this lunch would have nourished me for several days at home: pork tenderloin medallions with spatzle, lots of bland sauce, a little salad and, you guesse it,great flagons of beer. Thoroughly bloated, we huffed up the hill through apple orchards to the local castle, now hotel. As it had been at least a half hour since we'd last indulged, it was again time for coffee and cake.
Now time for the return hike, just a few kilometres up hill and down dale. I really didn't think I had it in me to do much more strenuous hiking but, though it was quite a struggle, I managed to do it albeit with aching hips, legs and feet. The car was a welcome sight followed by the bliss of a hot shower back at Gasthaus Mang. But that wasn't the end: back to Noibinger for a few appies, wine and schnapps. And so the day ended. All very surreal to me, transported overnight to "the sound of music" with a different sort of wine sodden Trapp family. http://www.trautsamwieser.at/
We returned to our little town to make a wine purchase then headed back to Krems. On the way we stopped for lunch at another of the stereotypical cute little towns where a funeral was in progress complete with marching band and most of the town's residents.
Markus knows all these little places. In fact he seemed to know his way around the area like he was born there, all the trails and places to eat and drink. Finally a stop at the Caricature Museum in Krems full of iconic Austrian caricature artist works, most of it beyond me.
Then the train back to Vienna and now flying back to Dusseldorf. Amsterdam tomorrow.