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This chapter follows the course of the Danube upstream from Vienna as it winds through Lower Austria (Niederösterreich) and a bit of Upper Austria (Oberösterreich) to Linz, on the way passing monasteries and industrial towns, the riverside vineyards of the lower Weinviertel, and fragrant expanses of apricot and apple orchards.
It is, however, the Danube itself, originating in Germany's Black Forest and emptying into the Black Sea, that is this chapter's focal point. The route that brought the Romans to the area and contributed to its development remains one of Europe's most important waterways, with four national capitals on its banks—Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, and Belgrade. The expression "Whoever controls the Danube controls all Europe" is attributed to the Romans, but the Kuenringer (robber knights who built many of the hilltop castles) followed suit, thriving by sacking the baggage caravans of the early Crusaders. With the passing of time, castles came to be financed through somewhat more commercial means—Frederick Barbarossa, leading his army downstream, had to pay a crossing toll at Mauthausen. Subsequently, settlements evolved into ports for the salt, wood, ores, and other cargo transported on the river, and today modern railroads and highways parallel most of the blue Danube's course.
The Wachau: Along the North Bank of the Danube. Dürnstein, Krems, and many other small medieval towns offer a peaceful respite to the wandering traveler. Wine taverns abound and good home cooking in quaint restaurants is a perfect way to end the day.
Linz. The 2009 European cultural capital basks in amazing cutting-edge design. Experience exciting insights into modern day's latest technology at one of the incredible museums.
Excursions from Linz. Leave Upper Austria's busy capital to discover the quiet rural countryside, 1,000-year-old monasteries, and other hidden treasures along the way.
The Wachau: Along the South Bank of the Danube. Travel through picturesque vineyards and orchards to the mighty Melk Abbey. Pass by ruins of old castles, or stop and hike through the woods for a closer look at the remnants. The views across the Danube will reward you for your toil.
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