As I stood alone in the woods, the only sounds were those of the occasional bird call and the noises of the snow melting around me. The silence at times would be almost complete but then the stillness would be broken by the sudden crashing of branches accompanied, as you looked up, by an isolated flurry of snow. With the sun shining through the branches, the light upon the flakes created a beautiful mix of bright colours contrasting in some places with the darkness of the wood or in others the whiteness of the trees still covered in thick blanket of snow.
The Wachau is a wine growing area that sits alongside the Danube River about an hour or so from Vienna. The area is very popular with day tripping tourist, with its attractive villages, vineyards, castle ruins, as well as orchards and places to sit and eat by the river. Away from the Danube it’s mostly steep, rolling hills but we had come on a day trip to a small mountain in the area in order for R and H to do a little skiing before the snows disappear completely. As the others started to ascend the slope on the ski lift, I set off along a nearby forest path to enjoy the sunshine and to walk through the snow covered countryside before this frozen world transformed itself into a muddy, damp landscape.
Although not far from the ski slope I quickly found myself alone in a silent landscape which was gradually emerging from under its thick blanket of snow. Much of the ground and some of the trees were either free from the snow or had only a little covering, whilst others remained entrapped in their thick wintery coats. This is what I had come to see the beauty of the colours and the strangeness of the shapes the come with the transition from wintery snow to spring blossom. As I moved through the open countryside and into the woods the images and the peacefulness of the scenes in front of me made the walk in the crisp sunny afternoon a real joy.
Nearing my destination I could hear the clank of metal generated by the ski lift at the top of the slope. I quickly found R and H preparing to make another decent and after confirming that they were happy to continue skiing, I followed the signs to the nearby cafe. As the path emerged from the trees I found myself looking at an old wooden watch tower which now housed the promised a cafe and with it my hopes for another enjoyable coffee experience. The venue was empty at this time but it was a quaint little place with an older lady sitting by the fire doing her knitting. She gave me a friendly welcome and after our exchange of greetings I successfully used one of the few German phrases I have at my disposal – ‘Black coffee please’. With some effort I managed to keep a friendly if puzzled look on my face as I realised that my host was telling me that indeed coffee was available from the vending machine to my left. With a heavy heart I put my money in the slot, recovered the ‘coffee’ in its plastic cup and went to take a seat in the corner. In a country with true coffeehouses and great coffees it seems to me (despite my liberalism) that someone should pass a law banning the serving of coffee from vending machines.
Travelling back through the Wachau, in the late afternoon, we pulled off the main road to drop into the vineyard of Karl Mayr. I was first introduced to his St. Laurent red wine at my wedding reception. Although our wedding was held in England my In-Laws were kind enough to ensure that we had a true flavour of Austria with the supply of red and white wines from Karl Mayr’s vineyard. I have been a fan ever since and his wines provide an enjoyable glass with a meal or to share when friend call round. Unfortunately, as time was against us, we declined the invitation to share a glass of wine and some conversation. Instead we promised ourselves we would be visiting again soon, got some advice on the best place to purchase some local fruit and having made our purchases headed back towards Vienna .
As we drove through Durnstein H groaned as I once again pointed to the castle that sits above the town and reminded her that it had once been the prison of Richard the Lionheart. Driving along the side of the river R commented that in the bright sunshine, for once, the Danube really did almost look blue. On the other side of Krems we again left the main road and entered a small village in search of fresh fruit. Unfortunately, by the time we reached Vienna the majority of the apples R purchased had already been eaten. So I guess it won’t be long before we are back in the Wachau in search of good walks, good food and great wine.