Discover the glorious landscapes of Austria and the Danube Valley
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Discover the glorious landscapes of Austria and the Danube Valley from the tracks of its delightful railways. Travel on the Mariazellerbahn, the Salamander Train and the Wachaubahn as you uncover the mountains, cities and cuisine of this remarkable region.
After meeting your Tour Manager and the rest of the group at St Pancras train station, we board the Eurostar service, travelling under the channel and across France, heading towards Brussels in Belgium. From here, we continue on into Germany where we stop at medieval Nuremberg for an overnight stay.
Today, after a morning at leisure to explore Nuremberg, we board a high speed train service which takes us from Nuremberg along to St Pölten. Here, our luggage is picked up and taken to our hotel while we complete our journey on the wonderful Mariazellerbahn known locally as the 'Stairway to Heaven' train.
With a route running through the deep valleys and mossy forests of the Mariazell region, the Mariazellerbahn makes full use of its idyllic setting with its enormous panoramic windows, offering superb views of the infinite vineyards, rolling foothills and the Danube Valley itself. After a short journey, our train pulls into the Steinschal station. From here, we walk to our hotel, the 4-Star Naturhotel Steinschalerhof, where we are welcomed personally by the owner Mr Weiss with a drink. We are then treated to a talk on the region before taking an orientation tour of the charming gardens which make this hotel so special.
For our first excursion in Austria, we transfer to the small town of Puchberg, from where we journey on the delightful Salamander Train. Painted with the distinctive patterns of the spotted salamander, this train snakes up through the lower Austrian mountains, through dramatic scenery up to the top of the Hochschneeberg Mountain. Extraordinary views greet you at the summit, and from here, you can gaze down across the Rax, Ötscher and Hochschwab mountains below. You can even see across the Austro-Hungarian border where you'll find the calm waters of the Neusiedl and Balaton lakes in Hungary.
At the top of the Hochschneeberg, there are a number of nature walks which you may wish to try during your time here. Alternatively, several traditional Austrian taverns and restaurants offer refreshment and the opportunity to sit back and enjoy the fresh mountain air.
Today we board the Mariazellerbahn once more for a visit to Mariazell. Sat on a peak, providing marvellous views of the valleys below as well as the nearby Alps and the River Salza, Mariazell is an idyllic city boasting an impressive centrepiece in the striking Basilica, known as the Basilica Mariä Geburt.
This fascinating old church is famously the most important pilgrimage site in all of Austria, featuring a sacred wooden image of the Virgin Mary as its focal point. After some time here to explore and get our bearings, we enjoy lunch in a local hotel before continuing to the Lebkuchen Museum. Run by local gingerbread manufacturer Pirker, this tasteful museum details the history of this sweet treat offering plenty of opportunities to sample what is a very popular delicacy of the Mariazell region. We also discover, and have a go at beeswax rolling and lebkuchen heart decoration.
We later return to the Basilica Mariä Geburt where we enjoy a guided tour of this ornate church which Christians visit on pilgrimages each year. The Basilica was built on the remains of a Gothic church which housed a Marian altar where the image of the Virgin Mary can be found. It is this artwork which attracts the flocks of pilgrims who have visited this holy site since the early 13th century. On our return to the hotel later, we enjoy dinner in the restaurant, accompanied by traditional music from the Mariazell region.
Our excursion today takes us by coach to Melk Abbey. This impossibly grand Benedictine Abbey, as an institution, has been in operation since 1089, and by the 18th century, the current Baroque abbey building had been built. It has lost none of its stunning resplendence since then, with the curious peach and white exterior exuding a calm grandeur and the twin clock towers providing more of an imperial palatial feel. The inside is no less impressive, with arched ceilings and gilded golden walls, as well as winding staircases adorned with religious motifs. We enjoy a tour of the abbey before we continue down into the delightful town of Melk where we have free time. Sat on the banks of the Danube, and designed in classic German style, Melk is very much a quintessential Danube town, nestled in forests and well worth exploring. After Melk, we travel to Emmersdorg for a journey on the Wachaubahn to Krems. Seated in panoramic carriages, we are well placed for the pretty journey through villages, farmlands and forests.
In Krems, we pay a visit to the vineyards of Sandgrube 13 which produces some of the finest wine in the region and here, we are granted an inside look into how the wine production process works. Later, our coach brings us back to the hotel where we try a dégustation menu, with which we enjoy Most, a kind of cider local to this area.
Today we pay a visit to one of the greatest of the imperial cities of Europe and the capital of Austria. Travelling by coach, we journey through some delightful landscapes before arriving into Vienna .This wonderful city is home to all manner of stunning Romantic, Baroque and Classic architectural marvels, mostly built during the era of the prestigious Prussian Empire. There are a variety of grand palaces, each built by various important families across the ages. Perhaps the finest of these is the Schonbrunn Palace. With 1,441 rooms and built in the Baroque style, this is the quintessential Austrian palace. An impressive facade of gentle peach and stretching gardens provide this palace with its majestic appeal. For a more central attraction, the Imperial Palace is an inner-city highlight, hidden between the town houses and illustrious government buildings.
During our time here, we enjoy a guided tour which takes us through the many sights, and after this tour, you have free time to explore. You may wish to sample some traditional Viennese cuisine, famously the only cuisine named after a city. Of particular note here, are the Viennese pastries; nowhere else in the world makes apfelstrudel as it is made in Vienna. Later tonight, we enjoy a farewell dinner at a local Heuriger in Vienna - an open air wine tavern, unique to this part of the world. On arrival back at the hotel, we enjoy a farewell drink.
Bidding farewell to Austria and the Danube Valley today, we transfer to St. Pölten railway station. From here we depart on a train to Nuremberg, and from there, we continue on to Cologne. We spend the night here.
Please Note: For departure DVS1804 you will be staying at the Intercity Bonn Hotel.
We have a free morning today to explore Cologne. This attractive modern city has everything you would expect from a major German town. At its heart is the spectacular Cathedral, one of the tallest in Europe. Distinctly Gothic in design, with a pair of twin spires reaching up into the blue German sky, this religious building survived 14 strikes from bombing raids in the Second World War and is now under UNESCO World Heritage protection. The daring may wish to ascend the one of the spires which gives sumptuous views across the city, the river Rhine and the surrounding area.
Later today, we journey by rail to Brussels before joining the Eurostar service back to London. Here, your tour concludes.
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An escorted experience and all travel arrangements
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Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
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Discover the glorious landscapes of Austria and the Danube Valley