Our itinerary was simple. Drive down the valley on one side of the Danube and then back up on the other side. Stop and explore castles when we come upon them. Stop and buy another bottle of wine from whatever vineyard we happened to be passing when the previous bottle ran dry. Grüner Veltliner is the typical wine of the region.
Our first stop was Burgruine Aggstein, the ruins of a castle which was once the stronghold of a band of robber barons who liked to impose hefty tolls on passing river barges. The poor old Toyota van struggled to make the steep ascent, chugging along in second and sometimes even in first gear.
We stopped for lunch at a picnic table at the edge of a vineyard directly afterwards, where we sampled our first wine from the region, and then drove on toward Krems.
As we approached the town Sara noticed a magnificent looking building atop a hill overlooking the river, and Peter discovered from the map that this must be Stift Göttweig. Those of you who own the brilliant book The Bad Catholic's Guide to Wine, Whiskey, and Song may turn to page 72. Needless to say, we bought another bottle of wine.
Crossing the Danube at Krems and then driving back up river on the other side we came to Burgruine Dürnstein, the ruins of the castle which once held Richard Lionheart prisoner. He was captured by Margrave Leopold V of Austria as he was returning to England from the Third Crusade and held at Dürnstein.
Finally, we stopped to explore Burgruine Hinterhaus, another castle ruin, this time above the town of Spitz. I know nothing of the history of this one, but it did have a great tower which we were able to ascend. That may have made it Peter's favorite.