Baroque monastery and robber-knight fortress
Along this section of the scenic Danube Bike Path, you ride from Melk, the western “Gateway to the Wachau”, along the Danube to the historic city of Mautern, which played a major role in Ancient Roman times. On your ride, you pedal through the lovely Wachau and towns such as Schönbühel, Aggsbach and Rossatz-Arnsdorf.
This stage takes you by the Dunkelsteiner Wald, one of the biggest contiguous woodlands in Middle Europe. The advantage of the route on the south river bank is the sweeping view of the grand landscape of the Wachau, a UNESCO World Heritage landscape on the opposite bank. It has enchanting wooded slopes interspersed with rocks, terraced vineyards and amiable villages. Before leaving Melk, the “Gateway to the Wachau”, behind you, make sure to visit the Benedictine Abbey of Melk, founded 1089, with its magnificent library of 85,000 books, a ceiling fresco by Paul Troger and a fragment of the Lay of the Nibelung.
This old epic reminds you just how steeped in history this area is, a fact also attested to by prehistoric finds in Schönbühel. You pass through this town with its charming castle on the bank of the Danube on your way to Aggstein. There the legendary 12th c castle ruins of the same name entice you to climb 300 meters up the steep hill. The robber-baron Jörg Schenk once resided here. He forced the ships on the Danube to stop and pay him a toll. Those who failed to do so were put on a high rock ledge within the fortress called the Rosengärtlein (Garden of Roses) and left to starve to death.
Relax and simply enjoy the scenery until Mautern. Along the way, you encounter villages graced with charming churches and old wineries and farmhouses. Near Bacharnsdorf, you see the remains of fortifications that formed part of the old Roman limes along the Danube, now incorporated in buildings and gardens.