The Danube is Austria's principal river and the longest in Europe after the Volga. Although barely more than 300km/185mi of the river's total course of some 2,900km/1,800miles - from its source in South Germany to its outflow into the Black Sea in Romania - lie within Austria, the names of Austria and the Danube are so closely linked that it is difficult to think of the one without the other. As the only major European waterway flowing from west to east, the Danube has for thousands of years played an important part in the history of the many peoples through whose territory it flowed. It marked out the route of the great military highway which ran from the Rhine to the Black Sea; the Romans built a series of fortified camps such as Vindobona and Carnuntum along the valley; the legendary Nibelungs came this way; and here, too, passed the Celts, Charlemagne's Franks, Frederick Barbarossa's Crusaders and finally Napoleon. In the opposite direction, going upstream, Attila led his Huns towards France and the Avars and Hungarians pressed into western Europe. Great battles which decided the fate of Europe have been fought on the banks of the Danube: twice the West withstood Turkish assaults at Vienna, and at Aspern (now within the city limits of Vienna) Napoleon suffered his first defeat in 1809. The Danube and the regions along its banks have become threatened by attack from chemical waste and by the power stations which affect the water-balance. As a result, in recent years the idea of making the area below Vienna a protected national park has attracted considerable support; however, the problem of finance is as yet unsolved. Between the German frontier at Passau and the Upper Austrian town of Linz the Danube describes a series of great loops in the forest-fringed valley between the Mühlviertel to the north and the Innviertel to the south. Below Linz lies the Strudengau, a wooded defile between Ardagger and Ybbs, and beyond this, extending to Melk, stretches the Nibelungengau, with the conspicuous pilgrimage church of Maria Taferl. The best-known stretch is perhaps the Wachau, with a series of ancient little towns between Melk and Krems. Just beyond this, through the Tullner Basin, lies Vienna, and the low-lying area which extends eastward to Hainburg and Bratislava (the Czech Republic) begins to take on the aspect of the Hungarian puszta.
Danube Boat Services
The DDSG (Erste Donau-Dampfschiffahrts-Gesellschaft; First Danube Steamer Company), one of the oldest shipping companies in the world, was founded in 1829 in Vienna. In 1834 the first DDSG steamer reached the Black Sea, three years later regular services had been established between Regensburg and the Danube delta. Today, as the national Austrian Danube shipping company, the DDSG operates a fleet of passenger ships, a number of which are equipped with cabins. A hovercraft between Vienna and Budapest provides a faster service.Among the traffic crossing the border between Germany and Austria are the boats (from May to September) from Passau to Linz and Passau to Vienna. It is possible to make the outward journey by boat and return by bus or train or vice versa. Within Austria itself there are excursions from Linz to Vienna and from Vienna to the Wachau. The excursions often feature a program on board (dancing) or walks ashore (town tours and visits; visits to festivals and musical events; in Dürnstein a visit to a typical Wachau cellar completes the tour of the town). Another route between Germany and Austria follows the Rhine-Main-Danube waterway from Nuremburg to Vienna.From Easter to October there are round trips which leave the DDSG station at Schwedenbrücke, heading up the Danube canal to Nussdorf in the Danube river, past the Danube Tower and UNO-City to the Prater and back again (about 3 hours duration). Evening cruises are arranged from Thursday to Saturday in summer. Shorter 1.5 hour excursions are also possible.There are also a number of possible excursions by DDSG boats from Vienna to Eastern Europe and the Black Sea. As well as trips from Vienna to Budapest (can also be combined with a visit to Lake Balaton) and from Vienna to the Iron Gate there are boat trips from Vienna to Sulina on the Black Sea which are more like cruises. The former Soviet ship MS "Volga" is on permanent charter to DDGS. It sails from Vienna to Ismail on the Danube delta, where passengers transfer to the MS "Ajwasovski", which continues via Yalta (Crimea) to Istanbul. The trips to the Danube delta and Istanbul can be combined with a flight either from Vienna to Constanta on the Black Sea coast or to Istanbul or the other way round. Before traveling by boat to Hungary or the Black Sea passengers should inquire about passport and visa regulations.
Address: DDSG-Donaureisen, Handelskai 265, Austria
Austrian rivers offer plenty of opportunity for canoeing, ranging from trips down the larger rivers such as the Danube, the Drau, the Inn, the Mur and the Salzach to difficult "white water" runs on mountain streams such as the Salza, the Steyr, the Möll, the Lieser, the Ziller and the Lech. An international "Wildwasserwoche" (white water week) is held annually on the Möll.