Dürnstein is a small town in the Wachau, the most beautiful valley of Austria, which found its place in one of the most popular literary works Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’, but also in the tales of ‘Robin Hood’. You may ask yourself how this town with less than 400 souls ended up in these stories from two different parts of the world. The answer is pretty simple - two very important events of European history are connected with Dürnstein.
We all know the tales of a legendary heroic outlaw Robin Hood who fought the evil usurper of the throne, Prince John Lackland, waiting for his master and the only rightful King Richard the Lionheart to return from the Crusades. However, Richard was held a prisoner in Dürnstein Castle, and according to the legend, hidden from the public because at that time, it was forbidden to capture the crusaders. Nevertheless, the Austrian Duke Leopold V decided to keep Richard the Lionheart under the excuse that he conspired in the killing of his cousin, and that he has thrown the Austrian flag and didn’t want to share the spoils of war with him. This is how Dürnstein Castle indirectly ended up in the English folklore, and subsequently featured in the films and literature. The castle is today in ruines, and can be reached by short hiking from the town centre.
This masterpiece of Russian literature has an entire chapter taking place in Dürnstein. The famous battle of the Napoleonic wars ‘The Battle of Dürenstein’, where combined forces of the Russian and Austrian armies trapped a French division and defeated them, is celebrated in the Tolstoy’s novel. This epic battle wasn`t planned, and the troops ran accidentally at each other. This was the rare defeat of the Napoleon. The remains of around 5000 people are buried in a crypt at the local cemetery in Dürnstein. There is also a memorial to the Battle of Dürnstein, just outside of town.
Not only due to rich history has town become one of the most famous tourist destinations in Austria, but because of the charming medieval architecture and scenic landscapes surrounding it. The small cobbled streets, with a lot of shops, inns and cafes are providing a magical atmosphere. Dürnstein is dominated by the blue church tower located directly by the beautiful blue Danube. The tower is a part of the former Dürnstein Abbey, which was dissolved by order of Emperor Joseph II in the late 18th century, and with its blue and white colouring is considered the symbol of the Wachau. Being located directly on the Danube, Dürnstein has a specific riverine atmosphere and is also visited by numerous tourist ships.
Therefore, has Dürnstein, a link between 'War and Peace' and 'Robin Hood', gained so much popularity among visitors.
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