The footpath along the southern bank was leading me into the heart of the Wachau, a region of the Danube as famous as those stretches of the Rhine I had travelled at Christmas or the Loire in Touraine. Melk was the threshold of this unspeakably beautiful valley. As we have seen by now, castles beyond counting had been looming along the river. They were perched on dizzier spurs here, more dramatic in decay and more mysteriously cobwebbed with fable. The towered headlands dropped sheer, the liquid arcs flowed round them in semicircles. From ruins further from the shore the land sloped more gently, and vineyards and orchards descended in layers to the tree-reflecting banks. The river streamed past wooded islands and when I gazed either way, the seeming water-staircase climbed into the distance. Its associations with the Nibelungenlied are close, but a later mythology haunts it. If any landscape is the meeting place of chivalrous romance and fairy tales, it is this. The stream winds into distances where Camelot or Avalon might lie, the woods suggest mythical fauna, the songs of Minnesingers and the sound of horns just out of earshot.

I sat under a birch tree to sketch Schloss Schoenbuehel gleaming as though it were carved ivory, it sprang out of a pivot of rock which the river almost surrounded and ended in a single and immensely tall white tower crowned with a red onion cupola. “It’s the castle of the Counts Seilern,” a passing postman said. Smoke curled from a slim chimney: luncheon must have been on the way. I imagined the counts seated expectantly down a long table, hungry but polite, with their hands neatly crossed between their knives and forks.

Patrick Leigh Fermor - "A Time of Gifts" (1977)

@темы: mythology, middle centuries, folklore and legends, fermor, patrick leigh, f, english-british, deutsche-oesterreichisch, deutsche, 20, nibelungen