Perched on a bluff over the Danube 50 mi/75 km west of Vienna, Melk, Austria, is most famous for its incredibly ornate Benedictine abbey (it provided inspiration for Umberto Eco's best-selling novel The Name of the Rose). The abbey has a beautiful baroque library (the decorative cherubs almost outnumber the books) and 365 windows, one for every day of the year.

The ruins of 12th-century Aggstein Castle, 10 mi/16 km north of town, can be seen high atop a steep cliff. Just north of Melk is Weissenkirchen. Set on the Danube River, this historic town has narrow streets, a unique fortified church, the beautiful Teisenhoferhof courtyard (located below the church) and the Wachau Museum. Weissenkirchen can also be seen as a boat stop during cruises on the Danube or as a day trip from Vienna.

Between Melk and Vienna (also in the Wachau wine region) is Duernstein, with the ruins of the medieval castle where Richard the Lionheart was held for ransom during the Crusades. It's perched on a rocky outcropping above a lyrical baroque monastery and a 17th-century castle.

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