Shortly before breakfast, we docked at Emmersdorf. Today’s itineray included a tour of Melk Abbey and a drive through the Wachau Valley….with a stop for glühwein along the way.
Melk Abbey was extraordinary. Rising over the Danube, its stately presence gives you but a whisper of what’s to come. Snow was falling as we walked down four flights of granite stairs and into a magnificent courtyard….a golden cross above a portal beckoned us in.
Out of the cold, we began our tour of this 18th century baroque abbey. The abbey, now home to a monestary and a school, only has 30 remaining monks so most of the school’s teachers come from the nearby town of Melk.
The first rooms, formerly the Imperial Chambers, are now museum rooms representing the significant details of the Abbey….beginning in the 1st century with St Benedict’s Book of Rules, then moving through the historical ups and downs of the Abbey….from Baroque elaboration to spiritual rationalism to paving a path to the future. It was an unusual but interesting presentation.
The tour then moved through more “traditional” rooms….the Marble Hall that acted as either a dining room or a ballroom (with a “music” room above the Hall with windows that could swivel open to allow the musicians to be heard below).
The library was awe-inspiring…..polished wood bookcases stretching from the floor to the high, fresco ceiling….more library rooms followed. The library, still in use today, contains over 100,000 books and manuscripts written as early as the 9th century. Craig was astounded by the scientific instruments and math books on display. Compared to these scholars of centuries past, how much progress have we really made?
Back to the bus and onward to the Wachau Valley. This protected valley, narrow and only 25 miles long, is the home to vineyards and orchards….producing Austria’s best wines and all types of apricot goodies (jams, pastries, brandies, schnappes….). As we traversed the valley, following the banks of the Danube, we couldn’t help but think that this is the only time on our trip that we’ve been disappointed with the scenery. The temperate climate won’t allow the snow to take over and the green buds and white blossoms of spring are only a distant hope.
How better to get over these doldrums than with a stop at a local winery for a mug of glühwein and a little music? We bought a bottle of white wine and a jar of homemade apricot jam…..total cost? 6 euros.
Our final destination in the Wachau Valley was Dürnstein, a charming little town devoid of tourists at this time of year.
All too soon, we were back on the bus and headed for Krems, where we met the Amadeus Royal just in time for lunch (I’m sure it was delicious, and I’d love to tell you what it was, but, as the trip wore on, my notes became increasingly sparse).
After a 3 1/2 hour cruise, we arrived in Vienna…..or as close to it as the Danube allows. We dressed warmly and walked to a bus waiting to take us to Vienna’s big Christmas Market held in front of the Rathaus (Town Hall). The bus ride, normally 20 minutes, took over an hour with all the holiday shoppers out and about but we finally arrived and, with gluhwein in hand, walked through the market as best we could with so many people vying to share the same space. We’re already missing the serenity of the small town markets.
After a brief stay, we boarded our bus and headed back to a warm dinner awaiting our return……Leg of lamb with rosemary sauce, baked tomatoes and potatoes gratin with German plum cake for dessert…..oh, how I’m going to miss these meals!
Too tired for even a nightcap, we headed off to bed early.
Early to bed, early to rise…..Früh ins Bett, früh aufstehen