The Maria Theresa cruised while we slept and we awoke on Wednesday, in Melk, (older spelling: Mölk) a city Austria which is next to the Wachau valley along the Danube. Melk has a population of 5,257. It is best known as the site of a massive baroque Benedictine monastery named Melk Abbey. We had a delicious breakfast, (I could get accustomed to having some prepare, serve, and clean-up after my 3 meals each day), and boarded busses for the Melk Abbey. Melk Abbey is one of the biggest and most beautiful European Baroque ensembles. Its splendid architecture is famous worldwide and part of UNESCO’s world cultural heritage. The Baroque building situated on a rock overlooking the Danube, in the Wachau region, ranks as one of Austria’s most visited art-historical sites. Since 1089, Benedictine monks have continually been living and working in Melk Abbey. Following the rules laid down by St. Benedict, they try to translate into action the words ORA et LABORA et LEGE (pray and work and learn) by working in pastoral care and education (Melk Abbey Secondary School has 900 students today) as well as organizing cultural events.
The centrepiece of this complex is the library, its main hall boasting 16,000 volumes and is graced with a ceiling fresco by Paul Troger. A spiral staircase leads to another set of 12 library rooms not open to the public but containing more than 100,000 volumes, some of which are extremely valuable. The Stiftskirche (Abbey Church) is more ornate than any church I have seen. The gold leaf, many sculptures, paintings and frescoes were over the top! Some of us returned to the boat by bus but Ben walked back through the town of Melk. Janice and I really missed out as many of the shops were open including a yarn one! But just to remind me of chores back home, I washed two loads of clothes on the ship—-I was in dire need of clean underwear!!
Our boat cruised at 11:30 and we arrived in Durnstein after lunch where we boarded a bus again for a 20 minute ride to Mautern to the Nikolaihof Winery for a tour lead by the wife of the owner, Christina. Nikolaihof is the oldest wine estate in Austria, whose history goes back almost 2000 years to Roman times.The foundation of the house date back to a Roman horseshoe-shaped tower and a fort made of wood and earth, which existed way back in 63 B.C.. The cellar itself was constructed in a Roman crypt, and as the floor level has sunk by about a meter in a thousand years, the ‘year rings' are still clearly visible on the walls. We had wine tasting under a beautiful 105 year tree in the garden and the wines were delicious. Christina has also written an award winning cookbook which I am bringing home with me.
Back to the ship for a rest and a nice dinner before retiring to the “salon” to watch a lesson about dancing the waltz. Since we will be in Vienna tomorrow and attending a concert this is knowledge we may need. Reminded me of ballroom dance no in 6th grade at Roseanne’s School of Dance! Cruise time s 10:30 and we will wake up in Vienna.