June 23, 2015 – Melk, Austria

Viking ship with Melk Abbey in background
Viking ship with Melk Abbey in background

Today’s adventures start with a scenic sail down the Wachau Valley in Austria on our way to Melk. John goes up top to take some pictures and listen to the commentary while I struggle with the internet. I have been trying for hours to get the text and pictures from Vienna to load. At this point I decide that it is just not worth it for me to spend my time in the cabin in front of my non-responsive computer and miss what there is to see. So I decide to just start typing text and leave most of the pictures for when I get home.

As we sail down the Wachau Valley we see the Durnstein Castle ruins. Durnstein castle held Richard I (the lion-hearted) as hostage in 1192-93 until England paid a large ransom for him. There’s also lovely scenery in this grape-growing region. The Gruner-Veltiner grapes are grown on terraced hillsides.

Castle Durnstein ruins
Castle Durnstein ruins

Ruins with the town of Durnstein below
Ruins with the town of Durnstein below

Vineyards
Vineyards

We pull into Melk around lunchtime and head out at 2 PM for our visit to the immense Melk Abbey. We have a perky female guide and she steers us through the complex. First we visit a modern museum housing some of the church’s treasures. I find the modernism, bold colors, and electronics a little jarring next to the ancient manuscripts, reliquaries, and monstronses. Among the highlights are a 15th century painting of St. Peter and a 12th century crucifix.

Melk Abbey
Melk Abbey

Early crucifix
Early crucifix

After taking in the sweeping panorama of Melk from the terrace, we head into the library which houses 90,000 books. No pictures are allowed.

Town of Melk and countryside
Town of Melk and countryside

Finally we reach the gold encrusted church. These ornate churches always leave me a little cold. So much opulence when there are needy people outside the doors. Our guide, Viktoria, explains that in the Baroque period, church interiors were so lavish in an attempt to bring God’s glory to earth. Sts. Peter and Paul are shown on the altar giving each other a handshake goodbye while prophets from the Old Testament look on.

Church interior
Church interior

Closer look at high altar
Closer look at high altar

Our boat departs at 4PM and is headed to Passau, Germany. John and I sit out on our back deck and watch Melk recede behind us. We and our sister ship, Viking Njord, enter a lock and sit side by side. The two boats are so close that John reaches out and shakes the hand of a fellow on the Njord.

Sister ship Njord entering lock behind us
Sister ship Njord entering lock behind us

Last view of Melk Abbey as the lock closes
Last view of Melk Abbey as the lock closes

Later we have a disappointing dinner of hummus and baba ganoush as a starter and Chinese noodles in a spicy peanut sauce. The sauce is not spicy nor flavorful.

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