Saturday, December 15, 2012

Melk to Linz, Austria - Saturday December 15

We docked in Melk after an overnight trip from Vienna. Melk is a very small village of 900 residents and it has an enormous (in physical size) Abbey which houses 30 Benedictine monks. Half serve as priests to the local parishes, half work in the monastery. The monastery contains two parts, the Royal portion and the religious portion. The Abbey was founded in about 800. The Hapsburgh (who else) gave the land and the then building to the Benedictines in 900 or so but required that a portion be available for the traveling monarchs when needed. Sixty rooms were reserved fot the 300 or so in the royal retinue when the monarch traveled. The currect abbey was completed in the mid 1700s.
Abbey at Melk

The Melk Abbey sits atop a high hill and overlooks the village of Metz and the Danube. Some 480,000 people have visited the Abbey this year. Thus it survives. We walked from the boat to a bus which took us some 200 yards from the Abbey. Upon alighting from the bus we encountered ice on the walkways and a slight drizzle. The temperature was 1 degree centigrade, just above freezing. Needless to say we moved very carefully and very slowly. We first visited the Royal Quarters where several museums display some of the artifacts from the Hapsburg wealth. We then continued to the library which contains over 3000 books, many of which are 400 -500 years old and handwritten. Then we entered the chapel. It is beautiful beyond words, but unlike most Roman churches it the way it is arranged and decorated. Our guide referred to it as more theatre than church, The altar was very modern but fit into the baroque character of the chapel.

Gold crown
One of the highlights was a huge gold crown which sits above where one would expect to find the altar in most churches.

After leaving the chapel we were to walk down a path of about 100 yards to the village of Melk. Two of the first to try the slope fell on the ice. Neither was hurt since they landed in a sitting position. Walking, however, was abandoned and a mini-buse shuttled the members of the group (100 or so passengers) to the town. After visiting the Christmas market I had a cup of tea and we rejoined the ship some 30 kilometers up the river. We boarded, sailed, had lunch, went through two locks and arrived at Linz, the third largest city in Austria.

Christmas market
We walked on what will soon be (if not already are) icy sidewalks for 10 minutes and then came to heavily salted sidewalks. Five minutes later we came to a Christmas Market. What else would one expect? It was very crowded being a Saturday night at 6:30 pm. Now you may wonder about all these Christmas markets. They all have glog bars (mulled wine, punch with or without vodka, and various other hot drinks or cold beer).The ratio of glog bars to other stands is approximately 1 to 10. In the other shops you will find: roasted and candied nuts; candles; sweaters; nativity scenes and characters; blown glass; art artifacts; wood carvings and related items; smellies (incense, soap, bath oils); pottery; scarves and ties. Sort of like a knockoff art fair in the United States. But there is the glog bar!

More tomorrow!

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