Wednesday 8/9/06 (Melk)
After passing through Vienna and a series of locks on the Danube, we arrived in the town of Melk. The most prominent feature and the focus of our visit is the famous Abbey, founded by the Benedictines in the 13th century and rebuilt several times, most recently in the 18th. It is thus a prime example of Baroque architecture and is more ornate than most people’s expectations of a monastery. However, it was a favorite visiting location for kings and queens and is large enough to house their entourage.
We visited the magnificent gardens and Baroque house, and then entered the abbey. What was most remarkable to me about the abbey was the artwork – because it is a working school and monastery, not merely a museum, they have kept their artwork current with the times, including some very modern sculptures. Inside, the main exhibit describing the Benedictines was a strikingly modern one, using light, shapes and poetry. We saw some rather old pieces, too, including a 600-year-old copy of The Rule of St. Benedict and a 13th century full-size crucifix. At the end of the tour were the two highlights – the magnificent library (used in the film The Name of the Rose) and the enormous church in the center of the complex.
We then took a walk through the quaint town, and my brother Josh and I played Frisbee for a while before heading back to the bus. From there we set sail for Passau, Germany – auf wiedersehen, Osterreich!