Saturday, October 25

Austria: Wachau Valley


During our stay in Vienna, we took a day trip up the Danube into the Wachau Valley to an old Medieval castle and the Melk Monastery.
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Little known fact: a more recent most royal dude from Wachau Valley moved to the US and found similar land in North Carolina and that area in NC became known as Wachovia.
Eventually, the Wachovia bank sprang forth from that area.
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Anyway, we drove along the Danube, wine country. You can see the yellowing vineyards along the hills, it was almost time to harvest while we were passing through. Other than vineyards, you can also see groves of apricot trees. I wasn't a big fan of the apricot until I tried their apricot jam. Ooo la la. They put a chunk of it next to a dollop of whipped cream and alongside a dessert. Yeowsie. I never thought I could experience such culinary satisfaction sans chocolate, but I did. We purchased 4 jars of apricot jam so we could spread the love. Guess what. The airport confiscated two of them. (Carleen's and mom's)

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Looking out the bus window, I could see vineyards, small towns, always a church and then an old medeival castle up on the hill. That's a very typical scene in European countryside.
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It is said that around the 14th century, the knights in the castles along the Danube would stop the ships carrying salt, iron and wine and confiscate part of their cargo as a "tax." The Duke (not John Wayne) put an end to it.
The Duke & his soldiers hid in a ship and surprised the marauding knights. The Duke (similar to John Wayne) took care of the situation.
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There is a bike trail along the Danube that is supposed to be a fantastic ride. It goes from Germany into Hungary and if you start at the right end, it is mostly flat or downhill. The start/finish points are probably a very important part of planning your trip, don't screw it up. The bike trail goes through medeival towns where you can stop, sleep, tour, eat, etc. When I was flying home a week later, the German girl next to me had biked this trail and vouched that it's awesome. She & I had an interesting conversation. This was her first trip to America, she was going to New York City and the main thing she was most excited to see in America was the skyscrapers. That took me by surprise. The main thing I loved over there was the old, old castles, palaces and romanesque buildings. Guess it makes sense they like to come here and see the new stuff. The only "skyscrapers" we saw over there were Cathedrals.
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So. Here we are. We arrived at the Benedictan monastery. The monastery was established in the 1oth century for teaching and learning & there is a high school still there today. We saw them out on the soccer field. They still have the monks and the usual monastery life, but they also have a section for tourists like us.
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My favorite part: The Library
On both sides, there is a sneak door built into the bookshelves. The one on the left in this photo is visible, but you probably can't find it. I'm not sure what monks need a sneaky door for, but apparently, they did.
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View here, the Marble Hall. The ceiling fresco shows Pallas Athena on a chariot, which I found particularly of interest since when Tom and I first met and studied in the library together, passing random notes back & forth, I introduced myself as "Pallas Athena." (we still have those notes in my personal museum of history)
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The monks at Melk instituted 4 pillars of life: Wisdom, Moderation, Fortitude & Justice. The 4 parts of the courtyard represent this. They lived by 3 motivating factors: Pray, Work & Read. (I found evidence that there was a 4th: Drink)
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The 18th century brought the Baroque influence into the monastery. To the right, see the harp-shaped things on the wall - they contain bits of bones of saints. Somewhere in this collection of representative stuff, there are two keys. One is the key to Heaven, one is for the abbey.
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We ended our tour in the chapel. Here is the altar area. In all the chapels and cathedrals we toured, my favorite part of each was usually the pews. They were wooden and intricately carved, with pillowed kneeling benches for praying, heavy duty frames, absolutely beautiful. I have some good shots of the ones at St. Vitas' Cathedral in Prague.
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Our tour ended in the chapel at 11:50 and the monks would be having chapel at noon, so Tom and I decided to stay and join them in worship.
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We had a seat in our usual pew and waited for the service to begin. We looked for Frasers in their usual spot in front of us and Carvers to our left, but they were absent.


The service was neat. We had bulletins (in German) and the monks came in and sat to the front. We all joined in one song, which I sang because it was in the bulletin. (I don't know what I sang though) The Leader Monk read our scripture and we had congregational readings, too, which I participated in (in German) and I think it was something from the book of Luke. The whole service took 15 minutes. We so beat the Methodists getting out for lunch! We then went down to the fellowship hall for lunch. (Ok, it was a pay-as-you-eat restaurant, not quite a fellowship hall, but it felt the same)
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We took a stroll around the gardens and then filed back onto the bus to tour the remains of a medeival castle & go to a medeival village filled with 21st century souvenir shops in Romanesque buildings.
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We had to climb a lot to get up to the castle remains.
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Irony: Tom-the-Backpacker remained below in a cafe overlooking the Danube because he had blisters and couldn't do the hike.
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The hike was gorgeous.
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Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
- Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting,
thou art God.

2 comments:

The Seeker said...

Excellent story, most awesome adventurer!

Renee said...

WOW!! Beautiful pictures & interesting facts! So glad you & Tom did not become Monks!!