Overnight we had left Linz and had arrived in the town of Melk in the Wachau Valley, whose main claim to fame is the baroque styled abbey. Originally it was the residence of the Bamberg family, but since the year 1089 it has been a Benedictine monastery. It is still an administrative centre for the order, and it houses a school with 750 pupils.
The current building was created between 1701 and 1726. It is on a hilltop overlooking the town and is spectacularly beautiful. We were split into two groups and taken round by guides supplied by the abbey. We drew the short straw in that our guide was totally robotic in her delivery and seemed bored by the whole process. Evidently the other group's guide was excellent - the exact opposite.
One wing of the building, formerly the guest quarters, has been set up like a museum, and it was interesting. Of particular interest was the library which was filled with thousands of old books most of them several hundred years old. It is strictly forbidden to take photos inside though from time to time Brian's finger accidentally seemed to brush past the shutter release. Maybe he was so annoyed with the tour guide that he became twitchy.
The interior and exterior are so ornate, unexpected for a monastery. The building's exterior and the views from there are really stunning. We then wandered down from there to the old town. It has been restored and it too is beautiful. Even though we have been seriously over-eating and drinking too much we simply couldn't resist the urge to stop at an outdoor café for a coffee and apple strudel each.
Once we were all back on board we continued down the Wachau Valley and stopped a couple of hours later at the small town of Dürnstein.
It's a quaint town, not too badly overrun by tourists and great for biking. Its main claim to fame is the castle ruins on the hill high above the town. Richard the Lionheart had been imprisoned there at the time of the crusades.
The climb to the ruins practically requires one to have the heart of a lion. It is very steep and rocky, no handrails and it is little more than a dirt track with a few steps cut roughly into the steeper parts. Mary, wisely, decided to remain at ground zero while Brian, less wisely and along with a handful of other intrepid souls, decided to try the climb. It was certainly no walk in the park, but the effort was well worth it. The view from the top, overlooking the town, the Danube and the surrounding vineyards was simply great.
After dinner the on board entertainers put on an evening of ABBA tunes. Mary was in her element and was once again the star of the dance floor.Read more