A Postulant in the AbbeyDESTINATIONS
Well, so long Vienna:
with your cool retro cars in mint condition…
your ludicrous deserts, especially your ice cream pasta…
your every second store selling chocolate…
your literal translations…
your cafe signage…
…your naked people running through the streets.
This morning we hired a private driver to take us to the UNESCO heritage town of Cesky-Krumlov; fun fact–it was a favorite getaway for Egon Schiele. It was cheaper to get a driver than rent a car in Austria and leave it in CZ.
En route we stopped at Melk, a Benedictine monastery. I don’t know what I was expecting, something between The Sound of Music and Ask the Midwife, in terms of efficiency, minimalism and a general religious austerity. Not quite.
First, it’s huge. These two shots of models show you the area and scope:
Has an amusing back story to do with an Irish monk making his way to Jerusalem who stopped in the area but the locals didn’t take to his customs and, how shall I put it? Offed him; tortured and hanged in a town nearer Vienna. But the miracles followed and long story short he was sainted, St. Coloman, and the monastery became a shrine to his memory. His relics have been at Melk since 1014, with the abbey being established in 1089. The buildings you tour today date from the early 1700s. Relics of several Babenberg’s (first ruling family of Austria) are also at Melk.
A little bling.
As SS put it, no wonder monarchs were always looting the church.
Dining room. Only two Michelin stars.
Dining room ceiling. Bib Gourmand.
The library (no photos allowed) was a spectacular two level affair; the ante-chamber adjacent was nearly as captivating, as I tried to show in the pic above. Missing from the pic are the rococo stairs that wind up to the mezzanine level.
As you walk through the library you descend down then enter the “chapel”–again, I’m searching for ways to express my low expectations.
Keep in mind, this is a Benedictine monastery in rural Austria.
The organ, no expense spared.
The glass sarcophagus contains a “so-called” catacomb saint, who was given to the monastery in 1722 by the Viennese nuncio, Cardinal Crivelli. Here, he said, I give you some remains.
After the monastery proper, we toured the extensive grounds.
The farms and hamlets surrounding the monastery have a wonderful European rural ambiance.
This bizarre mural in the garden building highlights the European view of the “new world” and its savagery.
There were acres of manicured paths which were a welcome shady respite in the sun,
One long brick wall with English roses was particularly beautiful.
After our extended tour we hopped back in the VW to continue to the Czech republic. Rural Austria continued structured and glorious in its regularity. Then we hit the border and it turned into the real world, forests. streams, farms where the grass hadn’t been cut within 48 hours of the previous trim.
The Austrian Czech border crossing. If you can call it that. For the remainder of the journey we followed the Vltava river; the scenery reminded the both of us of Pemberton, north, through meadows then mountains, rustic and without the manicured Austrian touch.
We pulled into the UNESCO heritage town of Cesky-Krumlov just after one. We’re staying at a lovely “second republic” villa, from 1932, renovated in 2013 as a pension.
View from the villa garden.
For no apparent reasons, the ten guest rooms are all named after rock stars. For instance, on our floor, there is:
Not bad. For the dissolute in all of us.
OK, sounds good, I’m in a sort of retrospective mood.
DOH! Two old white guys tuned into the FM dial for hits of the 60, 70s, 80s. I immediately felt ancient as we are, yes, room #10.
The room, however, is quite pleasant.
We went down to the town for lunch; our host had recommended a place by the river.
This was the view I had while we ate…
…this was the view SS had.
After lunch we took a long walk around the town and surrounding areas. We noticed part of the castle had been built on a Roman aqueduct.
It was a gorgeous day, the town teeming with tourists, sort of like Cinque Terre. Or, perhaps a better example, Banff: A small town centre that attracts tourist hordes but quiets down in the evening.
When we came back for dinner it was definitely toned down a notch. We had dinner again at a place on the river and watched a sliver of moon rise up against the surrounding forest.
At dinner I took a pic of this antique on the bar. SS knew that it was an absinthe fountain. I’d never heard or seen one then, before I knew it, someone ordered absinthe. Now that is a procedure.
On the way back to the villa we took in a long view of the town at dusk.