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May 2, 2022
Melk, Austria: A Visit to Melk Abbey


The town of Melk

Melk is at the confluence of the Danube and Melk Rivers at the base of the Wachau Valley. Melk is also known for its abbey, possibly the most famous abbey in Austria.

The structure, situated on rocky outcrop overlooking the Danube, was originally built as a royal palace. In 1089, Leopold II decided to give one of his castles to Benedictine monks. The monks established a monastic school and monastic library. The current Baroque structure was built between 1702 and 1736.

In the 1780s, Melk was spared when Emperor Joseph II began seizing and dissolving abbeys. Melk also survived the 1938 Anschluss, when Nazi Germany annexed Austria. (The school was confiscated, but was returned to the abbey after WWII ended.)

Today, all ship guests participated in the “Melk Abbey” included excursion. This was the first time in days that Russell, Gail and Cameron have all been on the same excursion. We spent two hours on a guided tour of the abbey, then stayed an additional hour touring the external gardens. After a 20-minute walk through town, we were back aboard ship in time for lunch.


Melk Abbey


The Prelate’s Courtyard


NOTE: Melk Abbey does not allow any interior photography. All interior scenes are stock photos. This is Marble Hall. (stock photo)


The ceiling of Marble Hall contains a gigantic fresco. If you look back at the photo of Marble Hall, you will see an optical illusion: the ceiling appears domed and curved, but it is actually flat. (stock photo)


The abbey church is one of the most beautiful we have seen (and that’s saying a lot). The amount of gold and decoration is mind-boggling. (stock photo)


The cupola (dome) in the ceiling of the church (stock photo)


The abbey library is world famous. This room contains 10,000 books; the entire library houses 100,000 books. (stock photo)


The church and library are connected by this spiral staircase (stock photo)


This reliquary contains a wood fragment from Christ’s cross. The fragment has been stolen twice. The first time, a “trial by ordeal” was used to determine ownership rights. According to legend, Two abbots sat opposite each other with the fragment between them. The fragment moved toward the Melk abbot. The fragment was then floated on the Danube, where it moved upstream toward Melk abbey. (The second time the fragment was stolen, the thief was burned at the stake.) (stock photo)


No cameras are allowed inside the abbey. Apparently, the abbey also frowns on visitors showing up in their underwear. (not a stock photo)


The abbey gardens


The gardens are decorated with these whimsical statues of ravens


Cameron was in photographer heaven with all of the colorful blooming flowers

After lunch, we had a scenic sail down the Danube through the picturesque Wachau Valley, where we saw more towns and mountaintop castles. Chef Adrian hosted a cooking demonstration for apple strudel, which included a tasting and tea.

In the afternoon, we docked in the small town of Krems, which is… wait for it… at the confluence of the Danube and Krems Rivers. (Krems is the site of the oldest grave ever found in Austria – 27,000 years old.) Gail joined the “Wachau Valley Winery” optional excursion, and had a very enjoyable time.

As we continue down the Danube, we are warned that the days will get more and more busy. Tomorrow, we arrive in Vienna!


Old Town Krems


Gail with Erhard, owner of the Mörwald Winery

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