A May 2004 trip
to Melk by Re Carroll
Quote: A is for Abbey and Melk has one of the largest Benedictine abbeys in Europe, a masterpiece of Baroque architecture.B is for boat trip along a scenic stretch of the Danube from Melk to Krems.C is for Castle, namely Schallaburg with terra-cotta arcades from the 16th century.
Below the Abbey, Melk’s pedestrian only streets lined with pastel colored buildings and interesting little shops make it a picturesque and relaxing change of pace from the big cities.
Located in the hills outside of town, Schallaburg Castle is less well known than the Abbey and therefore a much less touristed destination. The second floor terra cotta arcades are in such good shape that it is hard to believe they are from the 16th century. Schallaburg was hosting an exhibit on the Pyramids and we enjoyed the added bonus of a world class display of artifacts from ancient Egypt.
By early afternoon it was time for some R&R and a lazy boat trip down the Danube provided the perfect opportunity. We enjoyed a relaxing lunch as we passed by terraced vineyards,
ancient ruins and picturesque little villages.
The Wachau Valley including boat trip is also covered by tour buses from Vienna several days per week.
Melk is very
easy to get to via car from Vienna or Salzburg. Once in Melk, the town is compact enough to easily walk around, including a visit to the Abbey but you need wheels to get to Schallaburg. Shuttle buses operate between the train station and the castle several times a
day and taxis are available anytime.
As well as pasta, fish, sandwiches and desserts, the menu included Austrian specialties such as knoblauch soup, beef broth with thinly sliced pancakes or liver dumplings, roast pork with sauerkraut, goulash, schnitzel, grilled sausages with fried potatoes. Prices averaged 8 euro for an entree and 12 for a three-course meal.
I was feeling chilled from the cold damp weather so ordered a large bowl of knoblauch soup and tea mit rum. The creamy garlic soup topped
with tiny toasted croutons and served with dense rye bread and the pot of tea liberally
laced with a shot of dark rum did the trick and I was feeling warm and content in short
order. Bea had spaghetti bolognaise and Tracey ordered fried turkey scallops stuffed with ham and cheese and served with mashed potatoes. The meals were all delicious, portions were more than sufficient for lunch and service was friendly and efficient - could we ask for more? Well, we did in the form of dessert and really enjoyed our shared iced caramel -- creme caramel made with vanilla ice cream.
On top of everything else, we had the added bonus of enjoying the picturesque scenery along the Danube and that was something that none of the land restaurants could compete with. We unanimously decided we’d made the right restaurant choice for lunch.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 7, 2004
Restaurantbetriebe Johann Reis
Aboard MS Prinz Eugen
Attraction | "A is for Abbey"
The Abbey is huge with a church, library and art gallery sharing space with a school and retreat centre. Entering from the main courtyard I passed through the Imperial Corridor lined with paintings of Austrian royalty. Leading off the corridor
were a number of rooms filled with religious art including the Breu Altar from 1502.
At the end of the corridor is the Marble Hall with its 18th-century ceiling fresco by Paul Troger and a quote from St. Benedict inscribed over the door "Guests should be
received as Christ would be". At the other end of the Marble Hall are large doors that
lead to the balcony. This was one of the best places to get a picture of the front of the Abbey Church and to enjoy the views of the Danube and the town of Melk spread out
below. The balcony connects the Marble Hall to the Library where twelve rooms contain close to 100,000 volumes of work, some prior to the 16th century. I really liked the spiral staircase beside the library that reminded me of a serpent coiling around and around.
My final stop was at the Church which is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture and the Abbey’s focal point. The windows are pale opaque glass; no stained glass here because it wouldn’t be noticed due to the sheer majesty of the domed ceiling frescoes, huge golden crown and massive pipe organ. Each side of the ornate altar has a sarcophagus - on the right is an empty one dedicated to St. Benedict and the one on the left contains the skeleton of St. Coloman, patron saint of Melk and the monastery.
The Abbey grounds are also worth a visit with the baroque pavilion and extensive walking trails. The Abbey is open daily and admission is 6.90 euro per adult. Allow a couple of hours to explore and if you get tired, take a break at the cafe or restaurant.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 7, 2004
Attraction | "B is for Boat"
We boarded the MS Prinz Eugen in the early afternoon so that we had the morning to explore Melk’s pastel colored buildings and magnificent Abbey. From Melk’s Tourist Information office the dock was a 15-minute walk along the river. Tickets are available at the office near the
The boat meandered slowly along the river, past terraced rows of grapes, old
stone churches, castle ruins and tiny villages. We passed by Willendorf where in 1909 a small prehistoric limestone carving of a woman was discovered. Now called the Venus of Willendorf, the statue has been dated to 22,000 BC and is on display at Vienna’s Natural History Museum.
The boat made a brief stop at Spitz where many passengers with bikes got off to start their cycling tour of the Wachau Valley. Spitz is also a well known wine producing town and that was obvious from the miles of vineyards spread along the hillside.
Then it was on to Durnstein with its hill top castle ruins. It was here that Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned and held for ransom on his return from the Crusades. Durnstein is also famous for its river front Baroque church dating from the early 1700s.
Just before docking in Krems, our final stop, we could see another fine example of Baroque architecture, Gottweig, a Benedictine Abbey from the mid 1700s. Our trip ended at Krems where the first Austrian coin was struck in 1130. From the boat dock in Krems we made our way to the train station about 20 minutes away for our trip back to Vienna.
The boat trip took about one hour and forty minutes. The return from Krems to Melk covers the same territory but takes almost twice as long since the boat travels against the current. Cost of the trip is 15.80 euro one way or 20.50 return.
Dock at Melk or Krems
Attraction | "C is for Castle"
The highlight of the castle is the two story 16th century terra-cotta arcades. Mythological characters, gods, masks and other figures combine to form a whimsical but dramatic guard over the
Most of the castle’s interior is closed to visitors but the small crypt features a ceramic cross and the manneristic gardens are the best place for panoramic views of the castle. Reminiscent of gardens in Loire Valley chateaux, but on a much small scale, the garden was being readied for the summer blooming season and was a peaceful and relaxing place to take a break.
The castle is now used to host traveling exhibits and from 1 May to 1 November 2004 the feature exhibit is the Pyramids of Egypt. It was very well laid out with maps, books, videos and lots of well signed displays that brought the
Valley of the Kings to life. Room after room showcased the various dynasties of Egyptian pharaohs from the Old to the New Kingdom. As well as reliefs from actual tombs and statues from Giza there was a scale model of the pyramids from 4th century. I was surprised to learn that the Nubian Pyramids weren’t reserved just for kings. Those who could afford it also built elegant pyramids, albeit smaller ones, to ensure that they had comforts in their after life.
A couple of other exhibits in the castle seemed to be more or less permanent. One was a collection of toys from the last couple hundred years and although there was no posted English information it was fun to look at displays featuring early mechanical toys, gramophones and games up to modern day dolls and pull toys. The second permanent exhibit was a display of posters and printed information on the various exhibits that have been held at Schallaburg throughout the last 30 years.
Entrance to Schallaburg is 7 euro for adults, 5 for seniors and 3 for students. There is a small gift shop, restaurant and children’s’ play area. The castle is open daily from 9 to 5 on weekdays and 9 to 6 on Saturdays and Sundays. As well as traveling exhibits, the castle hosts special weekend festivals and events throughout the year. To find out what’s on, check their web site at www.schallaburg. at
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 7, 2004
5 km. outside Melk
Abbotsford, British Columbia