on March 26, 2010
There are a handful hotels in the little town of Melk which is situated on the banks of the Danube at the base of a cliff crowed by the great Abby of Melk, one Europe’s top sights. Around 975 A.D., the Babenburgs, the first rulers of what would become Austria, established their seat of power in a castle atop the cliff at Melk. They later move to Vienna and eventually lost power to the long ruling Habsburg family. The first abby was built atop the cliff in 985 A.D. The Hotel and Restaurant Wachauerhof is on the main street about two blocks from the pedestrian only town square and well located for driving up to the Abby (go right on the main street, take the second left, follow the signs). I stayed two nights at the Hotel and Restaurant Wachauerhof. Since a two night stay was not originally planned, I checked in out twice, putting me into two different rooms for two different lodging experiences. The first room, room 201, was very compact. There was a small desk and desk chair, a TV, an odd thing that was either a large chair or a very small couch, a bed stand, and a bed. The chair/couch was very comfortable for reading and watching TV, but the lighting in this room was not very good. It took some doing to get a decent amount of light focused on my book so I could read easily after dark.The bed was satisfactory. Unfortunately, like all beds in Europe, it came with comforters rather than blankets. Comforters make us too hot at night, so we deal with them like this– we remove the comforter cover and use it as a sheet and thin blanket. So stripped, the comforter cover has the weight of 2-3 American sheets, or of a very light weight blanket. Like most hotel beds, the pillows were flimsy.There was some hall noise and machinery noise from the elevator (the room was located next to the elevator ). The second room, room 220, was nicer, much larger, and with much better lighting. The side chair was of a different sort, not a semi-couch, and very comfortable. This room had minimal hall and plumbing noise. As it is possible to build hotel rooms that eliminate normal conversation in the hall and plumbing noise from the rooms, this is a small negative. Both rooms had a 12" satellite TV with some English language stations (most of the hotels where I stayed had only 12" TVs. It may be that only the luxury hotels in Europe have big screen TV).Both rooms had flimsy widow curtains, sufficient to keep the neighbors from seeing you in the altogether, but not heavy enough to keep out morning light. Because I like a dark hotel room, we started carrying two sheets of black plastic, each about 3 ft by 7 ft in size, when we travel to use to reinforce window shades that don’t do the job right, so I was able to block the outside light quite well by attaching the plastic to the existing curtain with clothes pins.Both rooms faced the interior courtyard of the hotel so there was no traffic noise. Both rooms also suffered some noise due the Hotel and Restaurant Wachauerhof’s proximity to the town church, 2-3 blocks away. A lot of churches in Europe can’t let go of the past and go on a bell ringing spree every morning at 6:00am. Centuries ago, before clocks or wrist watches were common, the church bell served as the local time keeper, being rung when it was time to get up, time for lunch, time to head for home, and, in the most extensive racket, when it was time go to church. A lot of churches in Europe today unfortunately keep some of the old ritual, especaily the call to church and the morning wake up call. These old church bells are loud, and if your hotel is within a few blocks of one of them, you may have a tough time sleeping through the 6:00am alarm. Fortunately, it rarely lasts more than five minutes. The Hotel and Restaurant Wachauerhof has 133 beds, 7 single rooms, and 63 double rooms. Prices start at 37.5 Euros per person. In mid September 2009, single rooms cost 45 Euros a night, breakfast and taxes included. There is a Sauna, Solarium, and Turkish Steam Bath. For an extra fee, Bicycle Rental, Fax, Photocopying, and Internet access. The Hotel and Restaurant Wachauerhof has a free private parking lot for guests. A small number of spaces are under a roof, most are in the open. In addition to a number of cars, there were two tour busses and 40 bicycles in the parking lot. The Hotel and Restaurant Wachauerhof is a stopping place for Danube bicycle tours, a 7-10 day trip from Passau to Vienna by bike. The designated bicycle parking space is under the roof, to keep the seats dry overnight. The Hotel and Restaurant Wachauerhof has an attractive dimly lit bar and a fairly large restaurant featuring the standard menu of the region– after a week traveling in southern Bavaria and Austria, I got to the point where I didn’t need to look at the menu at a restaurant. They were all essentially the same: Wiener schnitzel, sometimes with veal, sometimes with pork, which is properly called Schwein schnitzel; chicken cordon blue; a fish or two; fried chicken; a steak: and a another beef dish. Although the Hotel and Restaurant Wachauerhof restaurant’s prices were reasonable and the crowd indicated it was good food, I was getting tired of the same limited menu every night, and, since I knew where there was a Chinese restaurant in Melk, I went there for dinner. The buffet breakfast included in the room price was not outstanding but was typical of German-Austrian hotel breakfasts– a couple choices of juice, several types of bread, an assortment of cereal, some cold cuts, cheeses, some fresh fruit– apples, oranges–egg, and caned mixed fruit cocktail, with coffee, milk, or tea. For the better breakfasts I had on this trip, the egg was cooked to order, so it arrived a the table hot and fresh. A few hotels, however, like Hotel and Restaurant Wachauerhof put a basket of cooked eggs out on the serving tables every now and then and you took your chances on how hot and solid the yolk would be. A note on the breakfast egg. Except at the most expensive hotels where the choices will also include an omelet or scrambled eggs, an egg for breakfast in Bavaria and Austria means a soft boiled egg served in an egg cup. If you don’t know how to cope with this, here’s what to do: take your knife in hand. Put the index finger of your other hand on the top of the egg to hold it steady, and sharply whack the side of the egg, well above its equator, with your knife blade. The point here is to only put a crack in the shell. Then take the knife and stick it into the crack, point first, and pull it around the shell, cutting the top half of the shell away (this takes a delicate touch. It also works to just cut clear through the egg. The yolk will be runny, so you want to cut above the pocket where the yolk is to keep the yolk from running out of the shell. Put down your knife and pick up the egg spoon, which looks like a tea spoon for doll house. If there is any white of the egg left in the top half of the shell you just cut away, scoop it out with the spoon and eat it. Then take the spoon and mix up the remaining white in the shell in the egg cup with the yolk and eat it.
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