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A Postulant in the Abbey

Well, so long Vienna:

vlast1

with your cool retro cars in mint condition…vlast2

your ludicrous deserts, especially your ice cream pasta…vlast3

your every second store selling chocolate…vlast4

your literal translations…vlast5

your cafe signage…

naked people

…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.

arriving1 arriving2

First, it’s huge.  These two shots of models show you the area and scope:

model1 model2

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.

arriving3

A little bling.arriving4

As SS put it, no wonder monarchs were always looting the church.dininghall1

Dining room.  Only two Michelin stars.dininghall2

Dining room ceiling.  Bib Gourmand.

library

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.

chapel1

Keep in mind, this is a Benedictine monastery in rural Austria.chapel2 chapel3 chapel4

The organ, no expense spared.chapel5 chapel6 chapel7

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.

melkg1 melkg2 melkg3

The farms and hamlets surrounding the monastery have a wonderful European rural ambiance.melkg4

This bizarre mural in the garden building highlights the European view of the “new world” and its savagery.melkg6

There were acres of manicured paths which were a welcome shady respite in the sun,melkg7

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.

border

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.

villab1

Villa Beatika.villab2

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:

room 8

Not bad.  For the dissolute in all of us.room 9

OK, sounds good, I’m in a sort of retrospective mood.room 10

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.

room 10 inside

The room, however, is quite pleasant.

We went down to the town for lunch; our host had recommended a place by the river.

view from lunch gc

This was the view I had while we ate…view from lunch ss

…this was the view SS had.

ck view 1 ck view 2 ck view 3

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.

absinthe

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.

ck at dusk

On the way back to the villa we took in a long view of the town at dusk.

HereHare

The author of Here Hare has traveled to over 45 countries on six continents, and has lived in Canada, the UK and Australia.

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