Thursday, May 27, 2010

Melk Monastery Austria

The Benedictine Monastery in Melk is a UNESCO World Heritage site about 90-km from Vienna so I wonder what has taken me so long to get there. All photos are from my flickr set Melk Monastery (lots more photos there!).

I took the train and got there at 9 am. It was an easy walk from the train station through a pedestrian district where a farmers market was just being set-up. There is a stairway from the pedestrian street which leads up the hill to the Monastery gate. You buy your tickets at the second courtyard; my ticket was for an English tour at 10:55, so I had some time. (The ticket cost 9.50 Euros.)

I went into the museum where the guard marked my ticket so that I could go in again with my scheduled tour. Even at this early hour there were many groups of visitors from Danube river tour cruise ships (Melk is located on the Danube and is a popular stopping point for river cruises). By staying in between the tour groups I had the museum rooms to myself for a few minutes. It's a very interesting exhibit of the Monastery history combined with the history of the Dominican order of monks.

At the end of the museum is the marble hall which has a beautiful trompe de oeil painting of main characters from Greek mythology on the ceiling (most of the marble is painted stucco, by the way). Leaving the marble hall you walk out on a curved walkway overlooking the church on the one side and the Danube river valley on the other.

The walkway leads to the Monastery library, a treasure house of old books and ideas. Only two of the rooms are open to the tourist public, but the other rooms are accessible to scholars. A flight of circular stairs takes you down to the ground level and the entry to the church.

The Melk Monastery is famous because the whole complex was built at the beginning of the 1700s, and is all in the Baroque style. The church is where the Baroque really lets loose. It's almost impossible to do justice to the space with a photograph. My early visit was quite nice because I was almost alone in the church (at 11:45 the church was almost full with tourists).

After leaving the church I visited the Monastery garden with its very nice garden lodge - cool frescoes - and took a walk down the garden path overlooking the Danube. Then it was time for my tour. The tour guide was excellent, he spoke very good English and knew his stuff.

After the tour I was hungry and had a nice lunch of Schweinsbraten and beer at the Monastery restaurant located just outside the main monastery buildings on the way to the parking area. The food was quite good and the service was very good (fast, friendly and efficient). My lunch cost 14 Euros.

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