Monday, August 22, 2011

Duerstein and Melk

Sending this from Bratislava.  Internet a bit dodgey here so post is brief.

Up at 6:15 to send our bags off with ship reps to be reloaded aboard.  Apparently the ship struck something and sheared off a propeller.  That was repaired in drydock and the ship is now steaming down the Danube to rejoin us.  After a terrific breakfast at the Intercontinental (500E/night, paid by the cruise company) piled aboard four coaches for the dash from Vienna to Duernstein.  A picturesque old town, its claim to fame is that its duplicitous duke imprisoned Richard the Lionhearted there when he was on his way back to Britain from the Crusades.  He was held for ransom until a prodigious amount of silver was delivered from Britain (think of the logistics in that day and age!), whereupon he toddled off.  The nunnery where he stayed is still identified and his servant Blondle who went from town to town singing until he heard the King sing back, is immortalized by the name of an adjacent tavern.  The  town is also renowned for its Schnaps and its Apricot Brandy, samples of both of which Reggie cleverly procured for subsequent taste tests.

Richard the Lionhearted waited here for his ransom to be sent

Random castle in the Wachau valley

Back to the ship for a reunion with our luggage and a sumptuous lunch, then onto coaches for a visit to the abbey at Melk.  This stupefyingly decorated late Baroque abbey was donated to the Benedictines by the then ruling Bamberg family when they decided to shift their capitol to Vienna centuries ago and has been steadily developed since.  Currently enjoying an 18th century incarnation, it is gilded to the nines, has 365 rooms with 1100 windows and now houses only 30 monks.

Altar of the abbey church

Melk Abbey courtyard

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