We visited Stift Melk briefly with Joel in 2008 as we drove from Salzburg to Vienna where I was going to a conference. It was a chance encounter when we saw signs and an interesting building and late enough in the day that we did not have time for more than a quick look. I planned our driving on this trip to allow time for a proper look.
We were up and ready for breakfast at 7:30 am. There was thick mist outside and the air was cool. Alicja had our breakfast ready – boiled eggs, cold meat, cheese, tomato, cucumber and fresh paprika, bread and coffee. She seemed surprised at how little we ate and urged us to take some for a picnic. We took a grainy roll and some ham, packed our bags, and were on our way around 8:30 am.
Discussion with Alicja last night had included advice from her about what to see on the way to Melk. Top of the list was Dürnstein, a village in the UNESCO heritage listed Wachau district. She recommended the drive along the left bank of the Donau (Danube) from Krems to Melk.
I have been developing a cold, including a cough that has disturbed our nights, so Majella was keen to get me medicated. We drove into Krems looking for a pharmacy but did not immediately see one and were not prepared to deal with the parking vouchers. Not far out of Krems we came to Stein where we saw sign for an Apotheke (pharmacy) just off the road. We picked up some tablets to loosen my chest and some pastilles to help at night and are hoping they might have some useful effect.
Dürnstein was full of tourists from at least one river cruise when we arrived but that did not prevent us from parking and walking up the hill into the village to look around. The mist that was still not completely lifted added to the beauty of the craggy peaks along that side of the river. The castle that is now in ruins above the town is probably best known as the place where Richard the Lionheart, King of England, was held captive for ransom in the 12th century. We spent about 40 minutes exploring Dürnstein before driving on toward Melk.
The abbey at Stift Melk (German for Melk Abbey) was as large as we remembered it and this trip we had time to explore it. Before going in we had coffee and shared a pair of apricot dumplings, a regional specialty, in the cafe. Inside we visited a couple of special exhibitions of artworks and then took ourselves around the museum tour that laid out the history of the Benedictines and the abbey. No doubt the monks were sincere in their beliefs but we struggled to make sense of how a simple ascetic life as a monk related to the opulence of the buildings and their contents. After touring the abbey we walked in the gardens. Both areas afforded panoramic views over the surrounding countryside.
We had spent more than an hour around the abbey and it was after 1:00 pm when we got back to the car. We ate the bread and ham we had brought from Alicja before driving on west and north toward our destination for the night, Česky Krumlov in the Czech Republic. Most of the driving was in Austria on the autobahn so we got some value out of our 10 day Austrian vignette. As we crossed the border we bought one for the Czech Republic so we are now legally entitled to use the toll roads if we find any.
By 4:00 pm we were in Česky Krumlov and had found a temporary parking space. Our accommodation is in the old city just below the castle and does not have on site parking. We walked in through the town, checked in at our accommodation, and found out about parking. Then we walked back, moved the car, and got our things into our room.
After resting for a while we walked out to explore the town and visit the castle gardens which were open until 7:00 pm though the rest of the castle closed at 4:00 pm. The formal gardens are extensive and are on a plateau at the level of the castle, above the city. The walks there and back allowed wonderful views over the city and toward the castle. We enjoyed the walk and the gardens which were also showing autumn colours in some of the trees but were pleased to be walking downhill on the return trip.
We ate dinner at Restaurant Leyla, which we found on our way back from the garden and is an easy walk from our room. Majella had roast duck with potato dumplings and a glass of rosé. I had pork knee with trimmings and dark beer. Both meals were large and we had no possibility of finishing them or topping off with dessert. Majella had selected a table at the back of the restaurant with a view of the large fish tank there and became concerned with one of the fish that appeared to be stuck in the equipment. She called the attention of the waiter to it and he promised to get it seen to. I’m not sure if she will be back tomorrow to check on it.