Melk Abbey

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Apologies for the excessive amount of pictures in this post, but I simply could not pare them down. Each seemed so important to telling the story of Melk Abbey as I experienced it. The Abbey sits on a rock above the eponymous town of Melk. From the streets below it looks like a brightly painted child's toy, as though someone created the world's most opulent doll's house and put it on top of a hill.

We chose to walk up from the town to the abbey via a somewhat winding, narrow path. The path itself was tucked down an alleyway of the town, completely out of the way. Luckliy, our map gave us clear instructions and we found it without much trouble. The hill is not as tall as it seems from the ground. We covered the path in about 15 minutes, even stopping to coo at a couple of unimpressed local cats along the way.



We arrived at the abbey about half an hour before our scheduled tour time. (I recommend reserving a spot in the winter, although they seemed willing to accommodate extra guests.) It was the sort of cold and windy day that seems to freeze stillness and solitude into the bones, even in the largest crowds. We spent the time perusing the gift shop and darting the 100 meters of courtyard between the ticket booth and the store. Our tour was called around 2pm and we all marched gratefully into the warmth.

Our guide began by telling us about the abbey's history and current use as a private grammar school. The windows from the courtyard were indeed filled with evidence of classroom art projects. After a brief prayer to be reincarnated as an Austrian school child, I followed the rest of the group into the abbey.



The first part of the tour was in the more plain rooms of the abbey and consisted mainly of a museum-like presentation of pieces and artifacts from Melk's history. Although it was interesting, most of the facts slipped through my head, especially when we reached the grandeur of the abbey's main rooms.



The rooms of the second half of our tour seemed to build in opulence as we moved from one to the other. My favorite by far was the library. Unfortunately they wouldn't let us take pictures, but for a taste of what is looks like, click here. It is everything that a library should be, although it pains me to see a library without functional tables and people poring over the volumes. But I accept that old and historic books, which must be carefully preserved and handled, are not well suited poring over.


The chapel, happily, had no photography restrictions (except possibly no flash but I despise flash anyway and therefore don't remember if there was a rule against it). There was so much detail in the chapel, and so much gold, that I couldn't decide where to look. I also couldn't tell you a word of what our guide said about the room as I spent the time wandering away from the group to take as many pictures as possible. Unfortunately, when we returned home I realized about 30 of those pictures were corrupted files, but I managed to save a few, like the one above.


All in all, our visit to Melk was one of my favorite days of our trip. There's such a unique robustness to the baroque style of the abbey and such a unassuming quaintness to the town. The contrast is what makes this place special. I highly recommend a visit.

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