I decided to wait to write about the various day and weekend trips that we’ve taken thus far, so instead of one each week or so, I’m posting them all in the next few days. We’ve taken two day trips (to Melk and the Wachau Valley, Austria, and Bratislava, Slovakia) and two weekend trips (to Salzburg, Austria, and Prague, Czech Republic). I’m writing this on the bus from Prague back to Vienna.
Melk and the Wachau Valley
Melk is the site of an absolutely gorgeous Baroque abbey. Before our trip there, Steve said that the abbey changed his opinion of Baroque music, that he could understand it in a completely different light – and I kind of see his point. Melk is so ornate, so detailed, so elaborate – it takes “Baroque” to a whole new level of intricacy.
The abbey is now home to a school taught by monks, and I believe both students and teachers live in the abbey, although it was completely deserted when we visited. Open to the public are the main courtyard, a few small galleries of relics from the 18th century, when the abbey was built, the library, and the cathedral. Photos weren’t allowed in the galleries, but I have some pictures from the library, the chapel, and of the view of the valley and the Danube River from the connecting balcony.
After our tour of Melk, we went into the Wachau Valley – Austrian wine country. Dürnstein, the town we visited, felt like quaint Austrian charm – European without being pretentious.
We toured a family-owned winery in Dürstein. Herr Huber took us into his cellar and pulled wine straight from the wooden (for red wine) and stainless steel (for white wine) barrels for us to try.
The Heurigen and winery were clearly a family affair; the Hubers’ three daughters, in their early teens, came out to the vineyards with us and ran around with the family dog, and at dinner, they brought out the fresh platters and teased us good-naturedly. After a quick walk in the vineyards outside, we were welcomed into the Huber house for a traditional Heurigen dinner – thick slices of dark bread, Austrian cheeses, thinly sliced meats, pickled peppers, fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions, and for dessert, a sweet bread swirled with a poppy seed or hazelnut filling. And, of course, plenty of Huber wine and fresh grape juice.