Aggsbach-Dorf to Melk, 20Km
Haus zum Nibelungenlied, 60 euros
I had a dilemma whether to walk along the quiet road beside the Danube (12Km) or follow the Camino to Melk, performing acrobatics in the hills (20Km). I chose the latter and it was a charming walk with some nice views. Many pilgrims would take the direct route because they are not really interested in hiking in the hills.
As usual, breakfast was mainly a cheese and meat affair but it’s good for lunch with an apple from the fruit bowl. I set off and visited the Kartause Aggsbach charter house, a Gothic church and Carthusian museum dedicated to the life of St Bruno, it said. Then in Wolfstein I saw the charming 21st century chapel dedicated to St Wolfgang with its famous carved statue of St James, dating back to 2010. Onwards to Hohenwarth, a gem of the beautiful and mystical Dunkelsteinerwald forest region. And then I came to the Schönbühel castle impressively overlooking the Danube. You see I would have missed all that if I’d followed the road.
There’s another Benedictine Abbey in Melk and what an Abbey it is. It’s a Baroque masterpiece and seems to hover above the town in completely unbelievable splendour. I can’t adequately photograph it nor describe it. If I say it’s got 1365 windows does that give you a feel for the extravagance of the place? That’s about 1355 more than our house, give or take.
Melk Abbey is a UNESCO World Heritage site so all those giant river cruisers were moored down on the Danube and fleets of luxury coaches hauled the lucky cruisers up to the entrance. Honestly, I’m going to check if they’ll drop me off in Salzburg. Not only do you see all the top sites but you get a guided tour in English. Once again I found myself wedged between two groups so now I’m an expert in the life of St Benedict and I know why the monasteries survived here while the rest of Europe was busy demolishing them.
The Abbey is equally amazing inside. Glass doors swish open as you approach and countless 4K video projectors bombard you with the whole story of the Abbey. The library is huge and breathtaking. There’s nothing by JK Rowling but that’s because it was full by the Middle Ages. And then came the Church. I’ve never seen anything like it. They have real saints in the side chapels, many donated by benefactors over the ages. Photography is forbidden but I snatched a couple of photos; they don’t do it justice. But there’s a nice view of Melk and its church from the terrace (see above).
So now I’m drinking beer in the empty town. All the visitors are dining back on their boats and the jewellery shop owners are relaxing after another good day. The bar is trying to get rid of me with a selection of awful music. Right now it’s Tony Orlando & Dawn, “Knock Three Times on the ceiling if you love me, twice on the pipe if the answer is no”. June 1970. Well, we never did find out.