Day 10 – Melk Abbey, Knock Three Times

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.

the Kartause Aggsbach charter house
Not a Maypole this time
the charming 21st century chapel dedicated to St Wolfgang
The famous 2010 carved statue of St James
Nice views today
Hohenwarth, a gem of the beautiful and mystical Dunkelsteinerwald forest
Pilgrim spotted from above
Schönbühel castle overlooking the Danube
Melk Abbey rising above the town
Inside the Abbey
Above the Melk Abbey Church
The main alter of Melk Abbey

10 comments on “Day 10 – Melk Abbey, Knock Three Times

  1. Roger Clarkson

    An interesting day. Keep on.

  2. Hi Tim, A good choice to take the longer scenic route, although you will never know what you missed by avoiding the shorter route. Austrian castles never seem like real castles to me – nothing like Warwick if you know what I mean. Melk Abbey reminds me a little of Clairvaux Abbey, of course minus “Carlos the Jackal”. Glad you are now beginning to enjoy the pilgrimage.

    • There were references to Clairvaux Abbey but all in German and I didn’t dare get the iPhone out. You’re right, I’m getting the hang of it

  3. Great pics Tim! Although I thought your song might be the tale of the lonesome pine. Oh and there’s always the option of Spiegeleier zum Frühstück.

    • Fried eggs from the oven are great for breakfast with several people. Put the eggs in small refractory cups, which you grease with butter beforehand. Put them in the oven and let them cook at 175 degrees for about eight to ten minutes.

  4. Tassie Kaz

    Glad you melk-ed your day for all it was worth.
    Oh come on…someone had to do it! 😇

  5. Ruedi Bösch

    Indeed, the monastery complex bears a certain resemblance to Clairvaux! But you must have heard of Melk Abbey indirectly long before you went there yesterday: in Umberto Eco’s book “The Name of the Rose” or in the film. The whole story is told retrospectively by William of Baskerville’s Adlatus Adson of Melk. He came from this monastery 🙂 I will certainly go and visit the place in September on my bike tour to Vienna.

    • You will certainly enjoy Melk Abbey and the cycle ways along the Danube are excellent and very popular. I’ve not read The Name of the Rose nor seen the film but now I have motivation to do so. It’s such an amazing place.

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