Set at the edge of the famous wine region of the Wachau Valley, the picturesque town of Melk lies at the confluence of the Danube and Melk Rivers. Its biggest attraction is Melk Abbey, the most famous abbey in Austria.
It is a Benedictine abbey located on a ridge overlooking the Danube river, from which stunning views of both the river and the town can be seen. Originally it was a palace belonging to Leopold II, Margrave of Austria. He gifted it to Benedictine monks in 1089 who then turned it into a fortified monastery.
The Monks Here are Not Allowed in the Ornate Areas of the Abbey
The current Baroque style structure was built on those original castle foundations between 1702 and 1736. Originally a royal bastion, Melk Abbey has ornate and extravagant ceremonial courts, grand halls, frescoes, and a massive library. The few dozen monks that reside there today are not allowed to enter the lavish areas, but instead are relegated to a more austere environment elsewhere in the abbey.
Over 100,000 Volumes are Stored in the Melk Abbey Library
The Melk Abbey Library is also magnificent and famous in its own rite. Over 100,000 books and manuscripts are stored here. In addition to the main hall pictured below, there are an additional 12 other rooms that are not open for public viewing. Some volumes contained in the library are extremely rare and valuable, dating back to the 1500’s. Incredibly, this library is still used regularly today, not only by the monks, but also the general public can access its treasured resources as well, with permission.
An Unexpected Pourdown
After the tour of the abbey, for the short time before we were due back at the ship, we were free to roam the manicured grounds of the monastery as well as the quaint town of Melk below. After looking down on this charming settlement from the heights of the abbey, I could not wait to explore up close its centuries old homes that lined the stone streets. I wanted to peer into the brewhouses, the shops, and eateries of this old-world city. But there wasn’t much time left. We rushed down the steps from the abbey, rounded the corner, power walked past an outdoor café…when all of the sudden…a deluge of rain!!
It came without even an initial warning light sprinkle of rain. It was a sudden downpour. We took shelter in a nearby gift shop, perused every single item for sale, waiting for the rain to stop, hopefully just as quickly as it began. But the rain did not stop, and we realized that it was time to return to our ship, that would soon be leaving the port. We purchased an overpriced souvenir “I love Austria” poncho to keep my camera dry, and set out for the ship. Along the road, we joined other passengers, that looked and sounded just like us, with soaked hair and clothes, and shoes that made squishing sounds as we all walked in the non-relenting rain.
Want to start that the beginning of this river cruise? Not problem, click here!
See new photos of the Viking Grand European River Cruise at Shine’s Pictures!