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Phil & Carol on the Danube: Melk, Durstein, Krems

Melk is most famous for its Benedictine monastery where it has been a spiritual and cultural center in Austria for over 1000 years. Built in 1089, the monks have continually lived and worked here for over 900 years. Today, 30 monks live in the Melk Abbey where they teach some 750 students ranging in age from 10 to 18.

One of the more interesting items we saw at the abbey was their version of being “green”–recycling caskets. The wooden casket had a trap door in the bottom and a release that would open it after it was lowered into the ground. The body would simply fall out the bottom and the casket could be brought up and reused.

This abbey is huge; 100 windows, over 50 rooms, and an active library of 100,000 books. Some books here are from the 16th century. It is important to know that Mozart played here for the Imperials at the age of six.

After re-boarding our ship and having an Austrian lunch, we set sail down the Danube River. The middle part of the Danube, where we are, is probably the most scenic part of the river. Everywhere you look there are hillsides covered with vineyards, ancient fortresses high on the hills, and small towns with cathedral spires reaching to the sky.

 At 3:30 we stopped at the small town of Durnstein. The town of 400 people sits on the edge of the Danube–in fact, so close that there is no room for the main road to go through.  SO they built a ¼ mile long tunnel under the town for this main road.

Melk, Durstein, Krems

The town is best known for being the place where Richard the Lionhearted was imprisoned. Another less-known, but probably more interesting fact, is that King Wenceslas went to the town priest and asked what his wife was confessing to him. The priest said, “I can’t tell you that!” After asking numerous times and being rebuffed, the priest’s body was found floating in the river. The priest is honored everywhere here because of his commitment.

After we returned to our ship, we had an Austrian dinner with our new AUSTRALIAN friends. Now you would think that would be enough for one day, but we left at 8:30 pm for Krems where there was a tasting of local Austrian red and white wines. They demonstrated how the grapes are grown, picked, and processed into their wines. It was a fun and very full day.

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