After leaving Durnstein, we cruised towards Melk. Melk Abbey is a Benedictine abbey on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Danube River and adjoining the picturesque Wachau valley. The Abbey contains the tomb of St. Coloman and the remains of several members of the House of Babenberg, which preceded the House of Hapsburg as Austria’s ruling dynasty.
Particularly noteworthy is the Abbey church with frescoes by Johann Rottmayr, and the library with countless medieval manuscripts. The Abbey church is surrounded by the Abbey buildings, but dominates the group with the symmetrical towers of the west front and great octagonal dome.
The interior gives great impression of lightness - the lavish decoration includes frescoes, gold ornaments and marble. Not everyone likes the baroque style, but the church is an artistic masterpiece.
We saw the most important parts of the monastery, including the museum which can easily be overlooked by some visitors. The tour did not include the library - we could easily have just walked into it for a short visit - but, fortunately, I saw it on a prior visit.
The Abbey managed to survive other threats to its existence during the Napoleonic Wars, and also in the period following the Anschluss in 1938, when the school and a large part of the Abbey were confiscated by the state. The school was returned to the Abbey after WWII and now caters for nearly 900 students.
Tonight, we were offered a special Chaine des Rotisseurs dinner. For the appetizer, I had marinated salmon and tuna; French onion soup; then a rack of lamb; and for dessert, the crème brulee, macaroons and strawberries sorbet. Frequently for desserts, they serve a small portion of three different items - I thought this was a nice touch. AMA Waterways is the only river cruise line inducted into La Chaine des Rotisseurs, one of the world’s most prestigious culinary organizations - after my experience on this cruise, I think they richly deserve their membership.
After dinner, the cruise pianist played Christmas music.