We left Vienna on Monday morning to make our way to Salzburg. Ashley and I were interested in stopping at Melk Abbey on the way, but I really struggled to make sense of their website for so long that I wasn’t even sure the thing was open after October. I finally decided that it was open in winter as long as we took a guided tour at 11 am or 2 pm, so we aimed for 11. The Abbey was imposing and stunning on the hillside as we arrived in Melk.
Our tour only had two others on it, but we were lead by the enthusiastic Anita who looked to be in her late 20s and was SO EXCITED to share the history of the Abbey with us. She seriously made the tour, and Ashley and I wanted to take her with us. If you ever visit, regardless of the time of year, I highly recommend a tour. I would have been 98% less interested if it had not been for Anita because I typically do not care much for religious history (with the exceptions of its relevance to royal history). Thankfully, there was a small overlap as Leopold II gave his castle to the Benedictine Monks to use as an Abbey in 1089, and Maria Theresa and Francis I even visited. While most of the wealthier guests of the Abbey gave richly decorated items of high value to the Abbey in appreciation for their stay, Maria Theresa sent portraits of herself and her husband. I loved that little tidbit. OF COURSE they would think that portraits of themselves would be the greatest gift anyone could ask for.
(not my photos as pictures were not allowed inside the Abbey)
We started the tour by going up the Imperial Staircase, named so because it was the staircase used by Maria Theresa and Francis I when they visited. So fancy.
We walked through an exhibition on the history of the Abbey which featured a lot of the treasures. The Abbey has been operated by Benedictine Monks since it was gifted to them in 1089. The Abbey as it stands now in it’s overwhelming baroque style was the result of a renovation in the early 1700s. The Abbey survived emperors who seized other Abbeys, Napoleon, and Hitler. We then walked out onto the terrace at the front of the Abbey which offered a beautiful view of the chapel and of the city of Melk.
We then walked through the library which was beautiful (from Wikipedia):
Then into the Church of the Abbey. It was honestly overwhelming with all of the colors. The below picture is from Wikipedia, but I need you to see this thing.
It was all very beautiful and ornate, but it was just a lot of gold and bright, cherubic colors to process. They also had displayed skeletons which was something I hadn’t seen before, and an interesting story about their patron saint. I am glad we stopped because I learned a lot and it was really pretty.
We drove on to Salzburg and arrived mid-afternoon. We stayed in a cute one bedroom apartment that was at the base of Fortress Hohensalzburg in Old Salzburg. We could look up out of our window and see the Fortress and Nonnberg Abbey (where Maria von Trapp was a candidate with the intent to become a nun).
Once we got unloaded and checked in, we ate a quick lunch, then made our way up to the Fortress (by funicular because the sun was setting and no one had time to climb a mountain). The view was SPECTACULAR.
Fun fact: the above massive mountain, Untersberg, is the mountain that Maria was on in the beginning of The Sound of Music. She made it down from the top of that and across the 10 kilometers from the base of it to the Abbey in just a few minutes!
The fortress was also neat, but by the time we got up there, we weren’t able to go inside and tour it because we missed the last entry time.
When we got down, we stopped by the Christmas market at the base of the Salzburg Cathedral.
I also made a total idiot of myself there. I ordered a beer, watched the guy pour it, then watched him place it on the counter in front of me. Despite the visual evidence that the mug was full of beer, I took it and immediately turned it upside down pouring the beer all over myself. I had no idea what had happened, even after seeing myself covered in beer and watching my friends laugh hysterically at me. I knew that the mug had been full of beer, but I also KNEW that it was upside down. I couldn’t figure out how I KNEW both of those things until I looked at my mug again: THAT LOOKS LIKE AN UPSIDE DOWN MUG. I felt like an idiot, but when that thing was eye level on a counter with me, it really looked like it needed to be turned over (the physics of the liquid inside BE DAMNED). I convinced Sari to go get me a refill because I was too embarrassed to go back over to the site of the spill, and this mug will now be coming with me as a memento of my poor spatial relations.
After the Christmas market, we shivered our way across the river to dinner at Andreas Hofer Weinstube which our apartment hostess had recommended as her favorite place in town. I decided to order a dish that was listed as “cheesebread” because I figured that there was no way that could go wrong. It arrived as what looked like a fried crab cake in broth. I was worried. I am very delicate about textures, but I forged ahead bravely in the name of adventure. It turned out to be a fried cheese dumpling with herbs in a beef broth and it was FANTASTIC. I took a picture on Snapchat, but forgot to save it, but I can assure you that it was wonderful and you should try it should you ever get the chance. Picture below from the internets.
We were all extremely happy with our respective meals, and it is always so fun to eat in the cozy restaurants in this region.