A Tale of Two Cruises - early winter 2009 travel blog

Melk panorama

St. Florian panorama

monastery close up





another view


Since medieval times – and I'm talking about the dawn of the last millenium – Europeans have been using the Danube River as a major transportation highway. The river flows from Germany to Bulgaria and is especially loved by the Austrians since it bisects their country. They've written songs about it. During the early 1000's, local monks charged tolls on boats traveling up and down the Danube and amassed great sums. They used these funds to build gigantic monasteries perched on the hilltops overlooking the river. At that time time clerics were major movers and shakers and preserved and passed along whatever knowledge man had acquired at that point. Huge libraries were a major feature of these complexes as well as significant churches.

On the drive from Munich to Vienna we drove parallel to the Danube on the Autobahn. While much of the day of necessity was spent driving, we stopped at two of these monasteries to stretch our legs and admire these amazing buildings. Because the major tourist season is over, it was easy to find a place to park, but not possible to obtain a tour and see the monasteries in their entirety. However, we really did not have time to do these places justice. We saw enough to know that we want to come back. We ate lunch at one of the monasteries. No bread and water, but typical Austrian food - goulash for me and Weinerschnitzel for Ken. The goulash came with a glob of sour cream on the side. Austrian cooking is not the best choice for those worrying about chloresterol.

The Germans are noted for being fast drivers, but on the Autobahn the Austrians are no slouches either. Trucks understandably have a lower speed limit, and when you ease out to pass them, you have to peer way behind you or a car could drive up your back side before you notice it. On a three lane highway it is strictly forbidden to pass on the right, even if there is plenty of space to do so. Driver beware.

The GPS was a god send once again as we wound our way through the busy, narrow streets of Vienna. Our accommodations are on a one way street surrounded by other one way streets, and we drove here as if we knew exactly where we were going. Luckily, our digs come with a parking spot or we would be perched on a side walk somewhere. Big old European cities are really no place for a car.

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