Monday, January 28, 2013

Dear Abbey(s) and on to Salzburg!

Stift Melk
The Baroque Marble Room at Stift Melk
Our last morning in Vienna began with an earlier start – cramming breakfast in the body and clothing/stuff in the bags to be on the road by 8:30 a.m.  After three nights in one hotel, one can easily make quite a mess to clean up – but it does feel good to not be in a different bed every night.  One of our jokes is to line up for the inevitable question each morning:  “Room number, please?”  You stand and look at the person and for the life of you can’t remember….207?  No, that was yesterday….313?  No, I’m on the fourth floor – hey wait, that IS the fourth floor (Europeans count the ground floor as G or O, NOT as 1.)  Anyway, it can get confusing!

A gentle snow of great big old flakes was falling upon the city as we departed, and so it continued for most of the day.  This did not, however, stop us from visiting both of our scheduled stops on the way to Salzburg, Stift Melk and Mondsee Abbey.

The abbey was founded in 1089 , and a a monastic school, founded in the 12th century.  The monastic library soon became renowned for its extensive manuscript collection. The monastery was also a major site for the production of manuscripts. In the 15th century the abbey became the centre of the Melk Reform movement which reinvigorated the monastic life of Austria and Southern Germany.

Abbey Church
This impressive Baroque abbey was built between 1702 and 1736. Due to its fame and academic stature, Melk managed to escape dissolution under Emperor Joseph II when many other Austrian abbeys were seized and dissolved between 1780 and 1790. The abbey managed to survive other threats to its existence during the Napoleonic Wars, and also in the period following the Nazi Anschluss that took control of Austria 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 the Second World War for nearly 900 pupils of both sexes.

Dome of Abbey Church
We had a really wonderful tour of the abbey; saw the rooms where Maria Theresia would stay when she visited the area, the magnificent library, and, of course, the Abbey Church.  The Choir was allowed to sing there for approximately 30 minutes – minutes which it seems they will cherish the memory of for many years to come.

From the Abbey looking at the Danube
At Mondsee Abbey
Back on the bus, and after a stop for lunch, we arrived at the famous Mondsee Abbey Church in Mondsee.   We are now seeing the Alps for the first time (sort of – through the clouds) and they are as impressive as this quaint little village.   The cathedral church which dominates the small village of Mondsee was once the heart of an important monastery. Founded in 748 A.D. on the ruins of a Roman settlement, it influenced the culture of the region for more than a thousand years. The oldest German translation of the Bible was written here - the Mondsee 'Matthew'.

The basic Gothic structure of the cathedral was "modernized" in the 17th century. The baroque sculptures and altars were made by the famous sculptor Meinrad Guggenbichler. The monastery was dissolved in 1792. The properties belonging to it were given later to Napoleon I.

The wedding scene in the Sound of Music was filmed here. Maria, led by Liesl, walked down the aisle to meet the Baron on front of the stairs of the main altar. The cathedral organ could be seen and heard during the wedding ceremony.

And yes, the Choir got to sing here too for about 30 minutes.  It was kind of one of those “pinch me” moments for some of our gang – we have several “Sound of Music” fans, and whether some of it was filmed in Hollywood or here, it just “is” still the “Sound of Music” country!

Our arrival in Salzburg about 4:30 this afternoon allowed time for an hours worth of “wrap up” with the class and then transportation to  our group dinner at St. Peter Stiftskeller – the oldest restaurant in central Europe, founded in 600 something.  We were told that Charlemagne himself dined here.   It was GREAT.  Perhaps the biggest news of the day – it was 6 degrees C this afternoon.  We’ve not seen a 6 on anything since we got here!  Hooray!  And tonight, high over Salzburg, a beautiful full moon.  Let’s hope we have a clear day tomorrow as we have a guided tour around this magnificent city and our final concert in Berchtesgarden –just down the road.