Stift (Abby) MelkTraveling from Salzburg to Vienna, with a little over an hour to your destination you see this glorious sight which later turned out to be an abbey on your left. How often have you wished to stop but in the rush to get to Vienna you never quite had the time. This vacation we decided to stay on the Danube in a small town called Dürnstein. The romantic little town is surrounded by fortified walls with merlons and towers. AustriaAbove the town is the ruin of the former Kuenringer castle. In 1193 King Richard the Lionheart was kept prisoner and held "for a king's ransom". We felt like kings while we stayed at the Hotel Schloß Dürnstein. From Dürnstein it’s a short drive along the river to Melk. The area we stayed in is called the Wachau which covers a stretch of the Danube Valley between Melk and Krems. The local agriculture revolves around the cultivation of vines for the production of wine. Every inch of the hillsides on both banks are covered with terraced farms.

Stift (Abby) MelkStift (Abby) Melk Stift (Abby) Melk - Carlin TruongMelk Abbey itself, perched on its mountain is one of the most imposing architectural masterpieces north of the Alps and afocal point in the formative years of Austria's history. Though the first documentary reference to the name Melk dates from the year 831 it was in 1989 that the abbey celebrated the 900th anniversary of the day on which Melk was turned over to Benedictine monks. The site previously had been the residence of the Babenberg rulers of Austria, who had held the eastern marches of the Carolingian Empire of Charlemagne in fiefdom for over a century. 

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The surrounding territory, the Marca Orientalis of the Holy Roman Empire was known at the time as "Ostarrichi" (modern German: "Österreich"), it formed the nucleus of what we know today as Austria although it then consisted only of a narrow strip of land on both banks of the Danube between the tributaries Enns and Traisen. Eventually castle lost its strategic importance and a monastery was founded in its place, ruled by a Benedictine Abbot. My own memory of the Abbey is its library filled with precious manuscripts.

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