One of the things I love about Go Ahead Tours is that you get to go to the well known places that you have heard about all of your life, like the Glockenspiel in Munich, but you also get to go to places of which you never dreamed! Really stunning places. Places that leave a mark on your memory and find a place in your heart. Such was Melk Abbey for me. It was there that I found "my" staircase...but more on that later. I'm getting ahead of myself again! (Remember to click on any of the photos to see the larger version!)Located on a hilltop overlooking the town of Melk, Austria and the Danube River you actually have to come to the Abbey from above. There is a wonderful parking lot with a gorgeous staircase that leads down to the grounds. It is one of those staircases that you will, unless you are in very good shape, want to take back up very slowly. That's ok...the view when you stop to rest is worth it!
You walk down the path, past a few little areas set aside from the actual Abbey, to this outer set of buildings. You walk through this entrance gate to the forecourt but as you do you will begin to see the details that makes this place so beautiful.
Ornate moldings as well as the statues against the yellow facade are striking. This is where you find the ticket office as well as benches if you care to just sit for a bit and take it all in.
Even the fountain is highly ornate with it's levels of carvings and spewing fountains.
But, for some reason, this one is the one I fell in love with. Maybe it's the little kid look on the face, the whimsical body language or just the white on yellow on gold with blue coloring, but whatever it is, I smile every time I see this photograph.
Inside the actual buildings, where you begin the tour, you find exactly what you expect. Beautifully appointed arches with more statues and gorgeous lanterns.
There are several levels to this part of the building and each carries the decor from one level to the next.
But then you enter the hallways at the beginning of the actual tour and you are met with this view to your right and...this view to your left. Very sparse. Very plain with the exception of the white on white moldings on the ceiling arches. This is the Hall of Art. I believe the starkness of the hallway is supposed to showcase the art. It most certainly highlights the differences of this Benedictine Abbey.
As you leave this area of the property you are led out onto a balcony that overlooks Melk and the Danube.Once you get to the center of the balcony and turn away from Melk and back to the Abbey you find that the truly ornate facade of this Abbey is overlooking the river!
Step down to the lower courtyard and you are afforded this beautiful view of the valley, including a Castle ruin. (click on the photo to see the larger version and you will find the Castle in the lower left hand of the balcony cut out.)
As ornate as the entrance was, this side of the Abbey is even more so. It was like they piled details upon details of all different styles and colors. Just in this one section you get the yellow, white, gold, black and grey of the building set off by the gold and white of the statues and decorations which even include a clock on each spire!
Even the statues on this side of the building are more ornate! And the black trim is different from the entrance way as well, making the contrasts even more stark. Beautiful! Maybe it was to prepare you for what waited through those doors?
Fortunately our guide gave us all the time we wanted to be able to take it all in...and there is a LOT to take in!From there it was into the library. The most amazing library I had even been to in my life! Suddenly I felt like Belle in Beauty and the Beast...just mesmerized and with an intense desire to just stay right there in that room and take it in, one book at a time!
The fresco on this ceiling was amazingly intricate. I love how God is slightly obscured by the intense bright light of Heaven in the center.
And I had never seen such an ornate bookcase. Those are carved people holding up the walkway above!
We all loved the entrance gates to this spiral staircase. The staircase itself was just plain iron and many of us were disappointed. That is, until we saw THE staircase.The Imperial Staircase takes your breath away. I had never seen anything like it and I was immediately enthralled.
The gently curling marble staircase with it's delicate ironwork railing, pink and gold painted stringer that curls into itself all the way top to bottom is stunning.
Even the painted panels that step down beside you are another beautiful detail of this staircase.
Finally we entered the Cathedral. Unlike the rest of the Abbey, where the decor felt light and airy, it feels just the opposite inside the Church. Heavy carved wooden pews are set off with the heavy gold ornamentation of the columns all the way up to the domes.
You can see what I mean about heavy gold ornamentation in the pulpit located on one the columns near the altar.If you look at the other frescoes from this Abbey you can see how overcrowded and busy the Cathedral paintings are in comparison. I know you are supposed to leave with a feeling of opulence but I felt weighed down by it instead.
As I headed back to the main parking lot I took a left into another park like area and was rewarded by a rare treat that not many on our tour found.
This little garden house is now a small cafe and eating area. Nothing was open that time of day except for a small self serve area to get a bottle of soda or water but it was cool and pretty to visit.
The front reminded me of an English Tearoom with it's rose bushes and shutter windows.The inside didn't change my idea. Very delicately painted in golds and greens, the decor continued the feeling that you were going to tea.
Even the ceiling fresco was delicate, light and airy.The more tropical feeling of the main room made me think of an English Tearoom set up somewhere in the tropics. Somewhere, in my imagination, Kipling would have felt happy to sit and have his tea.
With Melk Abbey it was very easy to get overwhelmed but, if you took your time like we did, you would find it to be a fascinating place to visit. I had never heard of it before our tour and now it is a wonderful highlight of our tour.
We'll be heading down the Blue Danube on the next part of this tour on our way to Vienna. (And, yes, for those who remember this tour, I have, so far, left out Neuschwanstein Castle...I'm saving the best for last!)