On another day during our trip, we took the train out to the incredible Abbey in Melk. (Stift Melk). It's about 25 km outside of Vienna. Here are the girls with their "tickis" or Kinderfahrkarten, tickets just for kids. They loved them, Ellie especially. She carried that thing around most of the day. (Until she dropped it in the Danube--something she still talks about!)
An hour and two trains later, we arrived in Melk. The abbey is an impressive crown on the hill. If you're interested, check out their website HERE where you can see more pictures and get mor information. The abbey itself is huge--nearly two football fields in length. (That is American football, not European football.) :) It was built in the 12th century.
I love this picture because here is Ellie, flanked by an incredible example of architecture and what is she centered on? Her snack. Way to keep your priorities, Ellie.
Here's where the Abbot would greet you, on the balcony ahead (just above the doorway) flanked by statues of Peter and Paul.
Inside there are several rooms that you can tour. You can also take a guided tour, but we had learned (even this early on) that guided tours were not intended for 2-3 yr olds. (Who knew?) It's also incredibly important that we could move at our own pace. Haa haa. Here's something I think Indiana Jones found once before....
And actually, during the tour we took, it was wonderful to see the gospel clearly presented. Jesus is thanked several times for being the sacrifice that saves us from our sins, and we loved actually seeing that in a place of worship that has been around so long and has seen so much. Once you make it through the first several rooms, you come in to the Marble Hall, where guests were greeted. The ceiling has been painted to look rounded, though the corners are actually square. And there are an impressive number of allusions to the Greek gods, which I believe are to appease the Habsburgs (the then-ruling family of Austria) because they saw themselves to be appointed to rule Austria by God.
Checking out the marble hall.
A view from the abbey toward the Danube and the town of Melk.
This is how Ellie gets around Europe--by backpack. And one must have gummi bears on hand to make the backpack successful. (Don't tell the abbey we actually fed our child in their library...they might die of shock.)
Of course, this is the second most important part of the abbey--the library. I can't begin to explain what it was like, standing in this astounding place of learning and power (as it had once been in it's height). It's understandable to see how abbots were kings of their own kingdom--and how the spiritual condition of a particular abbot directed the workings of the whole abbey and all who were associated with it. In fact, Melk was so important that they once owned their own Gutenburg Bible. But they sold it to Harvard in the 80's to fund their restoration. (Money very well spent, as you can see and will see in the next pictures.) Today, Melk is still responsible for 23 parishes and runs a secondary school.
Once you leave the library, you enter the church. It seemed everything in this church glittered, so much of it was covered in gold. This is the high altar, in the front of the chapel. You can see the two middle statues are Peter and Paul, greeting each other for the last time before they head off to make disciples and become martyrs. The huge crown above is the papal crown with the world above and God (whom you can't really see) sitting on top of the world. I told Kate about God sitting there on the globe and she looked up and considered. Her response to me was "I don't think God has a mustache."
This is the ceiling in the chapel, looking toward the pipe organ.
And of course, the chapel isn't complete without a little Baroque creepiness.
We bought a piece of artwork in the gift shop and headed to the abbey garden for lunch. Here's where we parked, far enough away from the all-too-tempting fish pond.
After lunch, we caught the boat for a cruise down the Danube.
This city is a major sight of the Wachau Valley (the part of the Danube we cruised down). This castle (see the remains on the top of the hill) held Richard the Lionheart as prisoner when he was returning home from the crusades.
We were so thankful to be on the boat and not riding bikes or walking as it rained quite a bit during the cruise. But praise God, when we landed the rain stopped! We walked into Krems, had dinner, and saw two other churches that were impressive but certainly not as impressive as the church from which we had just come. Here's one of the streets of Krems and it reminds me of why I will never mistake Europe for America. They just look nothing alike.