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Day 4 — April 29, 2009

During the night we sailed through the Wachau Valley.   Everything I have read about Austria and the Danube River, this is a very beautiful area.   So much so, it has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We docked in Melk just after breakfast and left shortly for a tour of the baroque Melk Abbey, perched on the sheer cliffs high above the Danube.   The Melk Abbey was built by the Benedictine monks over 900 years ago.   It has suffered numerous fires, the plague, and war damage through the centuries.   Its present high baroque form was constructed in the early 18th century, and many of era's most famous painters, sculptors, and stucco craftsmen worked on the abbey.   The Abbey is a “working abbey” with several hundred students.   Today was a damp, misty, wet morning but that did not detract from everyone's interest in the tour.

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Parking above the Abbey, we took a series of steps down and through a well manicured garden.   Entry was through an archway into an inner court.   From there, a series of rooms displaying various items of art and collectible.

It was interesting that much was very, very old.   In contrast, one would enter rooms that were very “high tech” making use of the most modern equipment and contemporary ideas for presentation.

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Here is an interesting item and a bit of amusing background.   The “box” in the first photograph below is a reuseable coffin!   Yep, a coffin.   It is very nicely made of a beautiful pine.   The second photograph is of a projected presentation.   An interesting and effect show.

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After the tour of the many presentation rooms, we passed a very beautiful spiral stair for only a glimpse.   We then entered large room that might be used for large gatherings or banquets.   Of real interest in this room is the ceiling.   Not detectable by eye, but the ceiling is flat.   The painting was done in such a manner that it appears curved or slightly domed.   There is a rich use of stone, gold leaf which makes the room a wonderful sight.

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This large room opened to the exterior onto a very large patio that over looked Melk.   Below we could see the Danube River.   The rain had stopped and it was a wonderful morning.

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Back inside we first passed through a huge library.   There about 100,000 books, most of which are leather bound religious volumes.   Monks as well as the students make use of this library to perform research for their studies.

Upon leaving the library, there was another spiral stair!   This time we would make use of it to descend to the Abbey sanctuary.   The red coated arm is Mieko's.

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The interior of the abbey's church is a kaleidoscope of red, orange and gold, with a magnificent carved pulpit and shimmering ceiling frescoes.   It was one of the most ornate we have ever seen, with stucco and gold leaf covering everything in sight.   The church builders' goal was to demonstrate what heaven looks like, so it is said.

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On our way out of the sanctuary, we came by the first stair that we had seen.   I grabbed the opportunity take another photograph.   Oh, least you wonder.   There are mirrors at the bottom and top of the stair to gives the appearance that it is several floors in height.   Nice touch and very real looking.

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Back on the Danube, our boat awaits.   It is lunchtime and as we enjoy our afternoon, we will sail through a beautiful stretch of the Danube called the Strudengau.

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Tonight we anchor in Linz.

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