A few words about Vienna, or Wien, before we move on to our next port. A large metropolis of close to 2 million people(1.7 M) has its problems just like any other metropolitan area. The Beatrice docked in a more industrial area; we were bussed inside the ringstrasse where we could see the beautiful buildings for which Wien is known. However, getting there, we drove to more gritty areas and I noticed graffiti on some of the buildings not so different than one might find in Chicago or Atlanta.
We didn’t get off the boat to explore the area around our dock, because the weather was against us but might have if the weather had been nicer. When you take a river cruise, you will find that sometimes your boat docks in an industrial area but other times will stop right next to a small town. One of the reasons for this is that the popularity of river cruising makes finding a suitable dock difficult. However, what the Ramblers like about river cruising as opposed to ocean cruising is that it is very easy to leave the boat when it is docked, just a quick scan of your photo id will allow you to walk up,, down or across the gangplank.
A final work on Viennese foods. Uniworld handed out a daily program that provided information about our daily activities which sometimes included a few paragraphs on the food. Having a Hungarian mother and a German father, they were familiar to me. I got a chuckle when they recommended dumplings filled with powidl (povidla to me) , saying it was something of an acquired taste… Powidl is made from prunes or dried plums, a filling that folks with an Eastern European heritage know very well. This Rambler loves it, her children, not so much. I expect that the same is true among Eastern Europeans.
When we docked along the river bank in the small town of Krems, the weather hovered around 34′, with a high of 37′ expected. However, it was NOT raining, which boded well for our tour of Gottweig Abbey, scheduled to leave at 9 am. We boarded our shiny Uniworld bus and headed through the town and along a series of local roads until we began climbing up and up the largest hill for miles around.
As we drove up, we could see prosperous farms and vineyards down below. Given its location on top of a mini-mountain, I expected to see medieval buildings at the top, but was instead greeted by more baroque architecture, with a decidedly Hapsburg stamp.
I was sorry I had not done my homework on the places we would visit before we left home. The guides don’t always provide information about the past, but focus more on what is currently visible. If you have an interest in history and culture, take the time to check out the places you will stop on your voyage. I guarantee you will get more out of the trip. Gottweig was worth seeing however, even though it was not a medieval abbey. I learned later that I was right, there had been an abbey on this spot since the 11th century.
Unfortunately, the parking lot was not on the same level as the monastery grounds, so the gentle walkers carefully trudged up a long ramp . They then found that they would also have to climb several long flights of stairs inside the Abbey. This tour was not appropriate for someone who had trouble climbing stairs.
Once we entered, we viewed a beautiful and inspiring place. The interior was ornate yet spartan. The common areas included beautifully designed baroque stairways and halls with few adornments except statues and ceiling frescoes,all painted white and shades of gray. The Hapsburg’s sometimes stayed at the abbey and because royalty did not appreciate spartan, their apartments were beautifully decorated, with a strong resemblance
to to the rooms of a royal palace. Unlike the rest of the abbey, they were heated.
The Hapsburg apartments are interesting because of the art and architecture they contain. One of their most interesting features, to me, were the white/gilt ceramic stoves used to heat their rooms. These stoves practical as well as beautiful because their ceramic exterior held the heat for a long time after the fire within had been reduced to embers.
Gottweig was founded by the Benedictine monks in the 11th century.
However, like many medieval buildings, the monastery burned in the 17th century and was rebuilt in the early 18th century, hence the baroque interiors and exteriors. I have always wondered how medieval churches and monasteries could burn as they seem to be mainly constructed of stone. However, no doubt there are plenty of wood beams in the structure and no fire departments on call.
Today, Gottweig is still run by the Benedictines. As we were walking around the grounds I noticed a young monk giving a tour for a group of high school students. He is wearing a black coat and hat in the middle of the picture.
Gottweig is a popular place for tours as it stands as one of the largest monasteries in Europe. The church is rather plain on the exterior but inside it is magnificent and boasts a wonderful organ.
We had a chance to hear a concert of Christmas music which was, for me an added treat. I love organ music but some of our group, including the senior Rambler, didn’t much appreciate it. I must admit the church was not heated, and quite chilly inside although we were bundled up. It made me think of the medieval monks in this monastery who slept in unheated cells and prayed in an unheated church all year round.
Our last stop was the Gottweig Christmas Market.
This was quite different from the large market in Vienna. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Roman Catholic traditions, an Advent wreath is constructed by families before the first Sunday of Advent (the 4th Sunday before Christmas) Special prayers are said every night as the candles are lighted;one added each week until all four are lit. In Austria, they use red candles, in Marietta, we use white and rose.
At Gottweig, Christmas crafts and [products such as honey and soaps were sold by local folks. it was fun to look at their wares but I was not tempted to buy as we had little room in our carry-on’s for souvenirs and had checked only one bag.
Did I mention that the senior Rambler dislikes shopping even more than Christmas; here he was faced with both at the same time. Luckily there was a place for him to sit while I wandered the display of crafts. He was probably not the only man who was happy to board the bus at the end of the tour. However, we were not all going directly back to the boat but could choose to be dropped off in Krems, an easy walk back to the boat.