Well, today was my tour of the Danube Valley. It was…enh. I mean, it was nice…very enjoyable…but it wasn’t what I thought it would be, and as always happens when you have expectations, sometimes you just set yourself up for disappointment. I thought I’d get to go to Durnstein, this picturesque little town my folks went to back in 2008 when they were here at Christmastime…and I was so excited to see it…and they have this TO DIE FOR apricot liqueur that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on…was totally going over in my head how to pack it in my backpack so it’d make the trip home…and the next thing I knew, the tour guide was coming on the speakers saying, “And to our left is Durnstein…it’s only one road…there it is…we’ll be passing right through.” What?!? BUMMER!!!
Sigh. The other towns we saw were the same. We drove by, and it was take a bus picture or just watch it go by…neither very enjoyable options. I really had hoped we’d stop a few places, as the tour purported to be a tour of the Valley itself. What it should be advertised as is: Coach ride through the Danube Valley to a slow boat that takes you 24K down the Danube River, followed by a guided tour of the Melk Monastery. Had it been clearer that this is what it was, it would’ve lived up to its ad completely. Maybe I just jumped to conclusions.
So it took us about an hour and change to get to the place where we got on the boat…that was approximately 27 piercing shrieks and 5,649 kicks to the back of my seat by the one-year-old on her mother’s lap behind me. Then the boat ride took us gently through the sun-drenched Danube Valley, past castles and cute little towns, for about an hour and a half…that’s 15 bouts of boisterous singing and 283 repetitions of “Whohooooo!” by the idiot (I assume, drunken) Italian woman and her entourage on the deck a few tables behind me. Sigh. I did my best to ignore them and enjoy the gorgeous weather and the beautiful castles and abbeys we passed. We were on the top deck of the boat…the mountains were green and lush, with patches of different types of trees that mottled the hillsides with different shades of emerald and spruce. When I finally went to the bar for a beer, I realized they had the apricot liqueur on board! So I had one of those, with a big fat apricot half dunked in it. It was really good. Then I went back to racking my brain to remember ANY Japanese at ALL from 15 years ago, so I could say something to the really nice old couple who were sharing my bench. I came up with nothin’. Which is probably just as well, because it might have encouraged them to attempt conversation, and my incompetence would’ve been both immediately apparent and all-consuming.
When we finally arrived at Melk, the bus picked us up again and took us up the hill, where the guide (who was delivering the tour in five languages today) told us we had an hour’s free time for lunch, and told us to meet in 32 minutes’ time for the tour. Math skills not as hot as his language skills, ha ha. The little cafe was pretty good, despite the fact that it took them 10 minutes to notice me, then 2 minutes to deliver my weinerschnitzel (it was very good), and then another 18 minutes to allow me to pay the bill. So I hustled off to the meeting spot and found that our very multinational group was being split into several smaller groups, each with their own tour guide (each wearing her native area’s dirndle dress) in their particular language…two for English…and hooray, all the little kids were in one group and I got to pick the other! I saw three different tour girls with name tags. Every single one was named Christine. I’m not kidding.
So I picked my Christine and off we went.
Melk was interesting…Benedictine…VERY over-the-top ornate. Baroque style. Lots of pink and yellow. And once we got into the rooms with the artifacts and things, it was really bizarre…each room had its own fancy lighting…something like neon, or ultraviolet light…one was blue, one was green, one was red…very modern setups for the artifacts…modern art here and there…really pretty surprising, when you considered the fact that they were showing us stuff that was 1000 years old! My favorite part of the tour was the two library rooms we got to see…all lined floor to ceiling with books…each row had almost identical-looking books…God knows how you’d ever find the one you wanted! In the center of the room was a display of astronomical books and writings…the oldest book was on display…1,100 years old. And there was a tiny one, smaller than your palm, that was meant to allow travelling monks to keep up with their prayers. There were fancy bishop’s chausibles (each 60+ lbs.), complete with mitres and little shoes and gloves…and a “reusable” coffin from a period when the monks were trying to save money…it was wood, with a bottom that was a full -length trapdoor…so you load the body, do the service, lower the coffin almost all the way in the grave, spring the bottom, and down goes the body and up comes the coffin, ready for the next guy! Ha ha. I thought that was funny. =)
And that was pretty much the tour. Melk is on a high cliff, so the views of the surrounding countryside were stunning…but there’s not much else to tell. It was a nice day…but I’m pretty bummed that I didn’t get to go into any of the little towns.
Not much else to say about the day (except for my AWESOME ONE HOUR RUN, see post below). =) Got a cheesy red canvas souvenir bag with VIENNA and lots of little sights to see stamped all over it…but not the Spanish Riding School, bummer! Went home, ran, and came to pick up Christa for the evening! And now she’s done and I gotta go!
And tomorrow we’ll get to be LAZY ALL MORNING! No alarm…no big early tours…nowhere to go…my last day here. She’s got work at 3 and I have the tour of the Spanish Riding School at 3…and going to make Felix take me back to Vapiano for more AMAZING Italian food for dinner…and then who knows, maybe Christa and I will stay up all night before I leave early-squirrely Monday morning to head home.
But for now, all I can say is…NO ALARM. =) Finally…a vacation day that feels like vacation. It’s gonna be great.