Melk, Austria – Roadtrip – Summer 2015

Our first destination was Melk, a small town famous for its abbey, which has long been the spiritual and cultural center of Austria.

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Preparing for the trip

Before embarking on the rather long journey to Europe, several preparations must be made. If you plan to travel by car, you’ll need to obtain a Green card and purchase car stickers with the inscription “UA” from an insurance company. It’s essential to plan your route in advance, make hotel reservations, download offline maps to your phone, and save all hotel addresses. At the border crossing, you may be asked to present a travel itinerary, so it’s advisable to print all the reservations and keep them in the car, for instance, in the glove compartment. This information can come in handy and is often required.

Due to some circumstances, we decided not to cross the border at Krakovets. There are long queues there, and you may have to wait for up to 8 hours. Instead, we found out about a smaller checkpoint in Ustilug and opted to go there. Upon approaching the checkpoint, it may not be immediately apparent that it’s the right one. However, helpful people in line informed us that waiting times could be lengthy, and they directed us to another checkpoint in Uhryniv, which had recently opened and was lesser-known. The checkpoint in Uhryniv is situated in an open field, so it’s a good idea to bring water and food, as you might be there for an unknown duration, and there are no amenities except for a toilet. On the way there, we passed the border in about 2 hours, and it took us only an hour to return.

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After crossing the border, the deserted landscapes of Volyn and western Ukraine gave way to an entirely different picture. Once you enter Poland, you find yourself in another world. Traveling on country roads (though not very smooth, but without potholes), you need to drive almost to Rzeszew, which is definitely a better option than waiting at the border for 8 hours. The surroundings change significantly, with well-maintained houses without barriers, lush planted fields, and charming border settlements. The setting sun bathes everything in a warm glow, and the air feels fresh and pleasant, saturated with oxygen.

After the long and tiring journey, we finally arrived in Krakow, where we spent the night at the excellent new and comfortable Best Western Q Hotel.

Melk, Austria

After spending the night in Krakow and renewing, we continued our journey, covering 540 km from Krakow through the entire Czech Republic to Austria. In the Czech Republic, we encountered not the best roads, food courts and gas stations that lacked cleanliness and freshness, and even paid toilets at gas stations. The scorching heat added to the challenges. However, as we crossed the border into Austria, the landscape changed to neat pastoral views with windmills and harvesters busy in wheat fields, setting the stage for the Austrian architecture and festive atmosphere we were looking forward to.

Our first destination was Melk, a small town famous for its abbey, which has long been the spiritual and cultural center of Austria. Located in Lower Austria, in the eastern part of the Wachau valley, along the banks of the Danube, Melk greets visitors with the sight of its majestic abbey perched on a granite rock above the Danube as they enter the city.

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Where to stay?

We opted for Madar Cafe Restaurant and Rooms, an authentic coffee shop dating back to 1894, which also offers a restaurant and tourist rooms right in the heart of the small town. Our room had windows overlooking the main square, where on Fridays, you could enjoy the orchestra’s music. It was pleasant to have dinner on the square, right under the open windows of our room, accompanied by classical music. The place exuded a romantic mood, with antique furniture, paintings, and interior, all inviting us to delve into the history of this place, the city, and the country as a whole.

The location, staff, kitchen, and coffee were all excellent. However, there were a few drawbacks, including the lack of air conditioning (which is unusual for Austria and these regions in general, as air conditioners are not commonly provided). Also, the noise from the street under the windows made it challenging to sleep with them open, as the city comes to life early in the morning. If you want a more peaceful rest, it is advisable to choose a room with a window overlooking the courtyard, where you can enjoy complete silence and the fresh breeze of a summer night.

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What to see?

Stift Melk

Certainly, you must visit the abbey, a magnificent structure situated on a rock, showcasing a clear predominance of the Baroque style. I am not a fan of historical museums with displays of gold and wealth in castle rooms, but the library, the observation deck, and the green lush garden, providing shade in meditative pathways with a serene landscape, all captured my attention for half a day.

One of the remarkable premises of the abbey is the library. The impressive frescoes on the ceiling, the vast collection of books, and the overall decoration of the library testify to the great respect the monks had for this room. What’s even more interesting is the fact that this library serves students and is not merely a museum exhibit.

Currently, in the 12 rooms of the library, there are 1,888 manuscripts, 750 incunabula (primary editions before 1500), 1,700 works from the 16th century, 4,500 from the 17th century, and 1,800 from the 18th century, which, along with later editions, make up a total of 100,000 volumes. The large library room houses around 16,000 publications, organized by topics, while the small library room mainly contains historical works from the 19th century.

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The park was initially laid out in the Baroque style, but after 100 years, it underwent extensive redesigning in the English style. Here, you can stroll along neatly trimmed terraces or venture into a dense and shady forest with alleys graced by 250-year-old linden trees. The park treats visitors to beautiful panoramas in different directions – on one side overlooking the Danube, and on the other side, offering views of the city of Melk itself. One section of the park features flower beds with herbs specially cultivated for making tinctures, which are conveniently available for purchase in the nearby souvenir shop.

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