Sunday marked the halfway mark of my 2nd training tour and I have to say that I am loving my new adventure and am excited about my new career path! We spent the morning on the ship, going through lock after lock after lock. Around 10am, Anke held a fun lecture called “German Language: How to Learn German in 30 Minutes.” After a delicious lunch on the ship, we arrived in Regensburg and set out on foot for a walking tour.
Due to the fact that I did the guided walking tour of Regensburg on my 1st training trip, I spent time walking around on my own and I located banks, ATMs, the post office, a pharmacy and the WCs (bathrooms). The guided tour ended at the Thurn and Taxis Palace and Museum so I rejoined the group at that time. Kati showed me the ticket office and we then enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate while the guests made their way through the Palace and Museum. Everyone then had a bit of free time before we needed to be back at the ship. This was my 2nd trip to Regensburg and for the 2nd time, my visit fell on a Sunday which meant that all of the shops were closed. Regensburg has great shopping and I am excited that I will be back in Regensburg in a few weeks and that it will fall on a Friday! Anke, Kati and I made our way back through town and decided to grab a snack at the oldest “fast food” restaurant in the world. Known for the “best sausages in Germany,” the famous Wurstkuche (sausage kitchen) has been at the foot of the Regensburg bridge since the 12th century…..and I think one of the waitresses has worked there ever since! We enjoyed our savory sausages and sauerkraut and made our way back to the ship. Our evening entertainment was a special a capella performance by the Regensburger Spitzwegquartett, composed of former members of the Regensburg Cathedral Boys’ Choir. All aboard was at 9:15pm and we set sail at 9:30pm, en route to Passau, Germany. Passau was another town that I visited on my first training trip. I had already done the guided walking tour and the cathedral concert so I spent the time walking around and “getting lost” in the town. Again, I located the “musts”…bank, ATM, pharmacy, WC and post office. I ended up meeting Carlos, Anke and Kati for lunch at Café Simon and we enjoyed a nice, relaxing meal together. The three of them took a cab back to the ship and I decided to walk back. I walked along the river and enjoyed the cool, crisp air.
The day went by very quickly and we set sail again at 3pm. Late afternoon, Kati gave a lecture entitled “Reunification of Germany.” After dinner, we enjoyed a concert by Donnau 3 Klang. Another successful day! We sailed through the night and arrived in Melk, Austria just before breakfast on Tuesday morning. The day started out rainy and damp. This was my first time visiting Melk and I was excited about exploring a new town.
We departed by coach at 9am, headed for the magnificent Benedictine Melk Abbey – the largest in Austria. Constructed in the early 1700s, it marks the gateway to the Wachau Valley. A little background on Melk: Melk is a small town on the south side of the Danube River with a Baroque center and is best known for its staggeringly massive Benedictine monastery, which was founded in 1089 in a medieval fortress belonging to the House of Babenberg. After 1,000 years it’s still functioning as an abbey and school today. In the 15th century the abbey’s monks played a leading part in central European monastic reform and it took its present magnificent Baroque form after a devastating fire in the early 18th century. The abbey church with its enormous dome and ornate golden-hued bell towers now stands proud on a rocky bluff high over the Danube River. The interior of the abbey church is a mass of stained-glass windows, multi-colored marble, intricate gilding and elaborate frescos in the dome by Johann Michael Rottmayr. Melk boasts the largest ecclesiastical library in the world, with over 80,000 priceless volumes and a wonderfully frescoed ceiling, while the new museum has many jeweled reliquaries and manuscripts on show. Napoleon used Melk Abbey as his HQ when campaigning in Austria and the monastery also survived WWII, only to be badly damaged by fire once again in 1947. Today it is surrounded by landscaped gardens with spectacular views over the Wachau Valley and the Danube.
When I reached the bottom of the hill, I made my way across the bridge and into the Austrian forest. It was a scene out of a fairytale. I couldn’t believe the brilliant colors and the sheer silence. As I walked, all I could hear was my footsteps. I stopped and just stood there…enjoying the absolute silence, breathing the crisp, clean air and memorizing the feeling that I had in that moment. I could have stayed there forever! I continued my walk and ended up back at the river and it was time to “home” to cabin #107 on the MS Esprit.