The daily diary of a wandering restaurateur
May 25 - Along the Danube to Melk
Today was a travel day and I had forgotten how much we have become used to not moving around. (On the last two trips we have camped out in one spot for at least a week at a time.) The run toward Vienna from Prague is about four hours, half of it on a two-lane road through small villages. I would have thought there would at least be a four-lane highway between major European cities, but perhaps that is a legacy from the Communist era. As I recall, they weren't exactly supportive of people moving freely from behind the Iron Curtain!
The next stop is nominally Vienna. While Prague was certainly interesting, we were reminded again that we are not real city fans -- even when they are charming and historic -- and decided not to stay in Vienna itself. Driving and parking in European cities is a struggle at best and this is supposed to be a time to relax, reflect and regroup. If we found a quiet spot along the railroad line, we could just commute into Vienna and the route along the Danube sounded pretty, so we detoured east a bit and drove along the river from Krems am Donau to the town of Melk. The route is lined with vineyards and is really quite pleasant, tour busses aside. We stopped at an ATM for euros (the Czech Republic still has their own currency . . . that nobody else seems to want!) and had lunch at the Hotel Donauwirt.
While the meal was not outrageous by US city standards, I will admit to some sticker shock after the modest prices of Prague! It reminded me of arriving in Switzerland a few years ago after two weeks in Italy. I was also reminded that the Germanic cultures seem to be much less outwardly friendly. I will try to avoid buying into the stereotype.
We arrived in Melk and after checking out a couple of the lower end gasthaus places, decided that we were worth a splurge at the Hotel Stadt Melk. Understand that splurge is relative, but the room is large, the bathroom well-equipped and there is a phone in the room. Once we settled in, Margene took a nap and I took the manager up on the use of his office to try and (finally) make an Internet connection. In Prague, I was able to pick up messages via webmail but so far have not been able to send anything out via my computer. At least in Melk I was able to get connected and finally download all the waiting messages onto my laptop but we are still working on a connection that will let me upload the daily diary, send out my e-letter and the like.
We opted for dinner in the hotel -- definitely a step up the food chain from the local spots we tend to favor! The Czech Republic was about beer but this part of Austria is definitely wine country. I am totally lost when it comes to Austrian wines so we took the waitress' suggestion and tried a local red called Azzo, a blend of pinot noir and a grape called zwiegelt. Very soft and pleasant. A wander around town, a stop for Sacher torte and strudel and we called it a day.
A surprise at the border
Lunch along the river
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