The daily diary of a wandering restaurateur
May 26 - Melk

What do you do in a small town in Austria on a rainy day? Well, if you are in Melk, you go to the abbey. The town is dominated by a Benedictine Abbey that has been sitting on the hill for 900 years. It struck me as "Abbey, Inc." for the slick way they package and present the place and its artifacts. Better than I have seen in most museums . . . and in at least four major languages. The parking lot is jammed with tour busses which is usually enough to send us running in the other direction, but we heard glowing reports that the place was a "must see." (We got a relatively early start today anyway. The church is just across the square and the bell tolls every quarter hour all through the night! Sleep much?) The inside of the abbey was described in one our guidebooks as "Baroque gone mad." It is all that . . . and more. We put a few photos on the subsequent pages to give you an idea.

On the 21st Century front, I am still trying to get my computer to send e-mail. After a brief tussle with the "expert" at the local Internet Café, I am still no nearer to figuring out the problem. Fortunately -- at least when I have access to a telephone line -- I can get a connection that allows me to upload to my webpage. We grabbed an uninspired pizza from the uninspiring pizzeria next to the Internet Café . . . and ran away to join the circus!

Yes, it's true. A real "Mom 'n Pop" traveling circus was in town and we thought it was just the thing to salvage a rainy day on the river. What fun! It reminded me of what I see in so many independent restaurant operations. When we arrived, Momma was selling tickets, the daughters were staffing the refreshment trailer and Dad was in back getting everything set up. When the show started, Dad was the ringmaster -- one ring -- and Mom and the kids were the first act doing stunts on a horse running around the small ring. As the show progressed, we also saw Mom in sections involving rope spinning, a bird act, a dog act and as the assistant in several others. The oldest daughter did a stint as a wire walker, hoop spinner, juggler, rope spinner and half a dozen other things, many with her younger sister who also did a clown bit. Dad had a couple of horse acts, was the knife-thrower and helped move props in addition to his ringmaster duties. During the intermission, Mom and the elder daughter ran the refreshment trailer and the younger daughter sold souvenir pennants to the crowd! It was a far cry from Cirque de Soleil but they were trying hard and it was fun to watch. Of course, it was all in German!

For dinner, we walked about half a block up the hill to Gasthof Goldener Stern, a favorite haunt of travel writer Rick Steves. We didn't see any of Rick's groupies wandering around clutching his guidebook -- in fact, we have heard precious little English spoken since we have been in Austria . . . and encountered no English menus. The meal was certainly adequate if somewhat pedestrian but the portions large and the prices very reasonable. What more can you ask from a meal on the road? Back to the Hotel Stadt for strudel and coffee and today is a wrap! We head for Vienna in the morning. Ta ta.

Melk and the Abbey

The Staff of the Hotel Stadt Melk

An Afternoon at the Circus

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