Saturday, May 30, 2009

Biking in Melk: the von Donner Party

As the crowning glory of our study of Baroque architecture this week, Rob went to Melk Abbey (Click to enlarge pictures)with the students and Maddie, Will, Sebi and our good friend and former study abroad student Sarah Reed. Mary Ann stayed home with Joss, who is fighting an ear infection and losing piteously. The 1-year old set does not exactly care about Benedictine monks, Baroque theatricality and Trompe-d'ouille technique (spelling, Marie-Laure?). The students were very into the marble library, the super-gilded church and the dressed-up skeletons in the side chapels. They look like they have been stuffed into panty hose and posed in perky, life-like positions. Will got the willies from a smiling skeleton propped up on one elbow who looked like he was trying to pick up a sexy ham-bone in a bar with a sleazy lounge-lizard line like "does that femur go all the way to the floor?"
For many years, the traditional Melk trip has been followed by a pleasant 3-hour bycicle trip through the Wachau Valley--all verdant orchards, clifftop castles and Medieval villages. For some reason, it has always been sunny and pleasant, even for the Fall groups. Well, we took one for all future study abroad programs in Vienna. Moments after we pulled out of the bike rental place, and seconds after we pulled out of the first little town, the sky darkened and we were all swallowed up by gales of freezing wind and sideways-pelting heavy rain. The McFarland kids were chipper at first, but eventually wailed with cold and exhaustion (Except for Sebi, who was cozily stowed in a rain-proofed trailer with a pack of Haribo gummy stuff). We had to call our Serbian bus driver and try to explain where we had gotten caught. We were in Willendorf (home of that zaftig ancient "Venus"goddess for those of you into art history), mercifully taken in by the town fire department. We dripped on their floor as they rolled kegs into piles for their upcoming fest (Maddie: "Do they put our their fires with beer?). Eventually, we were able to rescue all of the students in their various hideouts along the way. McKay, true to form, had not made it very far because he kept stopping to try out new warm restaurants. Over half of the group was intrepid enough to make it the 36km to Krems, where they arrived with hypothermia. The bikes were left scattered like dead bodies across the Wachau, to be gathered by a very forgiving rental service. You win some, as has been recently said, and you lose some, and today is living proof that SOME. ARE. RAINED. OUT.
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jenlinmin said...

How on earth you have time to make lovely photo collages and write such great stories, I'll never know... but I'm glad you do it. Andy and I are headed to Freiburg at the end of July. Have you been there? Any "must sees" I need to know about?

mary ann said...

Jenny, I've never been to Freiberg (perhaps Rob has, I'll ask), but I think it's definitely worth a day trip to Dresden, which has to be less than an hour away from it. You would be amazed by the Frauenkirche and the story behind it. We also loved the Wartburg, where Luther translated the Bible and Quedlinburg, but both of those are a bit further from you. You can search the archives here to learn more about them.