The cruise from Melk to Durnstein along the Danube was a panoramic fantasy. It is that long sweep of the Danube between Krems and Melk known as “the Wachau” and it is truly lovely, a valley out of a fairytale realm. Too bad I can’t upload the video I took of entering Durnstein.
Having been told of a fabled bone box in the cemetery of the old church in the village, my friends and I hied off to walk what we thought was the road leading to the cemetery. It was a steep path that got steeper and steeper until my heart said “Sit your butt down now!.” Turns out we were on the path to the medieval ruins of Durnstein Castle where King Richard I of England was held prisoner by Leopold V, Duke of Austria.
Exhausted from our futile climb, we gave up the search and strolled the cobblestone streets visiting shops and taking in the pretty town before going back to the Viking Legend.
After a quick consult at Legend’s reception desk, with evening descending, we went off again in search of the bone box. We were determined. Once again we found ourselves on a steep path to nowhere until Neal spotted an old wall and gate tucked around a curve back down at the start of the path, practically hidden by the lay of the road. The old cemetery! We stepped through the unlocked gate into a garden of well-kept tombs blooming with rose bushes sheltering long-buried families of Durnstein, in the looming shadow of an ancient church. (Unfortunately, for some reason the cemetery photos I took won’t import from my camera, despite iPhoto insisting all photos have been imported! So frustrating!) Luck wasn’t with us, as it turns out. A construction wall closed off the area where the bone box was said to be. Dagnabit! We soothed our disappointment with a rest at the riverbank before strolling back to the ship for dinner.
The Wachau Valley still has its medieval landscape with outcroppings of castle ruins, monuments to the age of knights, hills thickly bearded with forest, and charming red-roofed, white-walled towns threaded by aged streets of cobblestones.
Melk Abbey, Austria
On a forested cliff above the town of Melk stands Melk Abbey, a Benedictine monastery founded in 1089, and eventually rebuilt in the Baroque style between 1702 and 1736. It has a gorgeous and famous library holding centuries old manuscripts and books in Latin on religion, philosophy, science, and mathematics, and a collection of books published in later centuries in English and German. Candles were not allowed in the library for fear of fire so if a monk wanted extra light for reading, he could open a wall among the shelves behind which was a small chamber containing a desk and a chair and fronted by a window providing illumination as well as a comfortable, private alcove. The abbey runs a monastic school and also a school for children.
View of Melk from the abbey’s balcony and a ceiling detail.
Late in the afternoon on Monday the weather turned rainy, but not for long. We travelled to Linz, Austria and was docked by dinner. Linz is an industrial city on the Danube. I didn’t do the Linz city tour, opted instead for the bus ride to Salzburg. It was a beautiful drive through pine and fir-forested Austrian countryside, passing by villages in pretty valleys. Mist hung over the deep forests, weather rainy and cool. We stopped for a rest break at Mondsee (Moon Lake).
In Salzburg, my friends and I had lunch at the oldest restaurant in Europe, established in 803 A.D.
Not so much with the castles on this tour, mostly churches and abbeys and old royal buildings like the fortress castle above the Benedictine monastery.
Evening in Passau
Eight days of leisure coursing along on one of Europe’s great rivers. Each day began for me with a cafe au lait or cappuccino and a luxurious breakfast in the Viking Legend’s dining room with forested river views and the company of friends (there were 7 of us), and then that day’s shore excursion–following the guide through medieval villages threaded with cobblestone streets, through cities chock full of 18th and 19th century architectural beauties (nearly lost my mind among the striking medieval architecture crowning Budapest, Queen of the Danube, and rightfully so. Props to Vienna too, no princess come lately to the architectural ball.) Soaked up a multiplicity of historical details and information, and wore out my Canon, iPad, and iPhone cameras.
Passau, known as the City of Three Rivers, located in southeastern Bavaria, borders Austria, a stroll away across the bridge. Three rivers, the Danube, the Ilz, and the Inn flow through, coming together in a confluence of green and brown waters. Originally a Celtic settlement named “Boiodurum,” it became the diocese of Passau and a bishopric. Its fortune rose on the salt trade, known as White Gold, making it a rich city, giving its merchants a powerful monopoly until 1707 when all salt imports to Passau were forbidden and Passau, a shining star of the Holy Roman Empire, lost its luster.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral, (Baroque)
There are deeper ideas in The Foreigner than I’ve touched upon so far in the planning. There are things that will rise out of the scenes that are not clear to me now, but I hope will become clear in the writing.
I like the way ideas feed on each other in writing. I wish I could sit down and blissfully write, but it’s hammer and chisel all the way with me.
Something to remember from listening to Kazuo Ishiguro being interviewed at kpfa.org: Don’t worry about the logistics of characters. Focus on relationships and the characters will take care of themselves. And these relationships, whatever they may be between the characters, are shaped by a culture and society warped by the perpetuation of cruel traditions and an oppressive religion.
I’ve completed the structural synopsis and made a corkboard list of all the scenes I’ve thought of so far. I think I’m ready to pick up the writing again.
Fret and despair. What I’ve been up to these days, but not for much longer, I hope. The morning is serenely gray, the silence broken now and then by sparrow call.
The Danube cruise approaches, the days spinning down to June 6. Today I’ll buy Euros when I go out to pick up my prescriptions. Physical therapy yesterday for the first time in my life, seems my spine is mishandling the nerves, giving me a numb hand, sometimes a numb arm. So I must do a median nerve exercise 3 times a day, 10 times each arm, for 30 days. Guess that’s how I’ll start each morning of the cruise. I’ll have to remember during whatever downtime I have to do it 2 more times during the course of the day.
Plan to work on Chapter 1, Scene 1 of The Foreigner this morning, integrating Marius’s memory of Evkya’s suicide with his walk to the village. It’ll strengthen the chapter, round it out, and then I’ll be done with Chapter 1. I’ll bring the manuscript with me on the cruise, but not sure how much time I’ll find to write. Still I’ll feel better having it with me.
I’m not taking my laptop, taking my mini iPad instead. It can fit into my shoulder bag and I won’t have to worry about hauling out the laptop at airport security. It’s such a zoo going through security. I don’t want to risk forgetting it on the belt. Last time, coming back from the Rhine cruise, I left my large iPad on the plane. Fortunately I was able to get it back right away. The guy sitting next to me thoughtfully gave it to the security rep as he exited the plane and it was handed to me when I ran up in a panic. Honestly, I nearly had a heart attack when I realized it wasn’t poking out of my shoulder bag.
I finished Roz Morris’s My Memories of a Future Life. Good book. I’m halfway through Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Wish I had it in the Cloud to download, but I may finish it before I go.
Time for my second cup of coffee and getting to work.