Friday 2 June 2017

The great and the good

We arrived before breakfast at Melk, best known for its Benedictine abbey, which dominates both the surrounding countryside,

and the town below.

The abbey was originally a fortress gifted to the Benedictines in the 11th century, but it had a major make-over in the 17th.

Its opulence was not really to our taste, but one feature was quite extraordinary. The “marble hall”, intended for use as a dining room by visiting royalty, has a flat ceiling painted to give the impression of the room being surrounded by a balustrade open to the elements. The artist used perspective techniques to create a completely convincing 3-dimensional illusion – so long as you were at the centre of the room. From there, the pillars of the balustrade were perfectly orientated. However, when you moved off-centre, all the painted pillars suddenly seemed to be at very odd angles. Intriguingly, it was almost impossible to see how the artist had achieved his effect – I couldn’t even see where the flat section of the ceiling began. But since no photography was allowed, I can’t show you what it was all about.

One of our cruise leaders gave a commentary as we cruised on down the Rhine after lunch. There were some castles, used these days for weddings and so on.

There were hamlets along the banks, where the churches often had a bell-shaped structure as part of the spire.

And there was Dürnstein Castle, where Richard the Lionheart was famously imprisoned on his way home from a crusade.

Tonight we shall reach Vienna, and the Ars Mundi string quartet are coming on board to give an after-dinner recital. That will be a delightful preparation for a day to spend in the city tomorrow.

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