Faced with the choice of running errands or a day outing on a February Saturday in Central Europe that promised 12° temperatures and mostly sunny skies, we gave the decision not a second thought and headed to Melk Abbey, just over an hour from Vienna by car and one of the most notable monastic structures in Europe. 
The vista was pretty, the early morning rain clouds moving along to ruin someone else’s weekend.
Google searches for images of the abbey often result in this postcard perfect scene.
This is the reality of that scene from the A1.

 Soon enough the grey clouds disappeared and the sun shone for our guided tour.

The abbey is still active, with some 30 monks living, learning, and praying here. The youngest monk is 45; the oldest, 70.  Nuns also live at the abbey.

The museum is a living museum; the items on display come and go as needed for mass or other events. This is a travel-sized daily prayer book for the monks, as the Benedictine order permits its members to travel (and to speak), though they are required to return to their monastery of origin.

The tour included many of the state rooms used by the Hapsburg family (and their approximate 200 person staff) when they traveled through the region.  The Baroque grandeur was at times overwhelming when the sunlight streamed into the rooms. 

 By midday the remaining clouds had disappeared.

The monastic library contains over 100.000 volumes. Learning is an important tenet of the Benedictine monks.

One of the staircases that leads to the church from the library.

The tour concluded with the church, the most important part of the monastery. Unabashed grandeur from top to bottom and all around.

At the end of the tour we walked into the quaint and void-of-tourists AltStadt, making our way to the lone place open for lunch.  By the time we pointed the wagon east toward Vienna, clouds had begun to creep back in. No matter; ours was still another fine day in the Wachau Valley.