I signed up for an optional tour that turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip so far.
First, we took a bus from the town of Kelheim, where the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal meets the Danube River, to the access path to the monastery.
A 15 minute walk past limestone cliffs, with lovely wildflowers growing in the crevices, took us to the Benedictine Abbey of Weltenburg.
Founded by monks in about 620, it is considered the oldest monastery in Bavaria. The monastery courtyard is sided by Bavarian baroque buildings, the highlight of which is the abbey church, and the most popular of which is the beer gardens. While there are still a few monks in residence, the abbey is also used as a hostel.
On one of the walls, inscriptions show high-water marks.
The interior of the church is amazing, with an intricately carved high altar, a fresco ceiling, and many other carvings and works of art.
Following the tour of the church, we saw a short movie about the Weltenburg Monastery Brewery – the world’s oldest monastery brewery, dating back to 1035, and then were treated to a sample of the beer, and the ever present large bread pretzel. (It’s never too early to drink beer in Bavaria!)
Following the beer-tasting, we followed the road around the loop of the river that the monastery sits on to a small pier, where we boarded a cruise ship for a ride through the Danube gorge. This is a protected environment, and only 5 boats are liscensed to traverse the gorge. No other motor vessels are allowed. At one corner the depth of the water is 80 feet, at another point it is only 4 feet.
We passed a river marker, showing that the mouth of the Danube is 2415.4 km away.
At the end of the trip, as we came back into Kelhelm, we had an excellent view of Befreiungshalle, a historical classical monument monument to the German victories over Napoleon, atop Mount Michelsberg.
Quite an exceptional morning excursion!