Sunday, January 12, 2014
Okay. I, who pride myself on being a good speller, have made many errors here on the blog. Please forgive. Not only are many of the words unfamiliar, we see them spelled in English, German, and Czech.
We had a rather splendid breakfast at our odd (but friendly!) hotel – and then on to the bus. The sun shone, and the Austrian landscape was beyond beautiful: thick forests; clear, fast rivers; fields that are already tilled for planting or green with a cover crop. Lots of vineyards, and villages that are so picturesque they seem unreal.
We needed to stop for lunch, and all of us were hoping for something in between a gas station and an expensive restaurant. Stacey, Peter – our monolingual (Czech), but amazingly competent driver – and I were keeping an eye out for a café-type place, a family restaurant. Peter slowed down, I agreed, and Stacey and I went in to check it out.
Older men who were dressed for church, drinking their brandy or schnapps and smoking cigarettes; grandparents, parents, and babies having a Sunday dinner; and a group of younger men drinking beer at the bar. Daily special for 7,90 €. Yep. Looks great.
“There are 27 people on the bus. Can you feed us?”
Daughter runs to ask mother; mother asks father; father asks cook. All confer. Yes. They have a back room, they can serve us. We consult with the father and decide that there will be three options: schnitzel, grilled cutlet and fries, or vegetarian (I couldn’t understand exactly what that was going to look like). Oh, and there was soup. We put in an order for 14 schnitzels, 9 cutlets, 4 vegetarian, and 4 suppes.
Out come the beer and water. Then the salads (yep, didn’t expect that): cucumber, carrots, cabbage, potatoes, corn, lettuce, and croutons with a yoghurt dressing. And finally, the main course: 2-3 big pieces of grilled pork on top of an enormous plate of French fries, or 2-3 huge pieces of schnitzel (no fries), or potato and mixed veggie patties on top of a salad. Absolutely fabulous food; lovely family; friendly patrons (a grandfather brought around his 3-week-old grandson to show us). We left very, very full and very, very happy.
Breathtaking trip to Schlägl, and a warm welcome from Fr. James, who has visited the De Pere Abbey and was anxious to offer us the same sort of radical hospitality that he had experienced there. We had a tour of the Abbey: the church, the library, the art exhibit, the portraits of the confrères, and the sole remaining room from the original abbey (13th century). Then to vespers and to dinner.
After dinner, we had a terrific round-table discussion with the Norbertines, and then a lively, informal conversation during “recreation”.
Some highlights of the day? So many. Here are a few of mine: *the awesome hats the older women wore to mass in Geras, *seeing Quincy’s lunch set before her at the family restaurant: three large grilled cutlets on an huge pile of French fries, *Tyler touring the (often frigid) Abbey without a jacket – much to the concern of our guide: “Are you Inuit?” Fr. James asked, *the exquisite Italian Baroque stucco on the gothic ceiling of the church, *Fr. James’s description of the church as a tent, not a house, *the portrait and story of “the little abbot,” a puckish blond boy who was turned away from a different abbey because, at only 4 feet tall, they said he wouldn’t live through his studies; he survived and served as abbot of Schlägl for decades, * the ugly faces carved in stone in the 13th century room – meant to scare the bad ghosts away from the worshipers (we know they’re carvings, but the ghosts think they’re living beings), *seeing our students eating dinner in the cask-booths in the Schlägl restaurant, *the large, crisp pretzels flavored with dill and coarse salt hanging on a hook at the restaurant-bar, *the novice Herman Joseph’s moving account of how he was called to leave the study of law and become a priest, *the Abbot knocking back schnapps, *the young Fr. Matthew and our students talking and talking and laughing and laughing.
Oh – and the wax museum down the street from the abbey. It boasted a pretty awful figurine of Pope Benedict with an unattached wax arm set on the railing in front of him; next to the Pope, Hansel and Gretel were being lured into the cottage by the wicked witch. No kidding.
Monday we leave for Strahov and Prague. We’re leaving behind the Euro; the Czech Republic uses the Kronen.