Sometimes, rain and road-weariness conspire to keep us in a place that might, otherwise, have only taken up an afternoon or a morning. Strange places get found and embraced or remain inscrutable, seen only from behind bleary windows. Admont was one of those places where we’ve marooned ourselves. On a day that brought downpours interspersed with periods of clarity, a dry bed in town and a hot meal seemed too appealing to turn our backs on. So, instead of fleeing this little village after we took in the monastery, we checked into a gasthof on the main street and stayed the night. Dinner was a bleak affair, but the clouds in the late evening were rewarding.Admont is known for its monastery, which is famous for its library. It’s a fantastic sight, and was surprisingly quiet on a Saturday afternoon. Photographs are forbidden, but you can get the gist of the room and the collection from their website. The monks have collected over two hundred thousand volumes, some seventy thousand of which are displayed. There is also a somewhat disquieting assemblage of taxidermy and one of the largest collections of winged insects in the world. The insects, of course, are pinned in cases, not flying around. Monastic vintages of Admont wine tempt visitors in the giftshop and on-site bar. There are pretty gardens, both of the floral and apothecary types, and some nice lawns.
The monastery is great, and probably deserved more energy on our part. In the drizzle, though, the town and collection came to be overwhelming and our mood was more dazed than interested. Having grown accustomed to the rain, a flash of blue sky seemed blinding and made us want to sit down. In a café, we worked and ate “apfelstrudel,” with rhubarb, which was the town’s culinary highlight. The mountains were almost surprising when we noticed them. Sometimes, they can feel more distant than they really are – a different world beyond the confines of the livable valleys we travel in.
Dinner was overfried and watery, served in a dark room where we sat segregated from the congenial villagers because we chose “non-smoking.” After, though, our moods were surprisingly buoyant. The sky was a pretty latticework of clouds and stars, lit up by a moon that’s almost full. We walked around the dark streets and were greeted by other Saturday strollers as we went. A handful of older couples were out enjoying the suddenly pleasant air, and every person who passed said hello in the peculiar, formal, Austrian way.
In the morning, it was raining again and the breakfast room was empty. In a strange way, the night before felt like a providential reprieve. Travel like this can seem interminable when the weather isn’t cooperative. Admont felt like a surrender to the elements, though it also seemed to be a moment of reward.