Where hills are old enough to be mountains and winds are old enough to calm down there is a place called Admont, right in the middle of the Enstall Alps. The month is October. The earth is damp and rustling . Nature is slowing down but still transforming. Once green, now leaves are changing to yellow, to copper, to coral-pink ...as the Schilcher sturm (note 1) I’ve just had at Gasthaus “Der Kamper”.
I’m heading to the Monastery. Stift Admont is an old witness to these places. For almost 1000 years, the Benedictine Abbey has and continues to be a centre of art and scholarship for Upper Styria. It was founded in 11th century (1074) by the archbishop of Salzburg.
The forty-eighth Rule of Saint Benedict prescribes extensive and habitual "holy reading" for the Benedictine order followers. Therefore many abbeys have developed in time impressive libraries to support monks' scholar life. The Admont library was designed and painted in 18th century on the request of Abbot Matthäus Offner. The works were finalised in 1776.
The baroque architect Josef Hueber (1715-1787) build an extraordinary hall measuring 70m in length and 13m height. He filled it with light and knowledge, a true representation of the Enlightenment style: "Like the mind, rooms should also be filled with light." Currently it hosts 60.000 books organised in 3 areas: the PROFANE ( the arts and technologies) the HOLY (Scriptures collection and related studies) and religious and theological literature. The ceilings frescoes ( in a number of 7) are depicting stages of human knowledge as floating characters on pink and blue clouds. They were painted by Bartolomeo Altomonte (1694-1783) who was 80 years old in the summer of 1775-76.
The library, meant to compete with El Escorial (Spain) has around 80.000 visitors per year. In 1865 a disastrous fire destroyed almost the whole monastery, but spared the library. The monastery as we see it now was rebuilt until 1869.
The monastery courtyard hides delightful gardens. Few stripes of pebbles are fences to tiny little squares of paradise: edible or decoration plants allowed to grow as wild as they can ...but only in their squares :). A quince tree, not higher than 2 meters, presides the garden overwhelmed by heavy fruit.
Close by, surrounded by reed there is a pond, home for majestic swans. I find myself admiring in silence white feathers floating on the water. All in slow motion.
Playful winds whispering, rain falling silently. The air is filled with the scent of the old forest. You could feel the wet bark, the mould forming on branches , the moss, all those strong aromas "hitting" your nostrils. The garden ends with a fence of walnut and chestnut trees. With elegance Autumn salutes its visitors.
I'm heading straight to our motel. With eyes wide open I see clouds of baiser (the airy white library) and roasted walnuts (the gardens) pairing for my next recipe. A moment of dreaming with a book and a petit four. That will do for the evening. I am searching for the joy of a sweet bite that can capture this trip to Admont. I find in Josef Zauner's book "Das Grosse k.u.k. Mehlspeisenbuch" a recipe which might be the perfect choice: WALNUSS SCHIFFERL, little boats of pate sucree filled with walnuts and rum, glazed with white icing. I changed the white icing with a generous layer of baiser, of course :)
(note 1) Schilcher is a wine produced solely in the Austrian region of Western Styria. It is a distinct rosé made with a distinct bouquet of flavours from the indigenous Blauer Wildbacher grape. Its taste reminds me of wild strawberries and elderflower. The colour tends to develop tones of deep ruby and coral nuances. October is the perfect month to enjoy a glass or two of Schilcher sturm (slightly fermented wine)