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June 3, Bratislava
In the 16th century Slovakia became part of the Hapsburg Monarchy and benefited from the enlightened reforms of Maria Theresa (1740–1780) and her son, Joseph II (1780–1790). In 1919 Slovakia joined with Czechia to form Czecho-Slovakia, a nation whose independence was limited by its strong economic, military, and political dependence on Germany.
It was later conquered by the Soviets, who turned Czechoslovakia into a pro-Soviet Communist country, which lasted until the fall of Communist in the Velvet Revolution of 1989. In 1993 the Slovaks and Czechs into separate countries, a peaceful agreement known as the Velvet Divorce. Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia.
June 4, Vienna
Austria continues to honor Maria Theresa, the last Austrian Hapsburg, who died in 1780. Although the family no longer rules, several family members are active in both politics and business in Europe.
Vienna prides itself as a city of music. On the evening of June 4th we attended a chamber music performance featuring music of Mozart and Strauss. For me, the highlight was the Queen of the Night’s aria from Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute.
June 5, Melk, Austria
The Benedictine Abbey at Melk, built between 1702 and 1736, sits on a hill high above the Danube River. It originally contained a royal wing, kept ready for the possibility of a royal visit. Monks lived in other parts of the abbey. The monastic community of Melk is more than 900 years old. Today about 30 monks live there and run a monastery school with more than 700 students.
The monastery’s library contains more than 80,000 medieval manuscripts on a variety of subjects. The interior of Abbey Church is an amazing display of Baroque art.