Wednesday, May 27
Vienna:: Boat ride up Danube River to Bratislava(1:30)/Bus to Vbrove and Trnava/lunch and tour Trnava Abbey (houses and convent)/travel back to Vienna/dinner on your own/hotel in Vienna
We had a second night in the Mercure hotel. It is in the first district, the center of town and what the tour guide referred to as “property of humanity.” The center of town will no longer be changed or renovated.
The folks on the tour have been all over the area, different local restaurants and the Gelataria–that one is popular—historical sites, and some concert-goers tonight as well.
High speed catamaran took us from the city center to Bratislava. The ship traveled the channel to the river slowly, and then took off. The lower level, much like a well-kept large bus, maybe 12 or 14 seats across, had an outside deck with no seats. The second level was much smaller with seats in the back, something like a first class cabin in the front and little walk outs good for taking photos. I kept getting distracted by the random castles in between contemporary buildings along the riverside.
We could walk around the ship once out of the channel. The group explored, stood and chatted, and took tons of pictures. The wind was whipping on the top-level, it was COLD. I have an excellent photo of John Watters toughing it out on the upper deck.
With our new windblown hairstyles, we met Hans and the bus on the other end of the cruise. Not seeing much of Bratislava, it would be hard to comment, but I can say there is an entirely unfamiliar language and different currency.
According to The TJA (Fr. Ted) update: We will see Vbrove and later Trnava. The Norbertine sisters reside there. Active women in religious life are sisters, the cloistered are nuns. The Norbertine order only had Nuns originally, the contemplative life was eliminated and re-instituted later when Joseph II wanted to open a contemplative community at Strahov. Trnava is the sister Abbey to Vbrove. The sisters themselves are sent all over the world and the house is also now taking on novices.
Communio is insanely obvious and well exercised there. I believe it is their first love language. I was touched by the depth of care, openness of heart and their desire to be connected to us. I suggest you visit—there are few words that can accurately describe their home. They are special in the very best sense of the word.
It’s evident there is little extra wealth in the houses, but they take care of and cultivate what they have. (And share it.)
The sisters were excited to have their St. Norbert College friends back. Two of them graduated in 2004 and one in 1998. I tried to get their names but will butcher them, I think it was Sierta and Edwina from 2004 and Mother Superior from 1998 (who is a near copy of my Grandma Mildred).
They toured us around the property at Vbrove. The quaint gardens are immaculately kept. Sierta told us they have 500 vines in their yard. They served us their wine with lunch. Lunch was beautiful too. Mixed main plates with different meats, vegetables and potato wedges. This food was a good thing for Sam Wagner, she says she can’t even look at another Schnitzel.
There are too many beautiful things about this place and people to draw an accurate picture.
I heard heartfelt words from Sierta: I just pray that the way we live here, and in the community, accurately displays the love of Christ to the people here, and elsewhere. Poignant words but it was the way she said them as she smiled and lowered her eyes that will stick with me.
After our lovely conversations in the garden, we got back on the bus and headed toward Trnava…guided by a blue car full of sisters and Fr. Sal.
Trnava has a very distinctive look to it—rather Medieval and a lot like a movie set. It has a unique appeal with old paint and wrought iron, bricks exposed through plaster and the lot. As we entered the church there and we found a local prayer service happening, I didn’t get many images and we didn’t stay long.
We walked through the streets, still brick paved, to see the second house of the sisters. They wanted us to see their chapel, “small, but the same Jesus,” Mother Superior said.
And just as quickly as we entered there we were ushered into a dining space, not made for 40 but with 40 chairs lining the very edge of the room. More food! Desserts, snacks, and drinks were waiting for us. And if that were not enough, they came around with strudel (twice) and then ice cream!
“…And then he asked if I were hungry, I said no, I’m Slovak,” retelling a story of a fellow priest. And “…thank you for your radical hostility…” in another re-telling. Possibly a few language gaps.
And of course, if all this loving-kindness were not enough they gifted us each a cord and bead bracelet AND a tiny beaded angel. I do not know what about this gift stirred me so much, I nearly broke down in tears. Maybe the generosity of those with so little, maybe their desire to stay connected through these reminders, or maybe the selfless giving with no expectation of return favors–maybe all of those…I love my gifts.
Some photos, then long good-byes were said and once again back on the bus back to Vienna.
I love the sisters.
Tomorrow, those who choose to tour the city and then onto Prague. We won’t have much in the way of Abbeys to share. So there’s a bit extra time to catch up posting photos and a few more articles from John…
New photos at: