Savor these Offbeat Places to Visit in Austria
For three days we were traveling in the Waldviertel not far from Linz in search of offbeat places to visit in Austria. We were there for the first time. So far I had only heard about the Waldviertel in Lower Austria and could not imagine much, except lots of forests. We start our journey in the garden hotel & winery Pfeffel in Dürnstein in the Wachau, a gourmet hotel right on the Danube river. From there we drive a few kilometers to the east and turn on a side road in Weissenkirchen, that brings us to the ridges behind the village.
Serpentine after serpentine, we drive up the hill, until we reach a lookout, whose view takes our breath away. In one direction our eyes follow the Danube all the way to Dürnstein, in the other direction we look out over vineyards, which cover the mountainsides above Weißenkirchen. "A great start for a trip to savor the Waldviertel," I think to myself. We enter another world.
Experience the Waldviertel, one of the Offbeat Places to Visit in Austria
As soon as we have left the mountain peak, the view changes. Vineyards and vines are no longer visible. Instead, fir forests are increasing. The woods become denser, and the tall, straight trees rise to the sky, with the September sun announcing autumn.
The further we drive into the Waldviertel, the more often we see colorful foliage. Here fall arrives earlier than in the Wachau. That's because we're at heights around the 1000 meters, while the Wachau is just under 800 meters. But that does not detract from our pleasure. We are on a journey, which opens up not only the culinary, but also the scenic beauties of the region.
The Poppy Village Armschlag, one of the Offbeat Places to Visit in Austria
Our first destination is the Poppy Village of Armschlag, one of the truely offbeat places to visit in Austria. At first glance, it is a village, as there are many in the region. But only at first glance! Because very quickly we see that here is something different. Everything in Armschlag revolves around poppies. We park our cars in front of "the world's largest poppy painting". 60 meters long and 4.50 meters high, it separates the large parking lot in the village center from the forest. It was painted by Karl Moser, a Waldviertel artist, who depicts a poppy field in this monumental painting.
We go to the village inn, which is appropriately called Mohnwirt (Poppy Inn). Here we learn that Johann Neuwiesinger and his wife Rosemarie were the initiators of the poppy village. His wife tells us how he came home one day and enthusiastically says: "We turn our village into a poppy village." When asked what he means by that, he explains to her, "There is a lot of poppy growing around our village. We make this the topic of our tavern. And who knows, maybe others in the village will join our idea." They could not imagine, how enthusiastically their neighbors would accept the idea. Therefore, the poppy village is now one of the main attractions in the Waldviertel in Lower Austria and promises year round culinary delights. We can confirm that, because the poppy noodles and poppy dumplings we taste are just heavenly.
Oat Whisky from the Distillery Weidenauer
Our journey continues to more culinary delights. We visit the oat distillery Weidenauer, which is in the village of Kottes. What originally started as a hobby of the farm owner, has today developed into a profitable sideline for the farmer. He grows the oats himself, which he distills into whiskey in his distillery. As soon as we enter the farm, we smell that the finest brands are made here. Since the year 2000 the whisky from the house Weidenauer is listed among the best spirits in Austria, and in the specialist literature such as the Gault Millau, the Destillata Guide or the A La Carte Guide it appears regularly among the top products of Austria.
Not far we spend the night in one of the Genießerzimmer (rooms to savor) in a holiday apartment of the Bauer family in Gutenbrunn, 3665 Gutenbrunn 133. Our dinner at Gasthof Seewolf, 3665 Gutenbrunn, Edlesberg / See 15 ensures an enjoyable end at the lake to our day.
The Blockheide near Gmünd in the Waldviertel Austria
The next morning we drive to the Blockheide near Gmünd, where we get to know the scenic beauties of the region on a hike through this nature reserve. We pass narrow fields that indicate, that life in the Waldviertel is hard. Our companion, Ms. Laister, confirms this: "Young people are moving away from here." We are very close to the Czech border and thus close to the former "Iron Curtain".
What to pack for a trip to the Waldviertel
- The nature in the Waldviertel is perfect for walks and hikes. Good hiking boots therefore should be in your suitcase.
- For a walk through the Waldviertel you need a backpack, where you can put a snack and drinks. Even if you only plan a short walk, a backpack is useful. In it you can put a warm jacket and your photo equipment.
- Due to the location of the hills and the proximity to Bohemia, "the Bohemian" often blows. This is the name given to the winds that often cool down the region even in summer. Therefore, in summer a light vest * , in autumn a softshell jacket * and in winter a jacket with a hood * should be in your suitcase.
- When you travel to the Waldviertel in winter, the wind often whistles stiffly over the open hills. Then you will be happy if you have hand warmers and foot warmers with you. You cannot buy them in stores there. So better bring them with you. Our tips for the winter cold in Canada help you also, to make your winter holiday in the Waldviertel in Austria pleasurable.
- For a wellness holiday in the Waldviertel, which in winter is pure pleasure, you need a swimsuit* and swimming trunks*. We also like to take our own bathrobe* and our slippers *. Thus we are well prepared for a visit to the spa after a trip through the winter world in the Waldviertel.
Hiking in the Blockheide
Our walk through the Blockheide shows us, how interesting this landscape is. Granite blocks are scattered in the forest. Ms. Laister explains that these granite stones were exposed by erosion. We pass a pond, in the middle of which there is an island, where wild geese in particular seem to feel at ease. A goose family swims past us, chattering. In the forest, which adjoins, a tower rises above the firs and opens the view of the surrounding forests. Those who come here should take their time to enjoy the magic of this area.
Herbs, Spices and Teas at Sonnentor in Sprögnitz
After a lunch with roast pork and potato dumplings in the tavern in Demutsgraben, we continue to the herb-sensory world of Sonnentor in Sprögnitz. At first, I am surprised, that we are standing in front of a big factory. I expected something different. When I hear, however, that Sonnentor is a company, that makes millions of dollars in sales every year with its herbs from all over the world, I realize the significance of this company for the region.
The farmers of Sprögnitz plant herbs of all kinds, but the founder of Sonnentor, Johannes Gutmann - a farmer's son from the region - today buys herbs from all over the world. His suppliers are located in China as well as in Africa, in Latin America as well as in India. We are guided through the warehouses of Sonnentor, where the scents and smells almost take our breath away. Here Rosenholz is stored as well as peppermint, hemp as well as parsley, oregano as well as turmeric. In bags, the herbs from the region and the world are collected, mixed and packed. Tees, herbal mixtures, spice mixtures and tinctures of all kinds are sent from here to the Sonnentor shops, but also all over the world. Quality is a priority, and the tea we taste at the end of our visit to Sonnentor testifies to the quality of the products that are produced here.
We end our second day in the Waldviertel with a dinner in the Castle Hotel Rosenau , 3924 Schloss Rosenau 1, where we spend the night in historic elegance in the Rose Room. This castle hotel is a true insider tip!
A Walk around Lake Herrensee in Litschau in the Waldviertel Lower Austria
On the third and last day of our autumn trip through the Waldviertel, we drive again almost to the Czech border. This time our destination is Litschau, a village, over which a castle rises, which is not accessible to the public, but is privately owned. Nevertheless, a visit to Litschau is worthwhile, above all because of Lake Herrensee, which extends only a few steps from the center of the village into the forest.
The longer we follow the path along the lake, the quieter it gets. Fewer and fewer people meet us, and we enjoy the tranquility, that prevails over the water surface. Only now and then do we hear the chattering of geese, who, when they spot us on the shore, hurry to swim towards us in the hope of getting some crumbs. However, we have nothing to give them, so they are just circling loudly before waddling back into the water and swimming on.
I like this lake. It reminds me in many ways of the thousands of lakes, that we have encountered on our travels through Canada. Here, too, huts stand on the shore, small promontories jut into the water, and there is a silence over the water, as I have known it in that intensity only in the far north of Canada. Nice! I would like to stay here longer.
The Kunstmuseum Waldviertel Austria - extraordinary, interactive & creative
In the afternoon we visit The Museum of Art in Schrems and are welcomed by its founder, Professor Makis Warlamis. As a former professor of architecture, he designed the museum building himself.
But Mr. Warlamis is a versatile person. He has won prizes all over the world with his children's furniture. His paintings achieve highest prices at auctions in art galleries around the world. And he shows us a letter in which Pope Benedict XVI. congratulated him on his art. "I'm a star in my native Greece," he says proudly. And he shows us his art museum, which is different from the usual art temples we know.
A Museum to Touch
"Touch the picture," he urges me as he leads us through the collection of paintings, and I look at him in surprise. "Yes, here visitors can feel the art," he laughs. And he shows us his works and those of other artists, which are shown here in changing exhibitions. "We want to show people, that art is not something you do not understand. But it's something, that you should feel and touch. "
I am particularly intrigued by the sculpture garden, in which this understanding of art becomes particularly clear. In a small chapel, which Professor Warlamis has built from the remains of a former stonemason workshop, visitors sit outdoors with a direct view of the sky. "Here especially nightly services are beautiful, if you can look into the starry sky," explains his companion, Bernhard Antoni. And I have to agree with him. Not only the chapel, but also the surrounding sculpture garden exude a magical feeling.
A Museum that awakens Your Creativity
We learn that this museum is not only open to the viewer, but also wants to arouse his creativity after the tour. Professor Warlamis leads us into the workshop of the museum, where after a short introduction, we are allowed to try our hand at creative work with clay. And so we knead, roll, pull and push our clay chunks, until an interesting head, a prehistoric monster, an arrow-shooting centaur, a trophy, a blue chicken and an idealized brontosaurus have been created. How diverse the ideas and the imagination of the visitors can be, can be seen in our small group alone. At any rate, our visit to the Kunstmuseum in Schrems shows, that art does not have to be boring, but can be a highly interesting and interactive experience, if you get involved in it.
The Kunstmuseum Waldviertel
Winter Wellness Hotel in the Waldviertel Austria
The Waldviertel in Austria is not only interesting in the warmer months of the year. The higher elevations of the hilly landscape in the Waldviertel in Lower Austria ensure, that the landscape becomes a winter wonderland in winter. We experienced this during the Advent season on a short getaway in the Wellness Hotel Schwarz Alm. We experienced winter wellness, which can hardly be more beautiful. The hotel is tucked away in a clearing in the woods. It is surrounded by forests and meadows. The nearest major road is a few kilometers away. As well as the town Zwettl. This contributes to the fact, that we can enjoy pure peace in this hotel.
Due to this we are experiencing the magic of winter, especially because of the seclusion of the hotel. In the morning, frost flowers decorate the windows of our room. When eating a fire flickers in the fireplace and creates a feel-good atmosphere. In the area around the hotel there is a lot to discover during the day. We visit Zwettl Abbey with its gingerbread house exhibition. In Heidenreichstein we learn, how Waldviertel cheese is produced - including a tasting of the cheese. And in the Castle Heidenreichstein we enjoy the Christmas season with a glass of punch at the Christmas market.
After eventful rides through dreamlike winter sceneries, we enjoy the wellness treatments in the hotel Schwarz Alm all the more in the evening. Relax in the warmth overlooking a winter landscape, that couldn't be better. A stay in the Wellness Hotel Schwarz Alm is a real insider tip for people, who like to savor their trips.
Source: own research on site at the invitation of Waldviertel Niederösterreich Tourismus. Our opinion remains our own.
Text: © Copyright Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline
Photos: © Copyright Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline
Monika Fuchs and Petar Fuchs are the publishers of the Trips to Savor and Slow Travel Blog TravelWorldOnline Traveler , They have been publishing this blog since 2005. TravelWorldOnline is online since 2001.
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