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Waldviertel

Bärenwelt

We are, of course, supposed to be in Brittany this week. But we’re not, and so Tony grudgingly returned to the office and Anna Grace and I have been amusing ourselves until we decide whether to plan another holiday.  Yesterday’s amusement was a drive to visit rescued brown bears thankfully now living the good life in a sanctuary in the beautiful Waldviertel, the northwestern quarter of Lower Austria and part of the Voralpen.

How to Survive a Stifling Saturday? Stift Zwettl to the Rescue!

Our children returned from their four-day Parisian outing late on Friday evening and were inspired to do little more than lounge about the house on Saturday. (Poor things; spending our money must have tuckered them out.)  Tony and I, on the other hand, are always inspired to leave the house on Saturdays.  Especially this Saturday. Temperatures have been record-setting for weeks now, and although our un-airconditioned home has remained well-ventilated and comfortable, cooler climes are always preferred.
We used the tried-and-true method of day trip planning: open our Niederösterreich tourism map and look for something we have not toured. Saturday’s winner was Stift Zwettl,  about 90 (air-conditioned) minutes from the house. 
Stiff Zwettl is one of the largest Catholic monasteries in the world, if that is not obvious from this Internet image. The monastery is very active with farming, fishing, forestry, and the requisite wine-making.
Thank you, Internet, for the photo
Visits to the interesting interior spaces are by guided tours only, and our guide was thoughtfully verbose, allowing us to linger in the shade and delectable 15º coolness of the Entrance Hall whilst he filled our heads with dates and names that would be quickly forgotten.

From the Entrance Hall we moved to the monastic library, where, interestingly, no photos were permitted. Then it was on to the church via the Sacristy “locker room.”

Though the church seemed imposing from the exterior, the interior was light and devoid of so much of the gilded this and marbled that usually found within structures of this measure. 

 If anything, the airiness of the church and lack of ornamentation made the altar stand out spectacularly.

We ended the tour back where we started, with everyone looking a bit less wilted than we began. Lunch in a shaded garden restaurant followed, and by the time we returned home the children had finished their laundry, walked Clayton Theodore, and were opening up the house to let the late afternoon breeze cool the rooms. Perfect.

Escaping the Heat: Schloss Poggstal

Tony and I found ourselves with a free afternoon yesterday; and with temperatures being unseasonably warm in Vienna heading for cooler areas, like Lower Austria’s Waldviertal (“Forest Quarter”) made for an excellent respite.  And of course, there will always be a castle or two to stumble upon.
In the little village of Pöggstall we found a castle of sorts. Built in the the 13th century as a moated structure, a Renaissance portal was added sometime thereafter. The castle is undergoing much-needed restoration, but we were still able to wander around the courtyard and grounds.

Tucked into a corner was this beautiful spiral staircase, the banister and walls cool to the touch.

From the arcade at the top of the stairs, a view of the courtyard and its murals. A breeze was floating through, and we could have perched ourselves on chairs for the entire afternoon.

The bridge connecting the castle to the church, to allow the Lords and Ladies a private entrance.

Returning home we motored past this unnamed, and long abandoned castle…

…through countless villages that all looked pretty much like this one, give or take the dried May Pole.

Soon enough the luscious green hills of the Wachau peeked out.

The Wachau is beautiful in all seasons, and even on hazy and humid summer days. We found a shaded Gasthof along the Danube, sat for a most delicious local lunch (and wine, of course), and toasted having escaped the heat of Vienna. This could become a habit.

Dwarves and a Dragon: The Party Schloss in the Waldviertel

After leaving the beautiful Benedictine Stift Altenburg, my research (key to enjoying our weekends) informed me that Schloss Greillenstein, the “Renaissance Jewel in the Waldviertel” was nearby. We could not resist.
A remnant of the former walled city welcomed us to the small village of two, perhaps three, streets.  Finding the palace was not difficult.

The schloss is not the picture-perfect of so many that we have seen, but its slightly shabby state only added to its fun character.

 Faded lions guard the drawbridge entrance, the moat no longer in use.

Odd little men with spears serve as the second level of defense.

Inside, we trod upon creaking wood floors and stairwells filled with antlers. By far, the most curious of palaces we have visited. The character of the palace had all the historical hints of a great place to party, our conclusion exclusively.

In the main courtyard the stately dragon sits.  Once upon a time the dragon was a key component of the whimsical palace garden, but damage from vandals now forces the dragon into the secure courtyard. “Tis a shame.

  In another courtyard. Could this be, perhaps, a Dwarf Door?

As with the dragon, vandals caused enough problems that all of the stone dwarves were moved inside to one of the former gardening rooms.  We named this one, “Missionary Dwarf.”

Brussels has Mannekin Pis. Schloss Greillenstein has “Mannekin Poos.”
Dropping in at the palace in this little village was delightful! Who knew such places were tucked into the forests of Austria?

Sunday at Stift Altenburg

Out in Niederösterreich (Lower Austria), about an hour-ish drive from the house is Altenburg Abbey. Jack, Clayton Theodore and I walked the gardens a bit earlier in the week, and I was looking for an opportunity for a return visit to see the interior. The forecast being another 30ºC day (no complaints!), the children opted for an indoor climbing wall and an afternoon outdoors at the pool, so Tony and I got an early start and pointed the wagon west.
Thank you, Internet, for this aerial photo of the abbey. It’s even more breathtaking up close. 

 Our tour of the interior spaces began with a Gothic chapel, elegant (and cool) in the summer heat.

 The Sala Terrena followed with its exotic painted walls.

 Up the Emperor’s Staircase we went.

And then down again to the most elegantly decorated crypt we have ever seen. The Habsburg Crypt pales in comparison.

The Library is impressive, and sits above the Crypt. I guess in the afterlife one has lots of time to read?

 Equally as beautiful as the abbey is the monastery’s church.

Not too ornate. Not too underdone. Just perfect for a day outing.

Burgruine Kollmitz

Spring has finally settled in to stay. Temperatures are almost summer-like, but without the accompanying humidity. In other words, a perfect day to eschew chores and take a day trip instead. One member of the family was particularly excited to see the travel tote being packed.

Continue reading “Burgruine Kollmitz”

A Return to Schloss Schallaburg

The back-to-school routine has settled in for us and the car pool and sports schedules are in place. This also means that I can better plan my “further afields,” like my return visit to Schloss Schallaburg this week. Schallaburg does an extremely good job of repurposing itself; I had visited the castle late last summer for an exhibit on “India of the Maharajas” that was multi-dimensional with sights and aromas, not to mention being very well done. On this particularly beautiful day I grabbed my camera (and my Niederösterreich Card!) and pointed the wagon into the Waldviertel for another WWI exhibit and a stroll about the beautiful grounds. 

The exhibit, “Glory and Gloom” presented personal accounts of the war from persons in all of the countries involved, including the United States. American Boy Scouts were busy once the United States entered the war, distributing war pamphlets and selling war bonds. In their down time, they read adventures novels. “The Boy Scout Signal” was written in 1915 and showed the Scouts using modern weaponry in the trenches.

Propaganda included posters by the National War Garden Commission in D.C. encouraging Americans to “Can vegetables…and the Kaiser too.”

A campaign requesting relief for the Ottoman genocide of Armenian minorities across its empire. It was not until 1943 that the term “genocide” was assigned to the systematic extermination of these people.

Advice from the Red Cross. I wonder what the success rate of package delivery was to the American prisoners?

Not American propaganda, but this gallery caught my eye. Apparently the Vienna police department had lots of free time on its hands during the war to be able to summarize its citizens war complaints every week.

This, and the exhibit in Vienna’s Military History Museum, were far and away the most interesting and informative hours I’ve spent learning about WWI.  And now, onto the castle…

Renaissanceschloss Rosenburg

In my enthusiasm to share bird photos, I neglected the pretty Renaissance castle, Schloss Rosenburg!  About an hours’ drive northwest of Vienna in the state of Niederösterreich (capital: Sankt Pölten), it is not the “most beautiful” Renaissance castle north of the Alps (that honor apparently goes to Schloss Schallaburg); its claim is one of the “most visited” of Austria’s castles.

Rose gardens were an aromatic theme at the castle.
Our camera-shy daughter.

 Our little photo bomber.

Courtyards and shaded pathways are a requirement for a Renaissance castle.

A window fit for a fair maiden to appear at, no doubt.

The green outside the portico where the falconry display was presented, with a Tannenwald  (fir forest) as the backdrop.

Our camera-shy, photo-bombing daughter stands still long enough to pose for a photo…
…and to snap one of us.  

Castle touring. So much more enjoyable than running errands.

Grazed by Birds of Prey!

A beautiful late summer Saturday. What would the day hold–grocery shopping and errands, or a field trip to the Renaissance castle Schloss Rosenburg for their falconry show? The question is rhetorical.
Dressage performances to open the show.
Falconry on horseback.
Falconry on the ground.
Clayton Theodore could do this. Hahahaha.
Other magnificent birds showed off for us, too. This Andean Condor and its 10-foot wingspan grazed us as it flew across the green to its handler.
The Great Horned Owl flew so close that we felt its talons on our heads!
So beautiful.
The American Bald Eagle made a majestic appearance.

The Eurasian Vulture was a crowd pleaser. Noisy, clumsy, and quite the show-off.

It’s a rap(tor)!

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