Tails From the Vienna Woods



Waldviertel Weihnachtsmarkt

Last Sunday was brisk but sunny, and a perfect day for a drive out to one of the “top” holiday markets from the list that the Niederösterreich tourism folks kindly compile each season. Our market of choice was at Schloss Rosenburg, a Renaissance Schloss towering above the River Kamp from atop a cliff. The setting alone is worth the short drive.

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A Castle Ruin and Some Mystical Rocks

A stealth approach is necessary when we plan for Clayton Theodore to accompany us on a day outing.  Even the slightest sound of his travel water bowl or leash being gathered turns him into an insufferable beast. He paces at our heels and whines. He whines and paces at our heels. He repeats said actions.  Until we are out the door. Sometimes, even when he is settled in the wagon, he continues to “sing” his happiness.

Saturday’s weather was cool, and just perfect for tromping about Lower Austria with our crazy Foxhound. Our first destination was Burgruine Dobra, a small ruin but with impressive sightseeing.


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Washington, DC and Japan have cherry blossoms, Holland has tulips, Provence has lavender, and Lower Austria has poppies!  Tiny Mohndorf Armschlag (population: 88) is the place to be in mid-July, when more than 200 hectares of surrounding poppy fields show off in colorful style.

Hiking and Schnitzeling. “No Man’s Land”


This past Thursday was Eid al-Fitr, a celebration of the end of Ramadan, and a UN Holiday for Tony. With ideal weather in the forecast, and the need for Anna Grace to break-in her new hiking shoes before Austrian Scout Camp later this month, our day plan was set. Continue reading “Hiking and Schnitzeling. “No Man’s Land””

Into the Waldviertel: Say, "Cheese!"

I love my family, always up for a day outing that sounds even marginally interesting. Add in “cheese tasting,” and they were sold. And so we were off on a venture into the Waldviertel to learn about Austrian cheese production at Die Käsemacherwelt, The Cheese Makers World.
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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?

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