The name Waldviertel (forest district) paints a realistic picture of this rough, yet totally idyllic landscape
The name Waldviertel (forest district), deriving from the extensive forest cover of this region in the north-west of Lower Austria, paints a realistic picture of this rough, yet totally idyllic landscape. The Waldviertel is not just rich in castles and monasteries, it also boasts a host of mystical places which form the basis for a wealth of sagas and fairytales.
A typical feature of the Waldviertel are the many high moor land areas and the so-called Wackelsteine (rocking stones) - granite rocks weighing several tonnes which are poised so precariously that a touch in a certain place could set them in motion. Agriculture and forestry still play a key role in the Waldviertel. However, health tourism is becoming into an increasingly important extra string to the region's economic bow. Countless spas, moor land baths and centres specialized in treating heart/circulatory problems and dispensing general fitness invite visitors to enjoy relaxation and Regeneration.
But not just those seeking relaxation or activity holidays who will find exactly what they are looking for; culture lovers, too, will be delighted. Towns such as ZWETTL and WEITRA or the famous baroque convent of Geras with their secular and religious buildings of historical and cultural importance, are all proof of rich Waldviertel's rich history..
Lower Austria in general, but the Waldviertel in particular, can boast a centuries-old beer brewing tradition which ist important well beyond this region and it is home to some of the best breweries in the entire country.
The valley of the River Kamp offers a charnbg scenery. In its upper reaches the river flows west to east while below the mighty Rosenburg which is home to a museum of Freemasonry the Kamp turns southwards. Along the about 30-kilometre long section from Horn to Langenlois, a traditional summer holiday area, there are many bathing places and turn-of-the-19th-century villas.
Thanks to its being specialized in healthcare and well-being, this area centred around Gars, where many famous international sports champions including the former Austrian Formula 1 driver Niki Lauda and the German top tennis player Steffi Graf were treated in Willi Dungl's health centre, has built up a good reputation in the tourism sector.
Starting from Melk with its world-famous baroque church, built by the famous architect Jakob Prandtauer, whose library was an inspiration for Umberto Eco's best-seller 'The Name of the Rose', the visitor has the choice of travelling by ship, bicycle, train or car down the Danube past the vineyards and the many points of interest in this narrow defile of the Danube.
Alongside Spitz and Weißenkirchen, the classic examples of wine-growing villages, the idyllic ruins of Dürnstein rear up shortly before one reaches Krems. This is where the English king Richard the Lionheart was held captive when returning home from a Crusade to the Holy Land.On the other side of the Danube the attractions include the Benedictine monastery of Göttweig, a baroque complex with a splendid view of the Danube valley, which was built according to plans by Lukas von Hildebrandt.The Wachau area ends down the Danube at Krems which therefore is known as the 'Gateway to the Wachau'. This town is recognised as the cultural centre of Lower Austria.
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