great travels

Road trip! Day 2: Waldviertel & Wienerwald


late start to the day - a great time was had last night. And great times often are paired with late evenings and a little too much wine. Once the morning reminiscing has concluded, we are underway. Daylight reveals the tortuous road we had traveled the night before under the cover of darkness. The road is steep and winds through hills covered in trees. This is the Waldviertel of Austria.

The hills above are dotted with fortresses in various states of decay. One example is Schloß Leiben – a castle built around 1113 by the area knights, who lived here until 1332. In 1617 it was sold and the stronghold was updated to its present form. A lightning strike in 1830 destroyed the roof. in 1989, the town of Leiben purchased and restored the schloss. Today it serves as a cultural center.

Schloss Leiben 1672
Schloss Leiben

Another is the ruin of Mollenburg which was first documented in 1303. In 1844, the castle was last restored. To reduce the tax burden, it had been classified as a ruin in 1860. In 1945, the castle was seized by the Russians. In 1975 the ruin had been purchased and partly restored – the outer bailey, individual buildings were made habitable again.

Burg Mollenburg

The road closely follows a stream as it flows toward the Danube. We pull over in a turn-off and, by happenstance, we discover a charming stone bridge – the Johannesbrücke – crossing the stream. The bridge takes its name from the alter of St. Johannes Nepomuk which dates from the 18th Century.

View from the stone bridge
St. Johannes

Burgruine Weitenegg is an impressive ruin on the bank of the Danube and it certainly must have been impressive in its day. Much like the building itself, there is not much left if its story. Only a short few lines remain: The extensive castle complex in an east-west direction was first documented in 1108 and through the decades has fended off sieges from within the country and without. Towards the end of the 17th century, however, the keep was abandoned as a residence and fell into disrepair. In 1832, several Danube-side buildings collapsed and around 1870, the eastern keep was largely demolished.

Burgruine Weitenegg
Burgruine Weitenegg
Burg Witenegg

Melk Abbey, on the other hand, enjoys a rich remembrance. The spot we stop to take pictures of the castle ruin also provides a beautiful vantage pint of Melk Abbey (seen only from the backside last night). From this angle it is easy to see why it draws so many people to visit it each year.

The Heiligenkreuz monastery was founded in 1133 by Margrave St. Leopold III of Austria, at the request of his son Otto. The date of consecration was 11 September 1133. They called their abbey Heiligenkreuz (Holy Cross) as a sign of their devotion to redemption by the Cross. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the abbey was often endangered by epidemics, floods, and fires. It suffered severely during the Turkish wars of 1529 and 1683. In the latter, the Turkish hordes burnt down much of the abbey precinct, which was rebuilt on a larger scale in the Baroque style. Heiligenkreuz abbots were often noted for their piety and learning. .The abbey has been an important Austrian centre for music for more than 800 years. Many manuscripts have been found at this monastery and it is also popularly known for a 2008 recording of a Gregorian chant: “Chant: Music For Paradise.”

After a short tour, Kaffee und Kuchen, and a bathroom break, we are underway again to Budapest.