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HIKING

‘Waldeinsamkeit’ in Austria: Five peaceful forest walks near Vienna

There is a special German word for the enjoyment of solitude in the forest: Waldeinsamkeit. And it's more popular than ever at the moment. With everything closed and locked down, Austria’s tranquil forests have never been so popular with city dwellers. 

People walk through a forest in search of solitude. Photo by
People walk through a forest in search of solitude. Photo by GAIZKA IROZ / AFP

The sound of your feet crunching on leaves and the wind rustling through the trees overhead, the scent of pine and wild garlic wafting through the air, walking alone in the woods, or sitting and communing with nature can be the best therapy in these stressed out times. 

As is typical, the Germans actually have a word for that: Waldeinsamkeit. A direct translation is ‘forest loneliness’, however it does not have a negative connotation and is probably more accurately described as “the enjoyment of solitude in the forest”. 

German word of the day: Die Waldeinsamkeit

Austria is so connected to its forests that former President Donald Trump even claimed last year that Austrians lived in “forest cities” which never caught fire despite being surrounded by “explosive trees”.

Many laughed at this statement, but it is true that forests are an important part of life in Austria, and even in the centre of Vienna, you are never too far away from a walk in the woods. 

Vienna’s Prater

While Vienna’s Prater is well known for its Wurstel Prater funfair and famous Ferris Wheel, walk a little further along the tree-lined Hauptallee, and you will find countless footpaths snaking through the ancient woods and lakes of this former Hapsburg hunting ground.

Even on a busy day it is possible to find solitude among the many acres of trees.

In winter, the Prater’s shallow rivers are perfect for ice-skating, while in summer the shade from the trees and drinking fountains make the woods here a perfect place to cool off when the city gets too hot and busy. There are also plentiful ice-cream and snack options.

A couple walk through the Hauptallee in Prater park on a sunny spring day in Vienna, Austria  (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Kahlenberg

Another quick way to get into nature from the city is to hike into the Vienna Woods, which can be reached easily by car or public transport.

The city’s Stadt Wanderweg 1 is a highlight of Vienna’s many hiking trails. Start from the charming cobbled streets of Nussdorf and climb up 484m through vineyards and past wine taverns, which gradually give way to quieter forested paths where you can often see butterflies and woodland flowers.

There are viewpoints along with way where you can stop to take in gorgeous views over Vienna and the Danube.

At the top are more hiking trails through the woods where you can gather armfuls of wild garlic in the spring, or  forage for berries and mushrooms in the autumn.

Buses are also available to take you to the top or back down again if you get tired. 

I’m not sure this is what they mean by “forest bathing” (PHOTO BY AFP).

Neuwaldegg 

A popular spot for Viennese people to sit in a meadow and soak up some rays, or spend time walking meditatively through the woodland, Schwarzenbergpark  or Dornbacher Park is a beautiful spot near Neuwaldegg.

There is also a stunning outdoor swimming pool set among the trees called Neuwaldegger Bad, though be warned, there is two large FKK or nudist sunbathing areas when you come out of the changing rooms. It is privately run, and more expensive than the city run pools.

The payoff is it offers more solitude than popular Stadt Wien Krapfenwaldbad swimming pool, which is also set in the Vienna Woods. It is possible to hike from Schwarzenbergpark through the woods up to Hameau on Stadt Wanderweg 3 if you fancy a 10km circular walk. 

Two wild boar cubs pictured  in the Lainzer Tiergarten (Photo by DIETER NAGL / AFP)

Lainzer Tiergarten

Wild boars, herds of deer and hundreds of birds can be found in the woods of the Lainzer Tiergarten, which also gives the chance to walk up to a great viewpoint over the city of Vienna. 

There are some ancient oaks here, including a 400 year old specimen with a trunk circumference of more than four metres. Parts of the forest come under special protection, specifically the hornbeam and alder-ash trees.

Sparbach Nature Park

Austria’s oldest nature park in Hinterbrühl near Mödling also offers the chance to see wild boars and deer and gaze upon giant trees and romantic ruins from the Biedermeier period.

The Sparbach Nature Park is located near in the southern Vienna Woods and was founded in 1962. 

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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

‘Bad-tempered locals’: Vienna ranked the world’s ‘unfriendliest city’

Foreigners in Vienna say the city offers excellent health and transport benefits but has an exceptionally unfriendly population.

'Bad-tempered locals': Vienna ranked the world's 'unfriendliest city'

The Spanish port city of Valencia is the most popular city among international employees this year, followed by Dubai and Mexico City, according to the “Expat City Ranking 2022” by Internations, a network for people who live and work abroad.

The ranking is based on the annual Expat Insider study, in which almost 12,000 employees worldwide participated this year. The report offers insights into the quality of life, settling in, working, personal finances and the “Expat Basics” index, which covers digital infrastructure, administrative matters, housing and language.

Vienna ranks 27th out of 50 cities in this year’s ranking. Although it scores very well in terms of quality of life, many expats find it difficult to settle in and make friends in the Austrian capital.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: The best and worst districts to live in Vienna (as voted for by you)

Vienna ranks last in the Ease of Settling In Index and also in the Local Friendliness Subcategory. 

Nearly half the respondents in the city (46 percent) say that people are unfriendly towards foreign residents (vs 18 percent globally), and 43 percent rate the general friendliness of the population negatively (vs 17 percent globally). 

An Australian immigrant told Internations they were unhappy with the seemingly “bad tempered locals”, while a survey respondent from the UK said they struggled to get along with the “conservative Austrians” in Vienna.

Unsurprisingly, more than half of the expats in Vienna (54 percent) find it challenging to make friends with the locals (vs 37 percent globally). Moreover, around one-third (32 percent) are unhappy with their social life (vs 26 percent globally), and 27 percent do not have a personal support system in Vienna (vs 24 percent globally). 

“I really dislike the grumpiness and the unfriendliness,” said an immigrant from Sweden.

READ ALSO: The downsides of Vienna you should be aware of before moving there

In the Quality of Life Index, Vienna snagged first place last year, but it reached only seventh place this year. In terms of administrative matters such as getting a visa for residence, Vienna is only 38th, and the federal capital also scores poorly for cashless payment options (42nd).

Where does Vienna shine?

The Austrian city ranked particularly well in categories including Travel and Transit (first place) and Health and Well-being (second place). International employees rated the availability, cost and quality of medical care as particularly good.

“I like how much you can do here and how easy it is to get around by public transport,” said an expat from the US. 

In addition, Vienna is not particularly expensive and ranks ninth worldwide in the personal finance index. 

READ ALSO: Five unwritten rules that explain how Austria works

Vienna ranks 26th out of 50 cities in the Working Abroad Index. Sixty-eight percent of expats rate their job as secure, and two-thirds rate their work-life balance positively – compared to 59 percent and 62 percent globally. However, 23 percent of respondents are dissatisfied with their career opportunities, and a third feel that the corporate culture in Vienna lacks creativity and unconventional thinking.

In the “Expat Basics” index, international employees consider housing in Vienna particularly affordable (9th). In addition, eight out of ten find it easy to open a local bank account (vs 64 percent worldwide).

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