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‘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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DISCOVER AUSTRIA

Donauinselfest: What you need to know about Austria’s biggest open air festival

Austria has the largest free open-air festival in Europe, and the Donauinselfest is taking place this weekend. Here is what you need to know.

Donauinselfest: What you need to know about Austria's biggest open air festival

The Austrian Donauinselfest is known as the largest free open-air music festival in Europe, and it happens yearly on Vienna’s Danube island. The festival attracts around three million visitors over its three days of events and is starting on Friday in the Austrian capital.

The festival has been taking place yearly since 1983 on the 21.1-kilometre river island. This year, it has 14 different areas and 11 stages, according to the official website. Visitors can expect more than 600 hours of program.

READ ALSO: The best festivals and events to enjoy in Austria this summer

Here is what you need to know to enjoy the programme fully.

When and where is the festival?

The festival has an extensive range of events starting on Friday, June 24th, and lasting until Sunday, June 26th. It takes place on the island between the new Danube and the Danube rivers, known as the Donauinsel.

READ ALSO: 7 things to know about driving in Austria this summer

It is easily accessible via the U1 (Donauinsel station) and U6 (Handelskai station) metro and there are no parking spaces available near the festival site.

Admission to the event is free.

The festival is back after the pandemic

After two years of reduced capacity and many Covid-19 restrictions, the Donauinselfest is back to (almost) normal. There is no limit to the number of visitors, no requirement to show proof of vaccination or recovery from the disease, and no mask mandate.

However, the authorities have asked that people take “personal responsibility” as coronavirus infection numbers have been rising.

READ ALSO: Five of the best things to do in Vienna this summer

The organisers have requested people to get tested before visiting the vast festival, Vienna.at reported.

People gather on the shores of the Danube river, in Vienna during a hot sunny day and Danube Day on June 29, 2012. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KLEIN

“We ask everyone who would like to visit the Donauinselfest this year to take a PCR or rapid test in advance and thus protect themselves and others. People with symptoms are not allowed to enter the festival grounds.”, said organiser Matthias Friedrich.

Though masks are not mandatory, they are recommended on-site if it is too full of people and no social distancing is possible. Besides, there is a masks requirement to all Donauinselfest workers in indoor areas.

Watch out for what you cannot bring

There is an extensive list of things that are not allowed on the festival site. For example, visitors are not allowed to take large bags and backpacks (“A3 format”, according to the website). However, a gym bag is not considered a backpack.

Animals, including dogs, are prohibited – except for guide dogs and service dogs.

You are also not allowed to bring umbrellas, alcoholic beverages, cans, glass bottles, or drones. The list of prohibited items includes “propaganda material”, spray bottles, whistles, large or bulky objects, bicycles and skateboards, stools and chairs, food and more.

Check out the complete list here.

Danube festival

Vienna’s “Danube-island” Festival will return this weekend. (Photo by DIETER NAGL / AFP)

READ ALSO: Forecast: Austria set for high temperatures and storms throughout weekend and beyond

You can – and should – bring plenty of water and sunscreen, as temperatures are expected to be around the 30Cs over the next few days.

What kind of music is there?

The festival has several stages and a broad programme selection. The bands are usually more regional, with a significant presence of Austrian, German, and Italian bands.

You can find all sorts of music, from pop to rock, rap, and techno. There are even tribute bands like Break Free, which will play Queen’s best signs on the rock stage.

The program includes other activities as well, such as poetry slam, art stages, sport areas, and even events for families and children.

You can check the official program here.

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