Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Sun September 27 2015

Opinion Home | Tales From the Leap

  • Shannon Wolf | September 27, 2015 11:00 PM ET

    Lower Austria: It's Hard Not to Fall in Love

    Lower Austria: It's Hard Not to Fall in Love

    PHOTO: Between the picturesque village of Durnstein, perfectly placed abbeys and impeccable vineyards, it’s hard not to want to stay forever in Lower Austria. (photos by Shannon Wolf)

    One of the greatest aspects of traveling is the gift of truly living in the present moment, the “now.”

    It’s 8 a.m. I’m on a train from Vienna to the village of Sankt Andra in the region of St. Polten passing through lush, clouded hillscapes reminiscent of a fairytale. I’m reuniting with my friends Tobias and Sebastian, who I met on my last night in Montezuma.

    Once out of reach of the city, I have that feeling again: that grip around my chest like my heart might skip a beat if I don’t hold it in — like my heart could explode with excitement if I don’t take a deep breath.

    I feel so alive and I’ve never felt so enlightened — I’ve never felt so free to be back in nature with no buildings around me.

    I got on the slow train accidently, which was almost two hours instead of the planned twenty minutes. Telling the driver of my predicament, he laughed and I smiled back foolishly. He said there’s nothing I can do, I’m already on the track so sit back and enjoy the ride. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself and think — “Now there’s a life lesson to keep, and all before I’ve even had a cup of coffee.”

    Although I loved Vienna, I have to say the real beauty lies outside of the city. The small villages are where you will get to experience the real Austria, comprised of breathtaking landscapes, an abundance of local, high quality vineyards, organic, fresh produce as well as some of the most genuine people you will ever meet. It’s hard not to fall in love with this country and it’ll take everything you have to pry yourself away from this incredible place and its people.

    Must Do’s

    • Drink your heart out — visit “Weinstrasse” the “Wine Road”: A route 516 miles in length that leads through eight unique wine regions, more than 150 wine villages and approximately 1,500 inns. Austrians themselves are fond of this road as a vacation excursion.

    • Hike one of the many trails such as Myra vizesesek, Ysperklam and my favorite the Turnitzer Hoger in the Upper Traisen Valley (which is named after the town of Turnitz).

    • Take a day trip to the adorable village of Durnstein in the Wachau region with its picturesque landscape, where you can stroll along the Danube, explore the many Abbeys, and churches, then climb the ancient ruins overlooking the village!

    • Meet locals, have a bonfire and make “bread on a stick” while sipping on your half beer, half Almdudler called a Radler.

    Best Eats

    • If you have a sweet tooth, you will be in pure bliss after visiting Austria. Not only is everything fresh but it’s also out-of-this-world delicious.

    • Kaiserschmarrn: My love affair with apricots first started in the quiet hippie town of Montezuma in Costa Rica when I met the Singer brothers. They introduced me to “smashed pancakes,” aka “Kaiserschmarrn”: a thick pancake with raisins, torn into giant flakes and topped with plum compote, caster sugar and cinnamon.

    PHOTO: I can’t lie, I was completely spoiled with homemade apricot jam and Kaiserschmarrn and the best wine I’ve ever had!

    • Jams And Pickles: You will never want to eat store-bought jam or pickles ever again after tasting what’s made in Lower Austria.

    • Fresh Produce: Lower Austria is well known for its vegetables, especially asparagus which is in the majority of Austrian dishes (but only available in season).

    Best Drinks

    • Wine: Austria has the strictest rules for making wine worldwide. This is why the amount of produced wine is so much smaller in relation to the acreage in contrast to Italy or France. There are three main wine regions, which produce a number of different wines — however, The Gruner Veltliner is the most famous and you’ll never look at white the same! (Note: The best organic Gruner Veltliner wine I tried was from Fischer).

    • Try Almdudler: A special drink of Austria — Mix it with beer 50/50 and you get a Radler, a refreshing drink perfect for summer!

    • Natural Juices: Try fresh, locally made unfiltered apple-currant, grape, peach or apricot nectar natural juices.

    • Beer: Try Zwettler, the famous Lower Austrian brew.

    PHOTO: Thanks to my local friends Sebastian and Tobias — I had an experience of a lifetime and feel truly blessed to have them as a part of my life!

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Shannon Wolf Tales From the Leap

Shannon Wolf Shannon Wolf is a freelance photographer and writer, traveling across the globe with an open itinerary and no intent of stopping. Originally from Toronto, Canada, she left behind a fast paced life to truly live and not just exist in an attempt to inspire others to follow their bliss. At age 26, Shannon has visited 20+ countries on four continents around the world. She has travelled overland by chicken-bus and tuk-tuks, hitchhiked by fruit trucks and through islands on horse and buggy. She has slept in the jungles of Nicaragua, on benches in London, secluded hidden beaches and she’s only getting started.
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