Among the trees and bushes…

October 27, 2010

The Wienerwald region is certainly most notable for its extensive forests and its often ruggedly picturesque landscape. It is, however, also spersed with medieval castles on rocky hilltops and ancient monasteries in bosky vales. So when we went hiking there on Sunday, we also took the chance to visit the former Benedictine abbey of Klein-Mariazell. Founded in the 12th century, it became an important pilgrimage site in subsequent centuries and, consequently, underwent some major refurbishment campaigns over the years. Still, there are some medieval features left, most prominently a couple of splendid Romanesque portals…

These portals date from the mid-13th century, so they’re roughly contemporary to the porch of the cemetery chapel in Tulln where we visited earlier this year. Some of those elaborate ornaments used on the north portal in Klein-Mariazell [pictured above] may even be found in Tulln as well. In both cases the stonemasons clearly tried to outdo themselves, decorating each moulding on the archivolt in a different style.

All this effort, though, was somewhat wasted on us. Our interest lies much more with medieval painting so we usually fail to get too excited about this kind of architectural details. Architecture-wise we were actually much more fascinated by some artless old farmhouses, perched at the edge of the woods, that we passed on our walking-tour…

Most of them seemed to still be inhabited: Some were engulfed by the crisp smell of burnt wood as smoke was streaming from their chimneys. Some had little cottage gardens in their front yards where withering roses caught our eye.* And in their backyards, some had withering tractors…

That tractor, by the way, isn’t merely old, it’s vintage. It’s a Steyr 180, a model that was produced from 1947 to 1953.** Today, it may look rusty and ragged, but about 60 years ago it would have been all flashy and dashy like this:

Steyr 180 brochure, 1947 (image © by and courtesy of

Can’t you just about imagine James Dean driving this thing?

* See last picture in previous post.

** In case you’re prone to obsessing over motorized vehicles, there’s more information on the Steyr 180 at and at Both sites are, however, in German.

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