UNESCO declared Vienna Woods to a biosphere reserve
The Wienerwald (Vienna Woods)… There are lots of stories here which would be better told only late at night! The writer Ödön von Horvath for example, or Johann Strauss, could write a book about them – or play a waltz.
First of all though, for the sake of discretion, a brief historical outline: in the year 1002 the area was given as a gift by Emperor Heinrich II to the Babenbergs, who hunted deer and wild boar there. From 1276 to 1755 the Wienerwald belonged to the Habsburgs and was their preferred hunting ground.
“My only wish is that, should the Wienerwald ever be threatened, the right man be found to defend it.” The saviour of the Wienerwald, Josef Schöffel (1832–1910)
Up until the mid-eighteenth century, wood was the main source of energy for the rapidly growing population of Vienna, and the Wienerwald provided it, almost to the point of extinction. We have to thank the dedication of the journalist Josef Schöffel that it was saved from complete deforestation. It was made a protected area in 1905, and a century later UNESCO declared it a biosphere park, the highest level of official recognition.
Is this distinction justified?
Decide for yourself! From the southern part of the Alps, the Wienerwald, which is in actual fact a low mountain range, stretches over 45 kilometres to Vienna, and covers one-fifth of the city in a lush canopy of beech, oak, black pine and even grapevines.
The latter grow mainly on the eastern slopes and make Vienna the only city in the world with an economically significant wine production.
The people of Vienna love their forest, and enthusiastically make use of the more than 500 kilometres of hiking trails and over 1,200 kilometres of mountain-bike tracks through the “green lung” of the city, and this not just because of the magnificent views to be had from the Jubiläumswarte on the Wilhelminenberg, or the beloved Kahlenberg. And if you’ve really set your sights high, you might venture up Vienna’s highest mountain: the Hermannskogel with its lofty altitude of 542 metres. Here there awaits another observation tower, in this case the Habsburgwarte. On your way down pay a visit to the “Grüass Di a Gott Wirt” restaurant; it’ll be only too happy to tell you more “Tales from the Vienna Woods”.
Text: Lucia Czernin, Fotos: Christine Wurnig