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Father Benedikt Felsinger is what you would call a “botanical” priest. Looking at us, a slight smile plays around his lips. His eyes rest on us, filled with warmth, authority and wisdom. It is the kind of wisdom possessed by those who have found inner peace. Who “know” about what is important and what really matters in this world. It is an honour to have him share this knowledge with visitors like us. For three days, my friends Monika & Petar Fuchs, of Travel World Online as well as Andreas Susana | Travelwriticus, explore the so-called “Klösterreich” of Lower Austria. “Klösterreich”, literally meaning “Abbeys of Austria”, is an association to promote Austrian abbeys, monasteries and convents for tourism with such a variety of topics as abbey gardens, monastery stays, art history or monastery libraries.
Now, at the time of the summer solstice when all monastery parks and gardens are fully abloom, it is certainly one of the best times to visit the “Klösterreich” in Lower Austria. Let me tell you about some tips for destinations and travel ideas around here.
Altenburg Abbey & the “Garden of Religions”. Life is a staircase leading through different eras … of humankind & insight!
Altenburg Abbey, situated right up in the very north of Austria in the Waldviertel district, offers visitors a stunning insight into the so-called “Garden of Religions“. Jews, Christians, Hindus, Islamists – all belief systems share certain commonalities such as water, building structures and ways of planting their gardens. Surprisingly enough, they are all similar: Some forms of expression are literally the same all over the world, transcending and defying regional and religious borderlines.
Apart from this special “Garden of Religions”, Altenburg Abbey plays witness to a series of social upheavals concerning not only society and religion, but also building structures throughout time. Only recently, we learn from our expert guide Father Michael during a tour of the abbey, has the former Gothic style abbey been excavated under the tremendous Baroque facade of the present-day abbey. This allows us to time-travel repeatedly when walking across the monastery complex. And yet, we are also on an inner journey: Where are we going? What is happening here? Which are the (eternal) circles of life, dominating how people live and share and get together in different forms of belief systems?
Geras Abbey marks the arrival of absolutely charming “botanical priest” Benedikt Felsinger. A man of such wisdom is hard to portray …
… and best left to finding his own words: As www.Kraeuterpfarrer.at he blogs regularly about his botanical / philosophical insights, while also being a famous columnist for one of the largest Austrian daily newspapers. To have the private honour of his company on a Monday morning tour through the herb garden of Geras Abbey is a true delight. “Thank you so much for taking the time to be here with us”, we cannot stop ourselves from being overwhelmed by his powerful words about plants, life and the energy of creation. “You are so welcome”, he smiles, once again displaying the inner calm and peace that resides within him. “To be here with you means the world to me. It allows my soul to find peace and strength.”
Melk Abbey, a jewel of the Austrian Danube district, has created a paradise of a garden. Each year, half a million visitors pay tribute to one of the leading cultural attractions of Austria!
And here we go again, once more being welcomed to a moving, intense and very personal visitor experience thanks to our trip around the “Klösterreich” Austrian Abbeys! Focusing on “life abloom” in the monastery parks & abbey gardens, our visit of Melk Abbey leads us right into its beautiful abbey park. I do also recommend you visit the abbey itself. In the park, it is worth checking out the Benedictus Path, the aromatic “Jardin Méditerranéen” as well as the famous Garden Pavilion – unique all over Austria. Such beauty on your way to knowledge & the art of gardens out here!
Seitenstetten Abbey in the Lower Austrian Mostviertel district has pulled up a special garden display for us. “Today, God revealed himself in the form of your emotional awareness”, Father Ferdinand humbles our travelling companion Petar Fuchs.
Petar is left thunderstruck. I wonder right then and there, as the gift of Father Ferdinand’s words unfolds, that we may not always realize, at times, what we actually do and say to each other. Awareness and consciousness, through words and gestures, are some of the most powerful tools we can hand out and receive at any given moment in time. Often, unfortunately, we are only too “busy with things” around us and on the inside. Those however, who like us on our spiritual journey around the Austrian Abbeys, opt for deceleration, for the “peace of blooming gardens” as well as the magic of pure words, have already gained a lot for themselves. This is what we feel around here at Seitenstetten Abbey, as we follow Father Ferdinand on a tour of peace, garden and religion.
Near the capital city Vienna, Klosterneuburg Abbey offers many a historic garden landscape. Make sure you get “behind the scenes” here – having time, taking your time, is what a visit to the Abbeys of Austria demands of you.
Last but not least, I would like to recommend you the visit of Klosterneuburg Abbey and its fascinating garden world spanning several centuries. Make sure you get to meet Mr Josef Bauer senior, who knows the gardens like no one else and who carries a key to each one of the locks around the abbey! Never will I forget the sweet scent of hundreds of roses in this garden, nor the bright colour display of exotic orchids in the “Orangerie” greenhouse, nor the many courtyards of an abbey that was meant to become the “Austrian El Escorial” during the time of the Habsburg sovereignty. Last year already, I came here on a visit with Andreas as part of my trip to the Lower Austrian “Gourmet Mile” food festival. This time, however, all our attention is being caught up in the blooming gardens. And this is what the “Klösterreich“, the Abbeys of Austria, are all about at this time of year. A pure travel delight!
What a journey on our way across the “Klösterreich” of Lower Austria! Often, it is not necessary to travel far. You may just have to reach out for happiness while it is there, ever so close, at your grasp, and embrace the knowledge and wisdom that comes from it. And you, are you able to do so, dear readers? 🙂
Disclaimer: We have been invited by the Abbeys & Monasteries of Lower Austria to travel in the “Klösterreich” during the Lower Austrian Garden Days. All opinions are my own.