Abbeys in Austria: Pure Garden Glory.

by Elena

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 gardensmonastery staysart 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?

Das imposante Stift Altenburg zur Begrüßung an einem strahlend schönen Sommertag.

The mighty facade of Altenburg Abbey on a perfectly beautiful summer day.


Right behind the abbey, the Sculpture Path leads us through the “Garden of Peace”.

Pater Michael, hier in seiner ganzen Dynamik zu sehen, führt uns voller Elan durch sein Stift - sowie quer durch die Geschichte dieses einmaligen Ortes.

Father Michael, full of enthusiasm and dynamism, is happy to show us “his” abbey from past till present.

Auch heute noch wird beispielsweise die gewaltige Bibliothek mit imposanten Fresken Paul Troges für Konzerte und Aufführungen genutzt.

Even today, the mighty old library carrying one-of-a-kind frescoes of the young artist Paul Troger, is used for theatre plays and as an event location.

Diese Linde vor der barocken Aussenfassade von Stift Altenburg verströmt einen einmalig betörenden Duft.

This mighty lime (linden) tree in front of Altenburg Abbey fills the air with its sweet flower aromas.

Gleich nebenan liegt der berühmte "Garten der Religionen" von Stift Altenburg.

Right next to Altenburg Abbey, you will have access to the abbey’s famous “Garden of Religions”.

Seerosen blühen hier und begrüßen den Hinduismus im Garten ...

Water lilies representing hinduism …

... genauso wie wir Neuankömmlinge hier aufs Herzlichste begrüßt werden: Vielen Dank Pater Michael & Sabine Laz für den schönen Besuch im Stift Altenburg!

… are welcoming us just as much as the people around here: Thank you so much, Father Michael and Sabine Laz, for such an interesting (garden) tour around Altenburg Abbey!


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 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.”

Ankommen im Stift Geras: Das nördliche Waldviertel ist geprägt von Ruhe & Kraft spendenden Landschaften wie diesen.

Arriving at Geras Abbey: The northern Waldviertel district is marked by powerful places of peace and calm such as this one.

Kräuterpfarrer Prior Benedikt Felsinger ...

Father Benedikt Felsinger is our hero, and host, for the day …

... als er uns auf intime und berührende Art und Weise durch "seinen" Kräutergarten des Stift Geras führt.

… as he takes care to guide us around this very own, traditional herb garden here at Geras Abbey.

Hier hat die Seele Platz zum Wachsen: Blick auf eine imposante Königskerze im Garten. "Nicht fragen, 'Wofür bist Du gut?', sondern die Pflanze lieber betrachten und überlegen, 'Wobei kannst Du mir helfen?', teilt uns Kräuterpfarrer Benedikt seinen Zugang mit.

This is a place for the soul to grow and to find peace. When talking to him about the philosophy of gardening, he has this to say to us: “Do not ask about, ‘What is this plant good for?’ Choose to ask yourself instead, ‘What may this particular plant help me with?’ and you will get a very different answer and approach.”

Das Stift Geras bietet weiters eine überaus schöne byzantinische Kapelle ...

Geras Abbey furthermore offers a truly stunning Byzantine chapel …

... sowie eine eigene Akademie, in der seit über 40 Jahren Kunst- und Kreativkurse durchgeführt werden: Beim Art Clay Silver Workshop bin ich hier bereits kreativ tätig geworden!

… as well as its own art academy that has seen creative workshops take place for the past 40 years: I have already mastered my skills at an Art Clay Silver workshop here!

Als Nächtigungsmöglichkeit bietet sich das wunderschön restaurierte Ambiente des Kunst & Kultur Seminarhotel Geras sowie des Vierjahreszeiten-Retreat Waldviertel an ...

Spending the night, you can either choose to stay in the Art Residence Hotel “Kunst & Kultur Seminarhotel Geras” or right here at the “Vierjahreszeiten Retreat” Waldviertel …

... hier kann nach der Seele auch der Körper sehr gut ruhen. ;)

… after some engaging soul search, the body is allowed some good rest here, too. 😉

Und auch kulinarisch lässt hier nichts zu wünschen übrig: Saftige Frühlingsrollen gefüllt mit Waldviertler Kraut & Mohn auf sommerlichen Blattsalaten ... mir läuft schon wieder das Wasser im Mund zusammen!

Culinary delights abound here in Waldviertel, too: Imagine spoiling yourself to a local version of spring rolls filled with spiced cabbage leaves and poppy seeds, typically grown up here in the north of Austria.


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!

Das imposante Barockstift Melk empfängt Besucher mit seiner eindrucksvollen Prachtfassade ...

Melk Abbey greets visitors with its stunning, towering Baroque facade …

... und auch hier am Eingang zum Stiftspark setzt sich die meisterliche Perfektion der (Garten)Kunst fort ...

… and I believe the view upon its abbey park is just absolutely perfect, mind-blowing in terms of beauty and order …

... von unserer charmanten Führerin lernen wir alles Wissenswerte rund um den historischen Stiftspark in Melk ...

… our charming guide tells us all there is to know about the traditional abbey garden in Melk …

... und erkunden im Anschluss selbst, was es heißt, sein ganz eigenes Gartenparadies für sich zu entdecken: Jardin Mediterraneen im Stiftspark Melk.

… and here we are left to explore for ourselves: Jardin Mediterraneen at Melk Abbey park, a sparkling delight of bright flowers, humming bees and aromatic scents.


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.

Das Stift Seitenstetten im niederösterreichischen Mostviertel begrüßt uns ebenso imposant wie zahlreiche weitere Klöster und Stifte Niederösterreichs.

Similar to all other abbeys around Lower Austria, Seitenstetten Abbey welcomes us to a perfectly matched up facade and courtyard here in the Lower Austrian Mostviertel district.

Hier sind wir anlässlich der Gartentage eingeladen, durch das "blühende Leben" imposanter Gartenanlagen zu streifen ...

On the occasion of the “Lower Austrian Garden Days”, we are invited to explore the abbey park’s blooming fields …

... das Stift selbst bietet weiters eine sehr imposante Stiftsbibliothek - hier kommen Leseratten wie ich in den "siebten Himmel" und geraten ins Schwärmen ...

… the abbey itself offering one of the most magnificent libraries I have ever seen – book worms such as myself might go straight to heaven here …

... als Nächtigungstipp bietet sich auch hier das nahe gelegene Waidhofen an der Ybbs mit seiner Burganlage und dem Hotel Schloss an der Eisenstraße an ...

… for spending the night, we recommend staying in the city of Waidhofen an der Ybbs and its beautiful castle that has been turned into a hotel, Hotel Schloss an der Eisenstraße …

... den passenden "Genussreisetipp" bietet der nahe gelegene Schlosswirt an der Eisenstraße, Restaurant Plappert.

… you can have an excellent dinner nearby at Restaurant Plappert offering typical, local gourmet varieties of the Lower Austrian Mostviertel district.

Auch hier kommen wir als Gäste und verabschieden uns als Freunde: Vielen Dank, lieber Pater Ferdinand für den zauberhaften Besuch in den Stiftsgärten von Seitenstetten!

Once more, we arrive here as visitors and leave as friends: Thank you so much, dear Father Ferdinand, for your kind and wise words and for allowing us to experience and enjoy the beauty of your garden as much as you do!


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!

Aufblühen im Innenhof des Stift Klosterneuburg.

Blooming postcard views in the inner courtyard of Klosterneuburg Abbey.

Hier begrüßt uns der liebenswerte und charmante Josef Bauer zu einer Gartenführung der ganz besonderen Art ...

Charming Josef Bauer welcomes us on a garden tour of a kind, wrapping us up in his love for all flowers and plants of “his gardens” …

... wie kein Zweiter kennt er jede einzelne seiner Pflanzen, Kräuter und Blumen "persönlich", gemeinsam mit seinem Sohn bewirtschaftet er die Stiftsgärten von Klosterneuburg.

… together with his son, who too is a gardener, they take care of each and every single plant in here.

Hier finden wir gar blühende Orchideen in der historischen Orangerie des Stiftes vor!

This includes such exotic beauties as these orchids, grown in what used to be one of the first greenhouses of Austria as a way to make them survive wintertime.

... und versinken, glücklich und in Absolution, im Duft dieser immensen Rosen ... zum Niederknien und Innehalten.

Roses are my religion … I could be near them forever. The smell of those roses, I think I will never forget …


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.

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