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You wouldn't be here if you weren't curious.*

Hi! I'm Elena! Welcome to my travel blog Creativelena.com.
For me, it is all about “life-seeing instead of sightseeing”: Join me as I create, eat & live my way around the world. Curious?

*Check out my book, “The Creative Traveler’s Handbook”, for learning more about what we mean by creative travel. Travelling means the world to me, makes me fit for everday life and sometimes, I trust, also calmer on the inside. Read this blog with a smile, share what you love and remember to check back regularly: After all, when was the last time you did something for the first time?

Exploring the #NationalparksAustria over a hiking & “e-biking” trip through Thayatal National Park.

Arrive. Revive. For some time, the Austrian National Tourist Board used this slogan to describe the feeling of arriving in Austria. Recently, I have felt just the same when travelling near the border to the Czech Republic, past the wine town of Retz, and into Thayatal National Park: Arrive. Revive. Taking that deep, wonderful, fresh breath of air …

… especially coming from Vienna: The gently rolling hills of the Weinviertel district, their green lush borders with vineyards and fields all help to turn the short trip from the capital city into a welcoming journey. Up north, where Austria meets the Czech Republic, you can find a unique natural landscape called the “Green Corridor“, formerly known as the infamous “Iron Curtain” but now fortunately more known for its many nature protection virtues.

 

Arriving at Retz main station, I take the public bus straight to the national park office in Hardegg, which next to visitors and park rangers also accommodates two “feline guests”: A duo of the European Wild Cat.

And this, my dear readers, is worthy of some news, which is what I learn during the short film being shown about those particular cats: Our common cat as we know it, is in no way a descendant of the cats I see here at their Thayatal National park enclosure, but a descendant of its North African (Egyptian) relative to the south. The so-called “European Wild Cat”, whose relatives have again been seen in Thayatal national park, are of a different build, which even an untrained eye like me can see after a close-up study. Wonderful. A trip this way is therefore calling all cat lovers in just the same way, as nature lovers in general!

Kater ... räkelt sich in der Sonne, unmittelbar vor der Nase neugieriger "europäischer Wildkatzen-Besucher" wie mich ...

Carlo enjoying his sun bath, a beautiful representative of the “European wild cat”, to be found (again) in and around Thayatal national park …

 

... seine fein gemusterte Partnerin geht indes auf Nahrungssuche: Jeden Tag können die beiden europäischen Wildkatzen bei der geplanten Fütterung um 15.30 Uhr in ihrem Jagdverhalten beobachtet werden.

… his partner looking for prey: Both cats are fed at exactly 3.30 p.m. each day, stimulating public interest (and care) about them.

 

... das Nationalparkhaus selbst, welches direkt an das Wildkatzen-Gehege anschließt ...

… next to the enclosure, you can find the national park office itself, modern and welcoming …

 

... gibt nicht nur eine Übersicht über Natur- und Artenschutz im Nationalpark Thayatal selbst (der kleinste aller sechs österreichischer Nationalparks, wie hier deutlich wird) ...

… offering an overview of all six Austrian national parks, out of which Thayatal, at the very top of this map, is the smallest …

 

... sondern bietet auch einen eigenen Blumen- und Kräutergarten für Besucher ...

… there is, however, not just the office, a playground for kids, as well as the wild cat enclosure, but also a beautiful little garden …

 

... und während ich mich mit Nationalparkrangerin Birgit Gruber auf den Weg über Hardegg in Richtung Nationalpark mache ...

… next to a path down to the river Thaya, leading past the small town of Hardegg with its historic castle …

 

... zeigt sie mir bereitwillig Fotos ihrer jüngsten "Entdeckungen": Einen fliegenden Hirschkäfer, den man mit viel Glück hier auf seinen Ausschwärmenden selbst beobachten kann!

… and having national park ranger Birgit with me, I get to benefit from her most recent nature sightings, such as a flying stag beetle!

 

Stets hilfsbereit ...

Birgit loves to help out visitors around her …

 

... zeigt mir Birgit auch den Weg Richtung Gasthof Hammerschmiede direkt im Ortsgebiet von Hardegg ...

… and shows me the way to Gasthof Hammerschmiede, my accommodation for the night …

 

... eine kleine, gemütliche Frühstückspension, in der Ihr nächtigen aber auch Mittag- und Abendessen könnt und der aus der Nationalpark ideal erkundet werden kann.

… a perfect “home base” if you, like me, wish to explore the national park for a little longer than just an afternoon or morning.

 

So what can you expect from a hike through Thayatal national park?

After a quick chat, Birgit and I choose an easy hike of about six kilometres along the river Thaya, which can also be walked as a loop trail leading all the way back to the national park office. Right past Hardegg, the small town of just under 100 (!) inhabitants which is more like a medieval village, we are embraced by the sights & sounds of nature: Down the river, national park ranger Birgit and I walk in the shade of the Thayatal riverside forests, several open meadows and across two steep hills, which have formed inside river loops. They both offer excellent viewpoints, and a better grasp at just how much nature protection was inadvertently encouraged by the former “Iron Curtain” that ran here, a political border only few ever attempted to cross for decades.

Los geht's auf schattigen Pfaden ...

Off we go on our walk along the Thaya river, a walk steeped as much in history as in today’s nature protection efforts …

 

... vorbei an den typischen Buchenwäldern des mitteleuropäischen Laubmischwaldes ...

… leading us past the typical, Central European beech tree forests that have been able to rebound here …

 

... ihren blütenreichen Verwandten, wie hier der Türken ...

… in a space so untouched by humans thanks to a former political border …

 

... kleinen Mittags-Snack"

… lovely how Birgit explains that we can even have a small “lunch snack” here …

 

... liebe ich es mir, meine eigenen Rangerin bzw. Nationalparkführerin dabei zu haben, die mir alles geduldig und genau erklärt ...

… right inside the national park, an eldorado for all nature lovers like Birgit and me …

 

... toller Ausblick hier vom Übersteig an der Thaya: Danke Dir, liebe Birgit, für diese schöne Wanderung zusammen!

… and don’t you think that this viewpoint in itself is worth the climb (and trip) up here?

 

Not much into hiking? Well, there are several alternatives. One of them, is a pretty “New Age” one: Rent your own national park e-bike for the day!

For many centuries, if not millennia, the Thaya river has carved its river bed pretty deep into the granite and gneiss highlands of the Wald- and Weinviertel, a fact I notice on my way to several viewpoints high above the river valley. Thanks to the “Turbo, Sport & Power” circuits of the e-bike engine on my bike, however, I’m always relaxed and not as sweaty-finished as my fellow cyclists around me – a wonderful feeling for recreational riders like me, who simply do not take to cycling as a sport as such. You can rent your own e-bike for just € 21,- per day from the national park office in Hardegg: I did a 32km loop from Hardegg and across into Czech Republic (Cizov and Vranov), and back via Felling and Hardegg in just over two hours – photo stops and short breaks to take in the natural landscape around me included. Glorious. The curious and often jealous glances of the other cyclists battling those climbs were a bonus of that trip for me!

"Me & my E-Bike": Es kann losgehen ...

“Me & my e-bike” …

 

... zunächst noch an der österreichischen Grenzstadt Hardegg samt Wehrburg vorbei ...

… taking me down to beautiful Hardegg, the former defensive outpost along the Thayatal river …

 

... über die erst 1990 wieder eröffnete Brücke über die Thaya Richtung Tschechien ...

… and across the bridge with the Czech Republic, which has only been re-opened in 1990 …

 

... in das nur wenige Kilometer dahinter, auf heute tschechischer Seite liegende "Niemandsland": Beinahe zur Gänze wurde der Eiserne Vorhang wieder abgetragen, nur dieser Abschnitt hier als Mahnmal stehen gelassen.

… here, where nature meets history and a part of the former Iron Curtain has deliberately been left standing as a memorial …

 

... und so bedeutet der Ausflug auf die tschechische Seite des Nationalparks auch immer einen Ausflug in die Geschichte, wie auch hier an der Wehrburg Varnov in der Kleinstadt mit demselben Namen deutlich wird ...

… I cross over to the Czech town of Vranov, connected by former trade routes as well as the river valley …

 

... zurück Richtung Österreich, sind heute alle Grenzen offen ...

… and leaving to go back to Austria, I realise that today, you easily miss the political border as there are virtually no traces of it left …

 

... könnt Ihr bei der Rückkehr über den kleinen Ort Felling noch in der Perlmuttmanufaktur der Familie Mattejka vorbeischauen, über die ich Euch bereits hier berichtet habe.

… instead, check out one of the last remaining mother-of-pearl craft shops in the small town of Felling, which I have already visited and written about here.

 

And you, when will you come up to visit the smallest of all Austrian national parks? Maybe we’ll meet there, too: I myself would also like to go back soon, as it was one fab nature weekend for sure!

More information about the National Park Thayatal, as well as all #NationalparksAustria, can be found here. Together with me, some of my friends & fellow travel bloggers have also reported on the occasion of the “European Day of the Parks” about all other, remaining national parks in Austria: Read more about their trips here:

 

More travel pics from my trip into Thayatal national park:

<a href="https://flic.kr/s/aHsmczEEXC" target="_blank">Click to View</a>

 

Disclaimer: We have been invited by the National Parks of Austria, to travel into one of the Austrian national parks (Thayatal, in my case). All opinions are my own.

Written by Elena

Elena writes about creative destinations, shares her personal travel stories and brings inspiring photography & interesting news updates home to you. Her mission is: "Continue to be amazed at this world, one creative travel experience at a time."

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