From foreigners to friends: Travel Tales from Grandma’s house in Waldviertel, Lower Austria

“During summer, we throw up a BBQ and our guests say, ‘Hang on Maria, and look: The stars. So many and so clear! It is so beautiful here in the Waldviertel. Such clean air. We sleep so well here, and just love the silence, you know.’ And Elena, comments like these, they just get to me, you know”, Maria says and looks me deeply in the eyes. Then, her expression changes as her face wrinkles up into a large smile: “But now, let’s first go and get a taste of the fresh ‘Mohnzelten’ I’ve made this morning. I always love baking for my guests, you know.”

Yay to fresh ‘Mohnzelten’, which I know from my own granny’s baking who by the way has also lived out here in the Lower Austrian Waldviertel area, in a place called Freitzenschlag, Groß Gerungs – right near Maria! Small world.

 

And then, it hits me. Likely the best bite of a ‘Mohnzelten’ poppy sweet I’ve ever taken! “Do you want some more? Take them home with you, my dear”, Maria smiles at me full of love.

There is no denying an old lady that could easily be your own granny: Within a few minutes, she has packed up 12 delicious, typical ‘Mohnzelten’ sweets in a cute little cake box that she now closes with a string of wool she actually spun herself.

 

Made by hand, with love by me: The “motto” of the happy octogenarian Maria Rienesl.

Zu Besuch in der Wollwerkstatt von Maria Rienesl ..

Visiting Maria in her little wool workshop …

 

... bestaune ich die waschechten Unikate ...

… I marvel at the quality of her hand-made wool items, all made from local (sheep) wool …

 

... die hier eines nach dem anderen an der Wand hängen: In die rote Strickweste verliebe ich mich übrigens auf den ersten Blick. Und kaufe sie Maria sogleich ab!

… and wouldn’t you likely fall in love with this beautiful, red garment either? For me, it is love at first sight – I happily buy it off her just an hour later, and continue to think of Maria every time I wear it.

 

Maria Rienesl really is one of a kind. She loves to look at things like “the Internet, my emails and the computer”, although it really is her son who now manages the family home including two holiday apartments for families in the Waldviertel. “People don’t call anymore, it’s all via email and online booking these days”, the great-grandmother of a whole bunch of children, grandchildren as well as great-grandchildren adds nonchalantly. “But once our guests are here, everything’s just wonderful. Some people still book for several weeks! They just love it, they absolutely like to relax and enjoy the area out here”, she tells me with pride in her voice.

Wolle ...

A good selection of wool …

 

... zumeist noch von Hand gesponnen ("die spinnt schon wieder, haben's oft zu mir gesagt und gelacht, und nicht mal ich hab' jetzt genau gewusst, was sie meinen", lacht sie neben mir am Spinnrad ...

… mostly prepared for and spun by hand …

 

... bedeutet Maria Rienesl einfach alles.

… is everything to Maria Rienesl, who loves looking after her guests as much as she does after this more than 100 years old spinning wheel.

 

Aus zunächst gekämmter, und später gesponnener Wolle ...

She uses this “brush” to start combing (and preparing) her wool for spinning threads …

 

... fertigt Maria mitunter auch ganz bunte, praktische Dinge für den Haus- und Alltagsgebrauch

… then making cute little things from the wool thus gained: Love these colourful hand warmers, and again I buy a pair for my friend this time!

 

Überhaupt hat Maria Rienesl die buntesten Sachen zur Auswahl

Maria Rienesl has many hand-made, creative wool items to choose from.

 

Sogar diesen wahrlich wunderschönen Setzkasten entdecke ich noch bei ihr - eine schöne Kindheitserinnerung für mich, denn auch ich habe als kleines Mädchen so einen Schatz bessessen, und gehütet!

Like me in my childhood, she has preserved this beautiful letter case full of sweet little things! I used to love it when I was young. Do you remember having had something like this?

 

Finally, it’s Maria Rienesl’s kitchen where travellers really become friends, even family. Gotta love the open world spirit of the “sweet old lady” here!

I remember going through a lot of handwritten letters, Christmas cards, and photographs with Maria, each one of them sent to her by guests turned family friends over the past thirty years. She is still in touch with most of them: “Look here, Elena, the first entry in my guestbook … August 1983!” – “One month before I was born”, I exclaim, smiling at the sign. There is so much love, and HOME offered in this kitchen, that I finally decide to ask Maria to take our photo too: “But you must send it to me, will you?” Of course I will. As I always do for my own granny, too!

Schau an, die vielen Gäste ...

So many visitors …

 

... die über all die Jahre ...

… that have come to see Maria in all her (baking) glory, over the years …

 

... von Gästen zu Freunden der Familie wurden hier.

… and turned true friends of the family, what with sending hand-written letters and photographs to her still today.

 

Es muss wohl auch an den guten Mohnzelten liegen ...

The secret, I am sure, has to be in these beautiful ‘Mohnzelten’ poppy delights …

 

... wirklich mit die besten, die ich je im Leben gegessen habe! DANKE, liebe Maria.

… and just look at them: Wouldn’t you want to take a bite yourself? THANK YOU so much for your kindness, dear Maria.

 

Was für ein freudvoller Tag bei Dir im schönen Waldviertel !!!

What a happy day up here with you in the Waldviertel !!!

 

Check out Maria’s website, where her holiday home is listed (including a well-maintained, English description of her activities) as part of the Austrian Farm Holiday association.

All my Waldviertel pictures are published here:

 

Disclaimer: I have been supported by the Austrian Farm Holiday Association of Lower Austria on this trip to Waldviertel. All opinions are my own.

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