March – A Month of celebrating crafts in the Lower Austrian Waldviertel district!

High across the far land. High up north, in the Lower Austrian Waldviertel district, we find a feeling of perfect freedom. At a time where former political borders start losing their importance, the sheer endless horizons of the Waldviertel forest district as well as their gently rolling landscapes are more present than ever. Together with my dear friend Gudrun, I have embarked on a road trip of a kind: Gudrun, who as a fellow travel writer at “” has become just as interested in exploring the local craft scene in our home country Austria. Surprising, therefore, what we were able to come up with during the so-called “Waldviertler Handwerkswochen” local crafts’ weeks, enabling us both to look at our home culture with fresh eyes.


The Mother-of-Pearl manufactory run by Rainer Mattejka in its fifth generation looks back on a history of processing local river shells all the way to supplying world textile companies such as Escada or Lacoste – hand-made in Waldviertel, Lower Austria, that is!

“My grandfather still knew exactly where to find the best quality river shells right here by the local Thaya river“, Rainer Mattejka tells us with pride in his eyes. “Only recently, we learned that those shells actually developed in the gills of a fish! Today, our shiny treasures come to us from all over the world, mostly from Indonesia and Australia. Over the years, we have developed our know-how – the production of quality produce buttons made from top natural products – to a point where we are supplying millions of single pieces according to very specific, individual requirements all over the world.”

Precisely. Incredibly. Right in front of their door, you step out into a world of peace and quiet, betraying the fact that the little town Felling near Hardegg is actually home to a world-class family enterprise from Austria. “Development is happening so fast: We are constantly being challenged to think about past, present and future. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the love we have for our visitors: During the local crafts’ weeks for instance, we enjoy organizing creative workshops for visitors, teaching you how to make your own jewellery with mother-of-pearl and other precious stones.” I like that!

Rainer Mattejka's Perlmuttdrechslerei (übrigens die einzig verbleibende in ganz Österreich!) öffnet uns neue Welten ...

Rainer Mattejka’s mother-of-pearl manufactory (the only one left in the whole of Austria) is opening up a new world of impressions and insights …


... wie die Herstellung besonders schöner Knöpfe aus echtem Perlmutt in alter, lokaler Tradition.

… such as the fabrication of beautiful buttons, once hand-made and sown onto little packs of textiles before shipping and delivery.


Rainer Mattejka liebt es uns, alles ganz genau zu erklären ...

Rainer Mattejka loves to explain every little detail to us …


... und setzt dabei auf das Markenzeichner der Qualität in der Produktion seiner wunderschönen Perlmutt-Knöpfe.

… staying true to his motto of quality development even today, where millions of pieces are produced by big machines each year.


Solch eine Kette kann man bei einem der Kreativkurse vor Ort in rund einer Stunde herstellen!

Learn how to make your own necklace in no time!


Zum "Perlmuttertag" wiederkehren? Eine schöne Idee!

Another great idea is visiting the world’s largest button, found here in the Lower Austrian Waldviertel district …!


Vielen Dank für den schönen Besuch, liebe Familie Mattejka!

Thank you so much for this interesting visit, dear Mattejka family!


Celebrating even more local crafts from the Waldviertel district, we stop for a visit of the so-called hammer forge near the town of Zwettl, a building well over 500 years old. Step aside, gentlemen: It’s ladies’ time today!

“Quite often, and surprisingly enough, women come here to take part in my forging lessons“, Friedrich Fürst, local owner and creative teacher tells us during a visit here in Zwettl, the largest town of the Waldviertel district. Another participant calls over at Gudrun and me: “Could you please pose next to the fire and hold up your artwork, yes, that’s it! Perhaps with this photograph, I can still convince my wife to join me next time.”

Well. I do have to admit: Being a bit stronger will certainly do you no harm when trying your hands at forging! Or is it rather in training the right technique? “You have to strike the iron while it’s hot!” Friedrich smiles and puts it rather bluntly. He is absolutely right, of course. What sounds more of precocious phrase can actually be taken literally here: The fish we are trying to forge are only shaping up to become fish when we forge the iron at around 1.000 °C (!). “Man forges his own destiny”, is just one other proverb derived from the context of this ancient crafts tradition that was once quite widespread here in Lower Austria. After two hours, Gudrun and I are a little exhausted – but ever so proud of the cute little fish that we have wrought from the glowing iron!

Seit gut 500 Jahren steht die Zwettler Schmiede hier am Hammerweg der Stadt Zwettl ...

For more than 500 years, the old forge stands tall here on the outskirts of the local town Zwettl …


... in der sich echte kleine Kunstwerke verbergen.

… a forge home to cute little treasures, as it is.


Friedrich Fürst ist bemüht, uns die richtigen Handgriffe zum Schmieden beizubringen ...

Friedrich Fürst is happy to show and teach us the right technique used for forging the hot iron …


... und uns über den Weg des "Selber-Machens" etwas vom Respekt und der Kunstfertigkeit dieses alten Handwerks beizubringen.

… teaching us respect for the masters of this old crafts’ tradition by having a go at forging ourselves.


Stolz, der: Ein Gefühl, welches sich beim Kreativ-Reisen schon nach kurzer Zeit einstellt, wie Gudrun's Blick & Körperhaltung verraten.!

Pride, as it shows: A constant reminder of the beauty of creative travel, as you really become a happier person full of pride and curiosity in the process.! “Can do, will do” – well done, dear Gudrun


Fische im Feuer ...

Our cute little fish lay resting in the fire, heating up for being forged and shaped once more …


... nach rund zwei Stunden ist es geschafft: Stolz präsentieren wir Euch hier unsere Werke!

… until they are all done after about two hours: Proudly presenting the two little fish Gudrun and I made that day!


The art of glassblowing … “This might very well be the most extraordinary creative workshop I have ever taken”, I exhale, all flustered after repeatedly blowing into my hot glass, bell-shaped fish decorated with sizzling fins. What an experience !!

Two strong men in T-shirts & short trousers are working in front of the hissing furnace in a perfectly calm unison: Despite their apparent physical strength, including the tremendous firing heat at their backs, they are all calm & concentrated, producing one cute little glass frog after the other as if it were the most natural thing on Earth. And to them, it certainly is, right here at the Waldglashütte glassblowing studio of Kurt Zalto in Neu-Nagelberg close to Austria’s oldest beer brewing town Weitra. Fascinating. I simply cannot take my eyes off the glowing glass: The perfect embrace of art on a high level paired with real technical & chemical know-how is just fascinating. To me, watching these artist craftsmen is an experience unknown.


Glassblowing artists have my full respect. Their craft process makes them sweat, while they have to stay cool in order to master their art. I am fascinated – even more so as I get to participate in it myself!

We are so lucky: During the local crafts week here in the Waldviertel, Kurt Zalto and his colleague take it on them to welcome us personally to their glass manufactory, teaching us to blow our own little glass fish which are then cooled and sent home to us after a few days!

What an experience: Childlike excitement runs through our veins here !!

Willkommen in der Waldglashütte Zalto im nördlichen Waldviertel, welche direkt am neuen Weitwanderweg entlang der Lainsitz liegt über den ich Euch bereits berichtet habe ...

Welcome to the Waldglashütte Salto in the northern Waldviertel district, located right by the new long-distance hiking trail of the Lainsitz river, a trail I have already mentioned here …


Hier empfängt uns das Kreativ-Team kunstvoller Glasbläser bei der Arbeit ...

The creative team of perfectly trained glassblowing artists welcome us here …


... deren Konzentration rund um den glühenden, zähflüssigen Werkstoff mich vollständig in ihren Bann zieht.

… whose concentration in working with the hot glass puts me under a spell in no time.


Schon wenig später dürfen Gudrun und ich selbst Hand anlegen!

A little later, Gudrun and I are invited to try our own hands at working with this intriguing, hot glass material!


Gudrun gibt alles !!

Gudrun works her best – shaping hot glass in the Waldviertel district !!


Was für ein spezielles Gefühl, dieses zähen Werkstoff zu bearbeiten!

What a special feeling to work the glass here! We only get a few seconds at each process, before the fish cools off too much and has to be reheated in the furnace at our backs.


Ich bin fasziniert ...

Fascinated me …


Ich bin fasziniert ...

… my fish is ready !!!


Und auch Gudrun's Fisch kann sich sehen lassen, denke ich!

And Gudrun’s fish, too, deserves your attention (and praise, I believe)!


Beim Blick rund um den Ausstellungs- und Verkaufsraum der Waldglashütte Zalto fallen mir noch diese besonderen Ostereier aus Glas auf - wunderschön, findet Ihr nicht?

Taking a look around the premises, my eyes meet with these beautiful Easter eggs made out of glass. Lovely tradition, don’t you think?


Last but not least, and besides mentioning all these creative travel tips around the local crafts week in Waldviertel, I would still like to highlight one more gourmet travel tip including the local Brauhotel (brewing hotel) Weitra. Check out all their beer offers here, with Austria’s oldest brewing town always worthy of your visit.


Disclaimer: We have been invited by Waldviertel Tourismus in order to travel exploring the local crafts’ week of the Waldviertel district. All opinions are my own.

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