It’s many years already that my friends and fellow travel bloggers have been visiting the monasteries, abbeys and convents of the Austrian association “Klösterreich”, whose goal is to promote monastic products and offers for tourism. We have, for instance, learned more about the healing arts of “TEM” (Traditional European Medicine) off a religious order of nuns in Upper Austria, or been invited to see how monastic life and modern media, including a television studio, can go together at Heiligenkreuz Abbey. Many times, we have also spent the night at a “Klösterreich” monastery, as most of them offer this kind of spiritual retreat through guest houses. I still remember quite vividly all the conversations we’ve had with monks, nuns and abbots, who have often surprised us with their openness and intriguing world visions. The same is true for our most recent outing, this time to the Abbey of Rein, near the city of Graz in Styria in the south of Austria. What’s particular about this day trip, is that I could also bring my little son, just over a year old, and still make it a worthwhile day for all of us.
Visiting Rein Abbey comes with almost 1000 years of history, an excellent gastronomic offer as well as several options for hiking and walking – also or even as a young family.
Ever since Liam has been born, I must admit to checking each day trip or holiday option also from his point of view: Will he like it? Are there options provided for (young) kids? Stroller-friendly trails and pathways? A lawn or playground perhaps? Definitely, he’s been impressed by the sheer sight of the huge buildings of the abbey (including the loud bell tolling from the church tower!), the colours of the church and facades, as well as the friendly reception we’ve had from staff and monks alike. I do agree with him, and can also tell you that Rein Abbey is the oldest Cistercian monastery in the world that has continuously had a community of monks living in it. It was founded in 1129, and all of the abbey church’s delicate interior has been made by Styrian artists, which is a remarkable achievement. Today, efforts are towards preparing for the 900-year-anniversary coming up in 2029, efforts that still see an entire inner courtyard being restored to its former glory. It’s Father August Janisch who is our host for the day, and who clearly enjoys guiding us around Rein Abbey. Check this out.
Just outside the main abbey buildings, we find a restaurant, a playground, as well as several options for a short walk or hike.
Liam, at only 13 months old, has a very healthy appetite and literally devours everything that you put in front of him. I make use of this trend while it lasts and order him a healthy local fish meal, including potatoes and vegetables. It’s something I would have liked to eat myself, and all meals we share here are really good. While we eat, my mum uses the playground to take care of Liam, and thus gives me some time to relax. After lunch, it’s only a ten minute walk to reach the entrance to a lush green valley full of forest trails for walking and hiking, perfect for stretching your legs a bit. It all belongs to Rein Abbey, and even includes a short trail for barefoot walking! Liam would love that, if only he could walk already!
Last but not least, we stop at the Pilgrimage Church Maria Strassengel.
This iconic church sits high above a village of almost the same name, Judendorf-Strassengel, and is worth the visit if but for the views from the top. Besides, the church is a famous example of high Gothic style in Austria (everything literally soars skywards!) and holds something very rare and unique: A naturally grown wooden cross that has come to being venerated like a relic. Liam is impressed (though mostly by the moving light of the many candles inside the church) and we chuckle at seeing the precious church building through his wide-eyed smiles!
Spending this day near Graz in Styria, we can clearly say that you may also visit both religious places with (very) young children and still enjoy the cultural, gastronomic and natural offer of this place. The histories of both Rein Abbey as well as Maria Strassengel are definitely worth exploring.
Disclaimer: We have been invited on this trip by the association “Klösterreich” in order to visit Rein Abbey as well as the local pilgrimage church Maria Straßengel. All opinions are my own.