Through dense forests and over creeks and meadows, the path brought me up to the
top of the Jauerling, the highest mountain of the Wachau. It is 3000 feet high.
The trees just showed tiny green tops. It was still early spring here. Past storms had
uprooted sections of the forest; big trucks tires had dug deep grooves in the wet soil.
The area reminded me of a war zone. It was good to get out of that place.
At the foot of the 1000 Eimer Berg (1000 bucket mountain), I entered the cemetery of
Spitz. In good years, it was said that 1000 buckets of grapes could be harvested from
the vineyards on this mountain. The entrance tower to the cemetery was once a
Protestant chapel destroyed by the Catholic forces. Each grave has a little flower
garden. It was nice to walk from grave to grave – a feast of colors and smells. I
recognized many names on the crosses and gravestones.
The path winds through vineyards, grass land areas and forests and provided
gorgeous views down to the Danube valley. Castles, rocks and churches tell stories of
the past; legends of robbing knights and stories about deals with the devil came into
When I left Dürnstein, the sound of church bells filled the valley. Each church bell in
the villages sounds differently, yet they are tuned to each other. From the bakery, the
smell of fresh bread surrounded me. This bread is famous in the valley and is called
On the stone walls of the hundreds of years old terraces, plants grow under difficult
conditions. These plants are survivors. I had forgotten how much I loved this
vegetation. The stone walls are home for many animals. One of them is the green
lizard. In German, it is called a Smaragdeidechse. The best wine of the Wachau is
named after it.
The trek took me through the historic town of Krems, the beginning of the Wachau area.
In Krems, I went to High School. Medieval churches and buildings, baroque houses,
tiny, winding, cobblestone streets, steep stony stairways; all these things welcomed me after forty years of absence.
The Wachau Valley is a stretch of land along the Danube in Austria dedicated by
UNESCO as World Heritage Site. It is the land of my ancestors and here, I also was
born and raised. For two weeks, I rediscovered it by walking through the valley on a
trail called World Heritage Trail (Welterbesteig). It was a coming home. Coming
home as an intimate connection with everything around, with nature, culture and
people. I would love to share some of my experiences with you.