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The Wachau-Nibelungengau-Kremstal region: Attractions for food lovers

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The Danube region in Lower Austria Foreign Languages

Rich cultural treasures, Europe’s most charming river valley and a sun-drenched, internationally renowned winegrowing region – the Wachau–Nibelungengau-Kremstal region is a unique work of art and favoured meeting place for food enthusiasts from all over the world. Wachau was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2000 as one of Austria’s oldest cultural landscapes. This is a landscape which offers more than just beautiful scenery – it is also a real paradise for bon vivants and wine lovers.

Thousands of years ago, the Wachau-Nibelungengau-Kremstal region was populated by settlers who lived in harmony with nature and became an integral part of this natural environment. Archaeological finds such as the 'Dancing Venus of Galgenberg' (Stratzing bei Krems, around 32,000 BC) and the 'Venus von Willendorf' (Willendorf, approx. 20,000 BC) bear testament to the long-standing cultural tradition of the Wachau region. Following migratory disturbances, the abbeys began to shape the economic and cultural life in Wachau. In around 830, the left bank of the Danube running from Spitz to Aggsbach was referred to as 'Wahowa' for the first time, from which the name Wachau was later derived.

The history of the Wachau civilisation has also shaped the powerful flow of the Danube. Numerous traders and travellers, armies of crusaders and groups of pilgrims, have passed through Wachau by ship over the years, each time making a new contribution to art and science in the area.

Wachau has been a land of winegrowing since Roman times. Its white wines can give any winegrowing region of the world a run for its money. This is proven by the region's numerous international successes, with its Rieslings and Grünen Veltliners often ranked alongside some of the most famous wines of France and Italy. A wide range of top quality wines are on offer all year round in Wachau and can be enjoyed in a pleasant atmosphere, such as the open-air wine-garden of the 'Kellerschlössel' wine cellar in Dürnstein, the 'Winzer Krems' winegrowers in Krems, and many other smaller well-known winegrowers in Wachau.

Winegrowing tradition
Almost three-quarters of the region's vineyards were owned by the church at the end of the 15th century, predominantly by the monasteries of Bavaria. At that time, there were more than 50 'Lesehöfe' wine-harvesting centres in Wachau where the wine was pressed. Winegrowing and trade flourished at that time: the wine was shipped to Upper Austria and Bavaria on barges and ships, whereas salt, iron and other goods were imported into Wachau. Tow paths ran along the banks to enable the horses to pull the ships upstream more easily.

Pure quality wines
Today, the winegrowers of Wachau are producing wines of the highest quality: there are around 200 members of the 'Vinea Wachau Nobilis Districtus' area protection union, meaning that 85% of Wachau's winegrowing area meets the quality criteria set by this union. In particular, members are not permitted to purchase grapes from other winegrowing regions. There are three categories in place to emphasise the unique nature of the wines from the vineyards of the Danube valley, between Spitz and Krems: Steinfeder (light, aromatic wines with low alcohol content), Federspiel (classic dry wines, richer in content) and Smaragd (the largest category and most valuable wines of Wachau)

Wachau and the surrounding area are a real paradise for food lovers. Very few regions offer such a wide variety of fresh quality products which are transformed into real culinary delights. Wachau is one of the world's top destinations for food lovers. Dining in Wachau means sampling the finest regional delicacies along with a glass or two of the internationally renowned local wines.

Local cuisine and the winegrowing tradition
An initial exploration of the regional specialities on offer should begin with a visit to a wine tavern. Many of these simple taverns have beautiful gardens with a real romantic atmosphere on a warm Summer's evening. Snacks are also offered, according to the traditional winegrowing tradition and served with the many wines on offer. These hearty snacks and meals are accompanied by Wachau's famous bread rolls: the 'Wachauerlaberl' was created by the Bäckerei Schmidl bakery in Dürnstein. Top quality wine tavern cuisine can also be enjoyed in Summer in the shade of the towering linden trees in the inner courtyard of the Nikolaihof in Mautern.

From local guesthouses to award-winning restaurants

Down-to-earth top quality cuisine is also typically served in the region's guesthouses such as the Gasthaus Jell in Krems. If you fancy savouring the very best food has to offer, Wachau is home to some top class restaurants: the Landhaus Bacher in Mautern, the Loibnerhof in Unterloiben and the Holzapfels Prandtauerhof in Joching.

Apricots & Fish
Wachau's top culinary delights include the unique Wachau apricot, which has been awarded EU protection. Its delicious and unique flavour can be found in dumplings, jams and sophisticated desserts. The fish of the Danube - the huchen, pike and zander - are also delicious. They are bred in the distributaries of the Danube and are supplied to restaurants throughout Wachau to be used in sophisticated local dishes.

Nibelungengau. Delve into culture & history
Nibelungengau is so-called because, according to the Song of the Nibelungs, Rüdiger von Bechelaren (Pöchlarn) is said to have received his position as liegeman of King Attila of the Huns here. The term refers to the valley west of Wachau between Ybbs and Melk.

Ybbs is the first in a string of beautiful cities with a wide range of cultural sights on offer. The annual 'Ybbsiade' event - a two-week long cabaret and art festival - is one of the most significant events of its kind in Austria. Further down the river, on the right bank of the Danube valley is Maria Taferl, one of Austria's most important places of pilgrimage. More than 300,000 pilgrims each year enjoy the magnificent views of the Danube valley from here each year, along with many other visitors.

Pöchlarn is home to the world-famous expressionist Oskar Kokoschka. The Kokoschka documentation centre has been set up in the house where he was born and contains around 100 works by this great impressionist.

Schloss Artstetten - a charming white castle located high above the Danube with seven striking onion spires. This was formerly a Summer residence of the Kaiser and his family. It was here that heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand, who was subsequently murdered in Sarajevo, and his wife, the Duchess of Hohenberg, were buried. There is also a museum providing insight into the private life of this heir to the throne.

Wachau. An inspiring river valley
Melk signals the western side of the region of Wachau, which has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status. From here, the Danube weaves its way past craggy cliffs and vineyards, monasteries and castles, on to Krems, on the eastern side of the Wachau region.

The Melk Baroque monastery is home to a world-famous library stocking more than 100,000 volumes, as mentioned in Umberto Eco's bestseller 'The Name of the Rose'. The monastery's most important cultural events include its annual international Baroque festival and Whitsun concerts.

In Schönbühel-Aggsbach, the former charterhouse (1380-1782), the Wolfstein castle ruins and the Aggstein 'robber baron' castle, built in 1100, are particularly worth a visit and offer magnificent views of the Danube valley.

The 'Schifffahrtsmuseum' the ship transport museum in Spitz is housed in the Barock-Schloss Erlahof castle. It contains more than 400 exhibits on the topic of shipping on the Danube, ranging from a ship wreck and its cargo from the year 1810 to numerous model ships to the scale of 1:20.

During the Summer solstice, Spitz - like many other places in Wachau - is transformed into a town of torches and Summer solstice fires. This impressive event brings thousands of visitors to Wachau each year.

Dürnstein, with its blue monastery tower, offers probably the best-known view of Wachau. The town is also home to the ruins of the castle where Richard Lionheart spent a long time following his capture in 1192. The mediaeval old town, with its little alleyways leading down to the banks of the Danube, is a great place for a romantic walk.

Krems, at the eastern end of Wachau, is one of Austria's biggest cultural towns. The town is home to a historic collection of buildings in its centre. Not only does it have a history dating back more than 100 years, it also offers an active range of contemporary cultural activities. The art hall on the 'Krems art mile' houses various international exhibitions whereas the caricature museum offers a unique showcase of satire and cartoons, in addition to various temporary exhibitions.

The Stift Göttweig monastery, known as the 'Austrian Montecassino' due to its location and dimensions, signifies the end of Wachau on the southern banks of the Danube. The monumental Kaiser staircase and fresco paintings by Paul Troger are particularly impressive features of this Baroque monastery, which was founded in 1083.

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Jutta Mucha-Zachar
Donau Niederösterreich Tourismus GmbH
A-3620 Spitz an der Donau
Schlossgasse 3
T: +43 2713 30060-24
F: +43 2713 30060-30

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Donau NÖ Tourismus GmbH
A-3620 Spitz an der Donau
Schlossgasse 3
T: +43 2713 30060-60
F: +43 2713 30060-30 

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