Wien Wetlands

Vienna has wetlands? Heck, I didn’t know that, either. But in fact, there is a really BIG park called the Donau-Auen that goes all the way from just north of Vienna to Bratislava. It is the largest protected natural wetland in Europe. It also provides flood protection for Vienna by allowing the waters to spill over along that length of the river. The river has been known to flood the park to a depth of seven meters!

Yesterday, we joined a CLO-sponsored trip to the park. It was perhaps not the best time of year to visit, because it’s still very much winter here and nothing is green or blooming. However, it was a crisp, sunny day and even the winter colors of the landscape are beautiful in their way. It was a nice three-hour walk with a picnic halfway along.

European nature can seem rather sparse compared to the lush American environment. On a winter’s day hike anywhere in Virginia, we would have probably seen ten times as many birds and critters as we did in even in this large protected wetlands. And we didn’t see one fish or turtle in the ponds. Honestly, I think there was more wildlife living in the woods behind my house in the DC suburbs than there is in the entire Donau-Auen. I have often thought that early English settlers must have thought they fetched up in the jungle when they landed at Jamestown.

But, we certainly wouldn’t have seen wild boar tracks and feeding areas in Virginia. And I’m thinking the Austrian beavers must be gigantic, based on their handiwork (yes, there are beavers in Austria!) There aren’t many birds in the park, at least in winter, but they are different birds than we see at home. I saw one pheasant running across the trail, and our guide (a volunteer from the embassy community) said that he normally sees egrets.

It is possible that several little boys that came along on the hike may have scared some wildlife away, but they were so darn happy and had such a good time skipping rocks on the ponds that it made me downright wistful for the days when our big, hairy teenager was so easily amused. Never mind that he would definitely have jumped in the first pond he saw…

There are a lot of different paths throughout the park and we’ll certainly be back when the weather warms up. I can imagine that the flowers and birds would be well worth seeing in April or May. One nice thing about this trip was that we met several other people in the mission community who, like us, are more into outdoors than opera. We picked up some good tips about other hiking opportunities in the area. We had already decided to try all the Vienna “Stadtwanderwegs” while we are posted here. Now, as soon as it warms up a bit, we are going to try some Alpine trails that are just an hour or two away. Hike on!

The Lobau nature center.  I am still getting used to living in a country where facilities like this are at least as nice as they are in the States.
The Lobau nature center. I am still getting used to living in a country where facilities like this are at least as nice as they are in the States.
Pick your path.
Pick your path.
The beaver pond.
The beaver pond.
See what I mean?  These must be really BIG beavers.
See what I mean? These must be really BIG beavers.
The beavers like to chew the bark off to get to the sweet sap underneath.
The beavers like to chew the bark off to get to the sweet sap underneath.
These Austrian beavers must be really smart.  They have started to build a raft!
These Austrian beavers must be really smart. They have started to build a raft!
Interesting fungus on a beaver-felled tree stump.
Interesting fungus on a beaver-felled tree stump.
I am fascinated by the birch trees here.
I am fascinated by the birch trees here.
An Austrian hiker catching up on vitamin D.
An Austrian hiker catching up on vitamin D.
More birch trees against the winter wetland backdrop.
More birch trees against the winter wetland backdrop.
Just another cool tree.
Just another cool tree.
There is an extensive wooden pathway built over this part of the wetland.
There is an extensive wooden pathway built over this part of the wetland.
Wetland meadow.
Wetland meadow.
Some kind of northern swamp grass.
Some kind of northern swamp grass.
OK, one more shot of birch trees.
OK, one more shot of birch trees.
And, back at the nature center, there is of course a coffee machine, a snack machine, and tables with little bulb vases on them where you can have an oh-so-civilized snack.
And, back at the nature center, there is of course a coffee machine, a snack machine, and tables with little bulb vases on them where you can have an oh-so-civilized snack.
"Mocca Hell" tastes a lot better than it sounds. Really, even with "Extra Hell."
“Mocca Hell” tastes a lot better than it sounds. Really, even with “Extra Hell.”
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7 comments

  1. Absolutely stunning. Kind of looks how parts of Jackson might look in 4-6 weeks, after the snow is gone. And thanks, Patricia, for the hell translation. I was about to look it up. I figured something like that.

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  2. i’m especially appreciative of the photography that goes with your blogs. btw, at the risk of being branded an antediluvian purist, i maintain that your delightful Well That Was Different blogs should properly be retitled Well, That Was Different. or is that just a typo or is the underline just covering the comma? ~edmund

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  3. Oh this post makes me homesick for Frankfurt. There we could walk 10 minutes to the U-Bahn, catch the train to the last stop in Ooberusel, and be right at the start of kilometers of hiking trails winding through the Taunus Mountains, which were not particularly mountain-like, more big hills, but great hiking all the same. I can’t wait to see the pictures of that place in springtime.

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