Often you find tours that are specifically themed such as those that are historical, artistic, romantic or playful. However, I have found a tour with Vienna Sightseeing that covers so many themes that it will invoke many emotions in you during your experience. This fantastic and reputable tour company offers you the chance to see three exceptional sights within 4 hours for the cost of only 57 EUR (65 USD) per person. The name of the tour is, “Vienna Woods” and it has to be one of my favourite tours in Austria.
You will travel by bus and no time will be wasted during your four hours as you get to see the southern part of Austria which includes passing a Roman spa town, driving through a romantic valley, visiting a memorial chapel, a monastery and an underground lake. As you pass through and see all of these sights, you will be accompanied by superb and knowledgeable guides that will flawlessly move through multiple languages. This tour truly is an excellent way to see beyond the confines of the city and if you’re curious to find out more, please do read my review in full.
Passing through Vienna Woods
Your tour will depart from Staat Oper/State Opera and on route you will pass Baden, which is a former Roman spa town that is famous for its hot springs. You will also drive through Helen’s Valley, which is a really blissful and romantic journey as you’re able to see nature in its most beautiful and natural form. Your first stop will be at a former hunting lodge in Mayerling, which is now the site of a memorial chapel, as featured in the photograph. The drive is a real delight as you will have the opportunity to see the beautiful landscape which includes some gorgeous countryside. I found that it was fascinating to travel through the Austrian countryside via the weaving roads and through the deep forests and open country and I am sure that you will feel the same way too.
Stop 1: Mayerling and its chapel
Once you arrive at the memorial chapel, you will be briefly told about its famous history that is heart-warming yet shocking at the same time. This is because at this exact site, both love and tragedy occurred; it is known to be the spot of Austria’s Romeo and Juliet story. It is the site where Prince Rudolf, the son of Emperor Franz Joseph, is believed to have committed suicide with Baroness Vetsera in 1889. It is, however, controversial, whether it was a suicide or a murder and is a mystery even till today.
As this is the first sight that you will see in your tour, if there is a misty mood to the weather, then it will simply add to the atmosphere of revisiting the steps of the tragedy which took place here, which in turn makes it so much more real. As the history of this sight is relayed to you by your guide, you will be so captivated that it will be hard to equally take in the beauty that you are surrounded by, which has now, today, turned into a Carmelite convent, with a chapel and altar that are exactly on the spot where the prince and baroness were found dead. Daily mass is celebrated at this spot.
Stop 2: Abbey Heiligenkreuz and its monks
Your second stop will be the Abbey Heiligenkreuz, which is a monastery that lies in a peaceful and secluded valley in the Vienna Woods. It is a sight that is of great historical, artistic and cultural importance and was founded in 1133 by St. Leopold III of the House of Babenberg. The monastery is a Cistercian monastery and is the oldest monastery in Europe standing today. It is still in use and is a deeply spiritual place. The monks that have made home in this sacred venue read and meditate on the word of God and live at one with their God in this very peaceful paradise. Whilst you are in the monastery, you are of course advised to be respectful and quiet as you move around.
The monks are incredibly warm and welcome visitors and guests in an abundance; it is estimated that there are more than 100,000 tourists who visits the monastery a year. The monks have also achieved fame with their holy voices and have recorded a CD titled, “Chant - Music for Paradise” and this haunting, yet measured meditation music that they have created can transport one into an inner spiritual place, full of strength, harmony and peace. The monks also use social media to reach as many people as possible and promote their heritage and philosophy, so you may find it worthwhile to check them out online.
A tour around the incredible and historical monastery
Your personable guide will take you around the monastery and you may get the opportunity to see the Fountain House and the Abbey Church. The Fountain House served as the washing room until the middle of the 16th century and the fountain that is included was made in Rome in 1556. The Abbey Church was build in a Romanesque and Gothic style and was finished in 1187 and includes a high altar stand in the middle. This entire monastery is one of the best maintained attractions that I have ever visited. It is so beautiful and serene and has so many wonderful things to see. The long corridors are built in perfect symmetry, with an enchanting interplay of light and shadows. The stained glass windows will leave you speechless and the floor to ceiling organ and finely carved seats for the monks’ prayers is a breath-taking sight to see.
Stop 3: Seegrotte Hinterbrühl
On route from your second stop, you will pass Höldrichsmühle, which was once an old mill where the famous composer Franz Schubert created music. You will get to see this from the bus before you arrive to your third and final stop, which is the Seegrotte Hinterbrühl. The Seegrotte Hinterbrühl is an absolutely amazing sight but as it is off the proverbial beaten path, it is certainly worth visiting in a packaged tour such as the “Vienna Woods” tour with Vienna Sightseeing.
The site was basically an underground gypsum mine and in 1912 there was an underground blasting where 20 million litres (52,83,441 gallons) of water gushed from behind the rock and into the mining site, which created Europe’s largest underground lake. Prior to and during World War II, this sight was used by the German military as an underground aircraft factory in which 2,000 people worked. The factory was under the leadership of Ernst Heinkel, who produced one of the first jet fighters of the world, which is known as the “Heinkel HE 162 Salamander”.
During your tour, you will be given the opportunity to walk in the original miners’ steps down a long and narrow, cold tunnel which subsequently opens up into large caverns. The temperature in the mine is approximately 9 degrees Celsius (48 F). You will have a new tour guide for this tour who will be with you for the duration of your time in Seegrotte Hinterbrühl. The walk into the tunnel is for approximately 5 minutes and you will then do a 30 minute walk by foot within the mine so that you can see various points of interest including a set from a movie and banquet halls.
Enjoy a boat ride in the underground lake
Once you have completed this 30 minute tour, you will then climb down approximately 85 steps for your short but memorable boat ride. As you climb down the steps, you will feel the temperature drop even more. You would be advised to bring some warm clothing that you can wear so that you can enjoy the boat ride without feeling the chill.
The boat ride of the actual underground lake lasts around 10 minutes and is a truly spectacular experience. Your first glimpse of the underground lake and as you embark onto the boat will be that of the lake being so picturesque and yet feeling so unreal. As you sail around the lake you will see the mystically lighted galleries, the green shimmering water and the rough stone wall which will collectively add to creating a rather special atmosphere.
Whilst you are on the boat ride, you will learn about the uses of the cave and the enchanting clear and beautiful water, which has no fish or plants as the sunlight cannot reach here. It truly is an enjoyable experience to see the entire mine and the enchanting and historical underground lake. It is a chilling and enchanting journey.
A tour with Vienna Sightseeing is strongly recommended
Now, there is no doubt that there are more than enough things to do in the city of Vienna. However, if you want to escape the city for a few hours, then a tour with Vienna Sightseeing is definitely the way to go. In a fairly short time, you get a feeling for the local landscape and towns and can see three different periods of Austrian history in only 4 hours. The tour is paced perfectly and runs smoothly; you do have enough time to take a look around at all the sights and take in the information provided by the guides.
I strongly recommend this brilliant tour and urge you to book directly with Vienna Sightseeing. The beauty in this tour will captivate, enchant and mesmerise you. The peacefulness and tranquillity in the sights is hard to believe as they are so close to the city and this means that their sights that you have got to see for yourself!
I would suggest that rather than travel to each of these sights on your own, that you travel with Vienna Sightseeing, as it will be a much more easier and informative experience. You will get to see the gorgeous landscape, a church, a monastery, a mine and an underwater lake and this is something that would be harder to organise on your own and enjoy at such ease!
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