Via Sacra pilgrimage from Vienna to Mariazell, Austria. 9th October 2017. Day 5. On foot with my backpack. The first half of Stage 3.
Route: Lilienfeld, Moosbach, Türnitz.
‘She had a long and uncertain road ahead of her, but once she was free again her serenity returned.’ from Gertrude Bell, ‘Queen of the Desert’.
The architecture of Lilienfeld Monastery is impressive, and somehow felt like home, although I got lost many times and was late to Matins (the morning service) for that reason. I had been given a key and shown around when I arrived the day before, but it was dark in the early morning and all the doors looked the same. I opened them one by one, circumambulating the cloisters and finding myself repeatedly back where I began by the inside fountain.
In the end I discovered the monks’ way in and sat silently behind the altar until the break between services when I moved into a pew. I had received news of my Great Aunt’s death (she was an impressive 106 years old) and recalled happy memories and inevitably shed some tears.
There is a very famous library here with amazing sounding manuscripts, but nothing I could say would persuade them to allow me access. You can find information by clicking here.
‘..taught at least some wisdom by solitude, taught submission,….’ Gertrude Bell from ‘Queen of the Desert’.
It was a chilly, almost sunny day when I got outside. The hours of silence between 4.30pm and 8am meant that speaking to the kind people in the bank was rather weird, and I felt shy with my limited German. Although many inhabitants of Vienna and nearby have great English, once in the countryside I found that I had to dredge my mind for my O’ Level deutsch. I was very grateful to receive helpful tips to find the path.
Looking back towards where I had walked the day before, it seemed as if there was a large beast behind the buildings breathing cloud and mist up in front of the mountains.
That drifting cloud made the slopes look other-worldly up there where it is so quiet. There was a smell of wood smoke down in the valley, and a roar of lorries driving through the industrial area, all against a backdrop of wooded hills draped in their early autumn colours. Everywhere during this period were orange, green and yellow pumpkins on doorsteps, window sills and in shop windows, heralding Halloween and harvest.
50 kms to go – half way to Mariazell, my destination – with a cold wind about my ears once again. Men were at work and my footsteps felt gentle in this world of contrasts: a good balance between active Yang-type movement, and contemplative Yin-type peace by the River Traisen. Of course industry and nature both co-exist in the landscape.
The path was lined with silver birches and I was juggling my walking poles in order to take photographs.
Further along there are two tunnels and the river is a jade green below.
I attempt to watch and follow my moods. Rather than fixing them in advance (deciding that I will feel good today, for example), or stopping myself by being critical (no, you can’t feel x), or practicing denial (of course you are not hungry, you have only just had breakfast), it can be interesting to follow them as they flow. In reality they constantly respond to the environment or to thoughts, and I observe that they change and morph if I do not focus on them too much. Moreover, very difficult ones do pass, perhaps more easily if they are not ‘trodden on’ or ‘pushed underground’.
There is more widespread logging at Moosbach, and bright yellow houses with pink pointed rooves. The slopes are steep and stony and there are Xmas trees growing. The concrete paths are physically hard on the soles of my feet and mentally challenging with the repetition.
As I hike, family memories flit in and out of my mind; I spot Highland cattle and multiple funghi in all shapes and sizes; free range chickens seem to be enjoying their day.
Myriad fascinations: Himalayan Balsam the colour of my magenta scarf; spears of grass spike through the mottled leaves, dark brown at the edges; green-fronded moss softens rock oulines; wild strawberries send out lifelines to enable their offspring to live before putting down their own roots; hard ash nibs are just waiting for a sheet of paper to write on; wild marjoram and self-sown beech saplings sprout in the undergrowth.
There was more: a green field with a crop of solar panels; jolly geranium window boxes whose rooves sit over them like wooden bob caps; huge calving heifers; and inside an internal battle where I tell myself off all the time.
There were rows of houses which might have been the first you drew and coloured in when you were wee. They have four square windows in front but no door. I note that, in line with the principles of Fung Shui which protects against negative, invasive Chi (which like all Chi moves in straight lines), the owners can see what is coming but because the door is round the side it does not let the unwanted energy in every time it is opened.
Well, it happened again! I arrived in Türnitz which was effectively shut for the winter, and although my leaflet gave me names of several places to sleep the night, the woman in the shop said there was only one option. I popped into that hotel/bar, disbelieving, to have a cup of tea and something to eat and she assured me her rooms were full anyway. But after investigating, it was clear that hers was indeed the only venue, so back I went to get my rucksack and to plead, and very kindly she allowed me to stay.