South of Vienna, just where the foothills of the Alps begin, is also the area where the Viennese forests start. For centuries musicians, authors, artists, and princes have retreated here to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. .And it was here amidst the streams, the springs, the undulating landscape covered somewhere by rolling grasslands and somewhere by beeches, oaks and hornbeams , with clouds floating past the peaks ,that were they at their creative best.. It is said Viennese woods cast a magical spell and inspired many from Beethoven to Kafka.
And while princes hunted here, many often forgot their regal duties and obligations. We were taken to see Mayerling chapel at the former royal hunting lodge, the scene of suicide of the married Prince in 1889 and his mistress, which had been converted into a nunnery by the parents of the hapless prince. And at the spot, even today the inmates hold regular prayers..
Deep in the forest, at Heiligenkreuz, is an abbey where the first Sistine monks came from France in the 13th century and built a chapel, which has been active through the centuries. Even today resident monks study, contemplate, pray and farm there.
And nature is at its most remarkable best at the subterranean lake, accessed through a long tunnel dug initially for mining gypsum salt. but later for used by the army during World War II. Today Seagrotte is for nature lovers who walk down to the lake and take a boat ride in the spring water fed, marine-less water body in the quietness of the cave.
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