‘Going into the woods is going home’ John Muir
This is an update of a previous post. I hope you like the improvements!
When I need to take time out and unwind, I slip away into woodlands and drink in the beauty that surrounds me: the beckoning stillness; the rustle of leaves; the nod of woodland flowers; the rap of the woodpecker and the calling cry of circling buzzards. Each time I venture along a familiar woodland path, something new calls my attention. In the city of Vienna, the best place to do this is the Vienna Woods.
What are the Vienna Woods?
The Vienna woods have been called ‘the Green Lung’ of the city and form the foothills of the Northern Limestone Alps. The Vienna Woods are a vast expanse of beech covered hills that make finding peace and calm deliciously easy. While the outlaying ‘suburban villages’ of Nussdorf and Grinzing, make the transition from quiet woodland to imperial city seamless. The Vienna Woods prove a welcome rest from the hurly-burly of the city. In Summer, they provide respite from the intense heat, while in Autumn a feast of colour for the eyes. The woods are a perfect place to Forest Bathe.
Forest Bathing in the Vienna Woods
Forest bathing is a Japanese form of nature therapy, which has received attention for the scientifically-backed evidence that it improves mental and physical health. It has been shown to reduce blood pressure among many things, not just because you are physically present in woodland, but the chemicals certain trees emit are good for us.
Think how the smell of pine makes you feel, that moment the Christmas tree goes up and the whole house smells divine. It lifts your spirit. It’s good for your health too. Perhaps not for the tree, which was cut down. It’s a moot point in our household that my beloved doesn’t like cut plants in houses where they will die. Reluctantly, I take his point, but I do like real Christmas trees and fresh flowers. As a compromise, last year, I bought a Christmas tree with a root. It stayed inside for Christmas and now grows happily in the ground outside my window where I can still see it.
Time spend bathing in a woodland, needs to be ‘slow time’, so that you can become immersed in the natural environment. It is different from taking a walk to improve your fitness or as physical exercise, but I sometimes combine the two. There are some incredibly tranquil spaces up in these Vienna Woods, but you need to hike to get to them.
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How do you get to the Vienna Woods?
The Vienna Woods cover over 1000 square km. Now that’s an extensive amount of space to explore, over 240km of marked trails. Where do you start and how do you avoid getting lost?
There are ten well-marked city trails that are safe, easy to follow and accessible using public transport from within the city. These are substantial walks on well-maintained tracks but climb steeply into the woods. Most take between 2 – 4 hours to complete, so hiking shoes and boots are essential, along with clothing appropriate to the weather and a bottle of water. There are heuringers dotted along the trails, where its possible to get food and drink, but be aware that out of season these can be closed.
One of my favourite is City Hiking trail 2. To get a flavour of its beauty watch my youtube video, where I took an afternoon walk along this trail.
For your information
Vienna has a public transport system that truly works. A weekly ticket, running Monday to Monday will set you back € 17.20, that’s one ticket for every form of transport – tram, bus, city train, underground – for any number of journeys within the city limit.
I recommend an app called ANachB for finding your way around the city.
Talk to me please,
Dear trees, dear trees
Bring my battered soul some ease
Let this jaded heart
Take part, take part
In eternity’s musical march
A beat so simple.
A melody clean.
All but forgotten by human beings.