Mühlviertel in Upper Austria:
Travel Guide for the Upper Austrian Quarters
The province of Upper Austria is divided into four distinct cultural regions, the "Viertel" ("Quarters"): The Innviertel, the Hausruckviertel, the Traunviertel and the Mühlviertel. These ′Viertel′ usually only roughly correspond with political or administrative districts, the term is vernacularly used. The Mühlviertel is sometimes also called Mühlkreis and is the only one of Upper Austria′s four quarters that can be found north of the Danube.
The word "Mühle" means "mill", but the name Mühlviertel in fact derived from rivers of that name. The region is comprises of a scenic, hilly landscape with agricultural use and forests. Characteristics are the farmhouses in Steinbloß-style (with walls built from cement and the odd chunk of a natural granite stone), its many well-preserved Gothic churches as well as various castles, fortified towns and palaces.
That being said, the Mühlviertel is by no means touristy. The region ranks among my favourite in Upper Austria (if not Austria), yet it is almost only domestic visitors, often on business trips, that stop by. They miss out on a good blend of scenery and culture, as well as good connections to nearby Krumlov in the Czech Republic. The flora and fauna of the Mühlviertel are fairly distinct, partly due to a rather rough climate and the geological base (granite). Politically, the Mühlviertel comprises of four districts, each one named after its main town: Freistadt, Perg, Rohrbach and Urfahr-Umgebung. The towns of the same name are rather attractive and worth a closer look, only the area close to Linz (Urfahr) becomes commercial and less interesting.
Gothic Heritage & Other Mühlviertel Attractions
The late Middle Ages were the economic heyday of the Mühlviertel (mostly through textile production and trade), which explains the rich heritage in Gothic architecture. Be it the altar of Kefermarkt or the churches in and around Freistadt - the Mühlviertel contains a genuinely impressive number of Gothic sacral buildings. Note also the five Gothic "Flügelaltar", wooden altars with side-wings. In an attempt to pimp tourism, the local authorities connected some of the most interesting churches, altars and chapels in the Gothikstrasse, a theme road.
Another theme road is dedicated to the local production of beer and links seven breweries and a key to tourism is seen in spa holidays and "spiritual vacations" with meditation and other borderline-religious activities. The urge to stimulate the area comes from its economically difficult position: For decades, the iron curtain has constrained traffic and trade in the area; even today, many locals have to commute or move to Linz.
In the south of the Mühlviertel, you will find Mauthausen, the biggest of Austria′s concentration camps. It coordinated a network of labour camps all over Austria and is now a memorial site. Mauthausen is in a suitable distance for a day-trip from Linz; but for an in-depth experience of the Mühlviertel, you should rather have your own car and stay somewhere further north for at least one or two nights. Note the monastery of Schlägel, a couple of decent castles and the "Heidenstein bei Eibenstein", a granite block that served as a Pagan religious site. Note to forget the "Luftg′selchter Pfarrer von St. Thomas am Blasenstein", a naturally preserved mummy of a priest that now serves as a local claim to fame.
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