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Wachau Cultural Landscape in Austria

Wachau cultural landscape is a popular Austrian valley of exceptional visual quality formed by the Danube River. It transverses the lower Austria and forms one of the key features in the tourist attraction. Wachau stretches thirty kilometers between the towns of Melk and Krems. Its inhabitation dates back to the ancient times. The main magnetic features of the landscape which serve as tourists’ attraction are rich monasteries, the remains of early Christian churches, Melk abbeys and Durnstein, a historic place where Duke Leopold V held King Richard the Lionheart of England captive.

The origin of the Wachau cultural landscape dates back to the Paleolithic times. The rich religious background acted as the main contributor to the development of Wachau landscape. The production of apricots and grapes, which resulted in increased production of wine and distinctive liquor contributed immensely to the development of Wachua valley. The landscape is also well endowed with picturesque historic towns and exciting buildings that make it peculiar. The Danube river banks and the stretch of the valley fault line also represent a scenic feature.

The architectural chic of its antique monasteries, castles and built-up architecture makes up the valley. Therefore, it is a cultural landscape that developed from religious, architectural, archeological and agricultural activities. The greatest archeological features in the development of Wachau include the remains of the Kuenringerburg castle and the town of Saint Michael (Cambodia Air Defense, 2010).

There are features and remains which show the existence of settlement in Wachau in the pre-historic period. Agricultural activities contributed vastly to the current cultural landscape, which underwent land deforestation for the purposes of settlement and agricultural activities. Agricultural activities also necessitated the contribution of wine growers. Moreover, setting up monasteries such as Bavarian and Salzburg contributed immensely to Wachau valley development. In modern Wachu valley, there are prestigious facilities such Vienna restaurant and modern architectural masterpieces in Melk abbey, Canon Abbey, and Gotteayn abbey.

Wachau cultural landscape includes immigrants and ethnic communities. The indigenous inhabitants consist of Slovenes, Croats, and Hungarians; these were considered minorities and enjoyed certain rights. The official language of the landscape is German, the official language of the Land. Immigrants in the cultural landscape predominantly include Turks. Wachau in particular and Austria in general  have an enormous population of people of various nationalities, hence one may find a variety of languages. The largest spoken linguistic population is Serbo-Croatian. This is the native language of the Wachau Valley. Other languages with notable numbers of native speakers are Turkish, being the second in population, and German, being third in population and spoken by the native Germans.

Religion has played an extremely prominent role in the development and shaping of the Wachau cultural landscape. This dates back to the pre-historic time and is evidenced by the constructed monasteries, castles and the churches on the valley. There also existsthe traditional system of worship, pilgrimages, and religious festivals. In the towns of Krems and Stein, there is a Paragon chest of sacral architecture that displays churches of striving gothic elegance; these include the hospital church and the Piarist church. There is also the Krems parish church of St. Vitus. The Dominican church is peculiar for its retaining the features of the Romanesque and gothic epochs, despite heterodoxy. These towns host the Zeit Kunst and the Museumkrems state gallery. Other historic religious sites in Stein include the ancient gothic chapel of St. Mathew of the Forthof vintners and the Baroque parish with the church of St. Nicholas. Churches and abbeys in Wachau cultural landscape are the core cultural treasures; they stretch from St Severin in the vineyards of Mautern, Gottweig Abbey and the way of St James.

There are also copious pilgrimage destinations such as Maria Langegg, Schonbuhel monastery the Gossam castle chapel, the Calvary and Maria Laach. Moreover, sanctified Catholic buildings can be revealed in every community in the Wachau landscape. In the Durnstein town, the Durstein tower, which expands above the tiling roofs, is of Augustinian canons. Its monastery got dissolved in the eighteenth century, and the church is currently under the Herzogenberg abbey. This town is also well endowed with castles. Another early religious feature is the St. Michael’s, the first parish to be built; it contains thirteen houses and has played a significant role in the historic development of the Wachau. Its archeological curiosity is presented by seven hares on the ridge.

There are convents along the Danube river founded around the thirteenth century, for example, the convent of poor Clares. Today this convent forms part of the Richard Lowenherz Hotel and the remains of the church of Cunigunda near the east gate. Finally, the scenic historic buildings of the eleventh and thirteenth centuries are worth seeing such as the parish church at Weibenkirchen, which was one of the supreme church strongholds. Other powerful religious features that have contributed to the picturesque nature of the landscape are the late gothic fortified church and St.Margaretha Parish Churchat at Niederranna and the bake house. The bake house serves as a museum currently, and bread bakes in the four hundred years old clays oven once a month. The beautiful Oberrana castles also form an attractive feature (Winton & Woldendorp, 2000: 198-220). The St. Georges chapel and its Romanesque crypt are almost a thousand years old, hence they act as historic sites attracting many tourists. The castle has since become a stylish inn for quite a good time.

The Baroque Calvary hill in Unterranna forms a clandestine tip; it is entirely reachable at any time. Next to it on the northern edge stands the luxuriously decorated pilgrimageCchurch of the Holy Blood, which attracts thousands of Christian’s pilgrims across the globe annually. Since ancient times, Christian pilgrims have made pilgrimages along the way of St. James the apostle to Santiago de Compostella in Spain in order to pray for forgiveness or mercy at the grave of St James.

It is also significant to highlight the religious and traditional festivals that characterize Wachau. During these festivals such as the wine christening and harvesting season both men and women wear celebration costumes. It is thus well to classify Wachau cultural landscape as a religious focal. The denomination highly upheld in this region is the Catholic Church. This is illustrated by the monastery and parishes that were founded as early as the tenth century, such as the St, Michael church. There is also evidence of protestant track in the area, which started around sixteenth century. Currently the main protestant site is the Plitz protestant chapel in the castle. All in all, the key cultural aspect of this region, which also contributed to its scenic historical features, is the Christian religion (Trever, 2012).

The land settlement pattern in Wachau is mainly the urban center with towns within the landscape. The influence of this settlement pattern is largely linked to religious and agricultural activities in Wachau. Dense settlements may be also found along the Danube River. There are highly populated settlements along the monasteries, parishes and castles. This can be exemplified by the dense settlement pattern along the Benedictine monastery, which serves several parishes around it. On the further bank of the Danube River, the Artstetten Castle was the vastly artistic resting place of the heir ostensible Franz Ferdinand, who got killed in Sarajevo, and his spouse Sophie. The Baroque castle and trivial gallery at Leiben also form a suitable settlement and a tourist destination point. Above the Danube stands the best pilgrimage spot in Lower Austria – the Baroque jewel of Maria Taferl, with its extraordinary image and comforting guest inn. At a small distance from Melk, clearly visible from the Westautobahn, one comes across the Schallaburg Renaissance castle with settlements around it.

The land has agricultural activities with a long history in forestry and horticulture. The Göttweig Abbey monks have since developed considerable expertise in arboriculture. Currently the abbey has a sustainable range of Woodland resources. Fishing has been practiced in the Danube River with a wide diversity of species of fish. There are also fish ponds where breeds of fish such as Nase, strobe and the well-known Danube salmon have a habitat and sanctuary.

The Wachau cultural landscape also serves markedly as a tourist zone, hence a lot of tourists visit the land every year making tourism a foreign exchange earner. Another principal economic activity of the land is the wine brewing industry. In the Wachau cultural landscape, wine and liquor production is widespread virtually in all towns (Scott & Woldendorp, 1986: 68-92). Indeed, Wachau is the most renowned wine making area in Austria; it owes its refined white to the ultimate climatic settings and its many vintners. The major varieties of wine in this region are Riesling and Gruner Veltliner. The chief modern wine growing plant is the Domane Wachau.

Water plays an exceedingly salient role in the cultural landscape of the Wachau Valley. This is because it is valuable for various economic activities taking place in the land. The Danube River is the major source of water in this valley. The presence of water makes it possible to engage in agricultural activities through irrigation process; it also allows for fishing and acts as a means of transport. The Danube river meets the water requirement in the winegrowing areas through the irrigation process and, as a result, many of the dry terraces have been enabled to provide wine yards. Water availability has led to the increased agricultural production.

There are various eminent traits in the Wachua cultural landscape that make it a valuable and scenic land. The existence of exciting monuments makes the place a destination for numerous tourists. Also, there area lot of archeological sites, monasteries and castles that the Wachau cultural landscape endows. The geographical monuments that describe the landscape include the Danube River, which flows by an eastern-westerly route. The river has meanders making it a profitable land scape in agricultural production. The Danube River is a devilishly attractive and picturesque river that enhances the beautiful appearance of the Wachua cultural landscape. Melk is a town at the bank of Danube; it symbolises the start of Wachua valley (Lee, 2012). It is an ancient town with the historic link to the Roman Empire. Further to the other end are Krems and Stein. Other notable towns include Splits, Durnstein and Willendorf. The main historical monuments in the Wachua structural landscape include Melk Abbey, a Benedictine abbey that has a rich monastic history and serves several parishes, and Steiner tor, a historical monument presenting the gate of the city of Krems. The gothic Piarist church built in the eleventh century also serves as a tremendously significant historic feature. Schallaburg Castle provides a Renaissance feature in the Wachua settlement, it also contributes to the unique picturesque landscape.

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