Walking is the natural speed of humans so a hike is the perfect way to reflect. In the southern Waldviertel region, you walk through your life — symbolically and also in reality. The German name “Lebensweg” of the 275-km-long (170 mile) hiking trail translates into the “path of life”.
Between the mighty river Danube and the deep, mystical forests in the valleys of the smaller rivers you will discover the region and yourself anew. Each stage symbolizes a phase of life. Thus, you walk in spirit from your childhood, which is probably already behind you, into the future to what lies ahead. The topographical ups and downs can also be understood as being symbolic of the ups and downs in life — except that the downs are just as beautiful as the ups when you hike them.
The perfect setting for this journey of reflection is the picturesque Waldviertel with its pristine forests, lovely fields and unusual rock formations. The region is very idyllic. Here you walk through green meadows, dark forests and poppy fields that flower in summer. Your path of life leads along river banks and to streams and lakes. On the way, you explore deep gorges and impressive caves. In addition to nature, you can also enjoy some culture as you discover ruined castles and palaces as well as chapels, churches and a basilica.
The Lebensweg is a combination of the Ysper-Weitental Trail (trail mark 22) and the Kremstal Trail (trail mark 625, komoot.de/collection/920827). Together they paint a somewhat creative figure of eight on the map. Because of its shape you can start your journey at any of the 13 stages. The towns en route can be reached with regional buses. The current timetables are listed at vor.at. Take a careful look at them, as many of the buses only run from Monday to Friday. If you want to follow the whole story of the journey, it makes sense to start in Laimbach. You can get a tour diary from the tourist information office to use as a guide for the hike.
The route only crosses the 1,000-metre (3,280 feet) mark twice. Anytime from Spring to Autumn is ideal for this hike. The woods are also beautiful even during a milder winter or when there’s a dusting of snow. However, bear in mind that there are some very long stages ahead of you. The Waldviertel is relatively sparsely populated. This makes it very nice for hiking, but also means that there is not always a place to stop for a bite to eat. On some stages, you have to carry your food in your rucksack. So the Path of Life is a long distance walk, where you have to engage with your body and mind in equal measure.
The first stage of the life path symbolizes the love of your parents and thus the origin of your life. The route is tough. If you start your life in Laimbach, you will climb the Großer Peilstein first. It is just over 1,000 meters high. So you have a nice view of the Waldviertel from your first summit on the long-distance hiking trail. This view is a good introduction to the many wonderful landscapes that still lie ahead of you.Through the forest it goes steadily downhill towards the south. At the Neuwaldhäusl settlement - several courtyards standing in a clearing - you turn a little more to the west. The path continues through the forest until you come across a few houses in a clearing. A big curve and you walk through a path to a street where the only stop of the stage is: the Gasthaus Rote Säge. You can get there with a clear conscience, because there are only five kilometers to go.After the break you climb a bit directly at the inn. Soon you will leave the forest and let your gaze wander over the vast fields of the Waldviertel. But that's just an interlude. You meet the Kleine Ysper and follow its course south through a forested valley to Nöchling. There is an inn here to stay.If you want to travel by public transport, take the bus. From Ybbs an der Donau, for example, there is a direct connection with line 780.
This day represents a kind of rebirth because it should remind you of the beginning of your life. After the long first stage, your legs may be a little stiff this morning. But that goes away quickly once you've hiked a few steps.On clear days you can look from Nöchling over the Danube to the Gesäuse. Enjoy the view again before turning north. Today you hike up and down over fields, meadows and forests. In this part, the Waldviertel is used for agriculture.Behind Sankt Oswald you meet the Herzsteinweg, which you follow a bit. Several interesting stations - including some special rocks - are marked with signs and information boards. On the way you can make a detour to the right of the forest up to the summit of Weißenberg. From the summit cross you can enjoy the view of the lovely Waldviertel landscape. Past the Herzstein, the path leads you down to the stage destination, the place Ysper. Here and next door in Altenmarkt you have several guest houses to choose from.You can get to Nöchling with two buses from Ybbs an der Donau - first with line 781 and then with 782. To do this, change at the Ysperdorf Abzweig Niederndorf stop.
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On the third stage, you remember your first years of life. Today you see everything with different eyes. You leave Ysper heading north and you will soon pass the forest pond. A short distance further the path runs below Schloss Rorregg - which is privately owned - and along the banks of the Puschacherteich.Behind Parming you meet the course of the Große Ysper. You follow it further north. The valley gets narrower and turns into an impressive gorge. Stairs and bridges take you over mossy rocks and water gushing under your feet. There is an inn here that is well suited for a lunch break.At the end of the gorge, you turn south-west and go to Dorfstetten on long forest paths. In the evening you have several inns to choose from in the village. If you want to start your long hike with this stage, you can reach Ysper by bus from Ybbs an der Donau.
Today you disappear into the forest in the morning and only really emerge from the trees in the evening. You cross the Weinsberger Forest, the largest closed forest area in Austria. It takes its name from the Weinsberg, the summit of which you are climbing today. This stage represents your first school years. Maybe you're learning something new today?From Dorfstetten you first stop at the Kleine Ysper and then hike past the Pfaffenstegteich and the Schlesingerteich to Bärnkopf. If you are interested in how the forest used to work, you can visit the Holzhackermuseum here (baernkopf.at/tourismus/museum) after prior booking with the tourist office. In Bärnkopf there are inns and apartments if you want to pause.From Bärnkopf you turn east and soon south to climb the Weinsberg. After the descent, follow the Great Ysper south at its foot. How to get to the Ysper Gorge again. However, you leave this on the other side to hike east to your stage destination Gutenbrunn. There are several accommodation options here. And relaxation is also ensured: the exhausted lungs relax in the inhalatorium. A natural Kneipp pool makes your legs fit again.If you want to travel to Dorfstetten by public transport, you can come from Amstetten with two buses, for example.
Today you may have a little fun about your past on your way through life. Because on the fifth stage of your life path you reflect on your puberty. From place to place you walk a bit on the Kremstalweg.Immediately after breakfast you hike to the shore of the picturesque Edlesberger See, which is north of Gutenbrunn. If you are early, you can enjoy the morning calm here. From the lake you can reach Martinsberg via Oed. Past the Pitzeichen settlement you will reach Roggenreith, where you can try Austrian whiskey in a distillery.The Little Krems, which will often be your companion from now on, comes from Primassen. A little further you reach today's stage goal with Kirchschlag. Here the hosts of the place provide you with food and beds.Today there is no way to stop on the way. So take enough provisions with you. If you want to go to this stage by public transport, you can take the buses from Ybbs an der Donau.
Slowly it becomes more serious on your life path. You have left your childhood and puberty behind and are going through the sixth stage as a young adult. It guides you through the cultural landscape of the forest district with its fields, meadows and small forests.To the east of Kirchschlag you orientate yourself on the course of the Kleine Krems. It takes you to Kottes. A detour to the center is worthwhile because the place is pretty much halfway down the route. Here you get a warm lunch.After a well-deserved break, you will stay with the Kleine Krems as a companion. Through a refreshing forest, she leads you past Marbach. Soon you turn right and leave the river towards Klein-Heinrichschlag. You cross the town and always stay on the northeastern course to Els, where you spend the night in the only inn.You can reach the stage start in Kirchschlag by bus from the train station in Melk. This also stops in Kottes.
The seventh stage of the journey of life requires some effort on your part. Your imagination is required on a spiritual level. Because today it's about settling down and building up a place to live. With this topic in mind, you are anything but sedentary. Because today you have about 30 kilometers ahead of you.From Els you go east, where you meet again the Kleine Krems, the course of which you follow downstream. You will soon reach a very exciting part of the way. In the narrow river valley there is a castle and several caves to discover. The Gudenus cave is right on the roadside. To the others you walk a little further up the mountain on your left.Soon you will reach the so-called Zwickl, where you will say goodbye to the Kleine Krems. From here on, her sister, Große Krems, takes her place as your companion. Passing steep rock faces, you stay on their banks most of the time until you turn to Albrechtsberg. Here you have the opportunity to stop. You can also divide the long stage and spend a night in Albrechtsberg. Then you also have more time to admire the castle and the magnificent church of the place.If you want to get a little faster, you can simply skip the visit to Albrechtsberg and continue on the river bank. Because from Albrechtsberg you hike back to Grosse Krems and along its course to Großreinprechts. Here, too, you get something to eat on the way.Via Grafemühle you then reach Sallingberg. At the end of the stage there is a holiday farm that also offers guest rooms. Buses leave from Melk to start the hike in Els, for example.
Today's stage takes you along the picturesque banks of the Große Krems, both through beautiful forests and across vast fields. Here you can let your eyes and thoughts wander. This day is themed the middle years.First you come from Sallingberg to Armschlag. This place is also called Mohndorf and if you are out at the right time in summer, you will admire entire fields of beautiful red flowers. To then come to Ottenschlag, you leave the course of the Große Krems. You can stop here if you want. We continue west. Here you come across the Große Krems at Weyrerteich. Take another break on the idyllic lake shore, because there are only five kilometers to the stage goal.In Bad Traunstein you get a good overview from the elevated Wachtstein. There are several accommodations and guest houses to choose from. Would you like to go to this stage by public transport? Then you can take the regional buses, for example from Ybbs an der Donau or St. Pölten and Zwettl to Sallingberg.
Every hiker experiences the topic of today differently. It's about the fifties. They are still ahead of one, the other is already behind them. The third is right in the middle. As varied as this phase of life can be, the ninth stage on the path of life is just as varied. The route is relatively easy today and you can take your time.Before you really get going, make a detour to Franzosenstein on the outskirts of Bad Traunstein. Then you enter the forest and walk south between trees and meadows. You will soon reach Edlesberger See, which you already know from an earlier stage. On warm days you can refresh your feet or even go swimming.You can also stay right at the lake and stay in the guest house on its shore. Because from here the path leads via Oed to Martinsberg. There is no accommodation for the night. Alternatively, you can make a small detour to Gutenbrunn south of the lake. To get to Bad Traunstein by bus, you can, for example, leave in St. Pölten, Zwettl or Ybbs an der Donau.
On stage 10 you retire sportily. You mentally deal with the time when everything may become a little calmer. Physically you have a very long stage with a lot of ups and downs in front of you.It starts from Martinsberg to the southeast. You stay on the field and forest paths above the country road until you cross it. Then you push further into the forest and hike to Annagschmais. Then fields and forests alternate in sparsely populated areas. Here you can discover the great sight of Pöggstall in the distance before you descend into the village.You could just walk past Pöggstall. A detour is definitely worth it: here you can explore an imposing castle with its museum. They also get something to eat in town if you are hungry. But you still have too many vertical meters and kilometers ahead of you for an extended visit. If you feel like visiting a museum without time pressure, you can take a bus from Martinsberg / Pitzeichen to Pöggstall early in the morning. Or you skip the second part of the hike and take the bus from Pöggstall to the stage destination Raxendorf.If you continue to hike from here, you will ascend again to Braunegg. The local inn invites you to take a break. Here you also reached the highest point of today. From now on it goes downhill again. Before the stage goal Raxendorf, you only have to overcome a small counter climb. For the night you are looking for a room in the districts of Feistritz or Heiligenblut.You can get from Ybbs an der Donau to Martinsberg by bus. You can get out in pit signs and come straight from there to the path of life.
The eleventh stage on the long-distance hiking trail represents your last years of life. But that doesn't mean that the hike is a leisurely one today. Today it goes up and down 25 kilometers, always roughly south towards the Danube.The path to Zeining is still relatively easy. Then you walk partly steeply uphill to Nonnersdorf to finally descend again to Weiten. You can have a good lunch here. There is a café and an inn. You can also discover a partially ruined castle here. After the break you hike uphill and downhill to Lohsdorf on the other side of the valley.Then there is a last little hill. Shortly before you arrive in Leiben, you can turn left to Aichau. Here a farm rents out guest rooms. There are no accommodations in Leiben itself. A little further down on the banks of the Danube you have a lot of choice. You can reach the starting point in Raxendorf from Melk with the regional buses.
Today we are facing death - luckily only symbolically! The rest of the day compensates for this sad topic with splendor and pomp. On the twelfth stage you will pass a magnificent castle and an opulently decorated basilica. You hardly need to worry about time. The length of the tour allows for long breaks today.Leiben is very close to the Danube. Your path leads you above the river today almost parallel to its course. So you always enjoy beautiful views along the way. In the morning you climb the hill south of Leiben to look out over the Danube. Then you hike to Losau and take a leisurely up and down via Hasling to Artstetten, where the first major attraction of the day is a Renaissance castle.You continue over lovely meadows and fields to Unterthalheim, where you can already see the next special feature of the stage: the basilica of Maria Taferl. This view motivates to a final sprint. On the terrace in front of the basilica you can once again enjoy the view of the Danube. Maybe you can even see the Alpine range in the distance.Maria Taferl is a popular place of pilgrimage. That's why you have several options for staying here. If you want to go to this stage by bus, you will reach Leiben von Melk.
Before you start, enjoy the view over the Danube again and gather new strength for the last day of your life. Because today it goes back to the beginning. The path of life closes while you dedicate the last stage to your ancestors and make yourself aware that you will also take their place one day.You hike north via Reitern and Pargatstetten to Kollnitz. If you want, you can briefly leave the official route here. Because on the Kollnitzberg right in the north of the village there is a lookout tower from which you can once again look over the Waldviertel, which has now accompanied you for so many days. There is also a fun drinking fountain at the foot of the mountain.In the next town, in Münichreith, you can stop for lunch in the pub brewery and treat yourself to a freshly tapped beer. The last ten kilometers on your life path always lead you north. Shortly before your destination Laimbach you will discover the Großer Peilstein on the right, which you climbed on the first stage.In Laimbach you will find a warm meal and a bed for the last night. You can leave from here by bus. This will take you to Ybbs an der Donau, for example. To get to the start of the hike to Maria Taferl, get on the bus in Pöchlarn on the other side of the Danube. You can easily get to Pöchlarn by train.