On the trail of culture

The Vienna Woods has always been home to great artists. Art and cycling enthusiast Axel Nemetz reveals where to cycle in their footsteps.

Baroque towers, dense treetops and clearings that look like a painting by Claude Monet. Anyone cycling through the Vienna Woods quickly understands why this recreational area just outside Vienna has inspired countless artists.

"It’s as if every tree spoke to me", Beethoven once said, who was regularly drawn to the Vienna Woods and whose favourite places can be explored along several cycle routes. One of the most impressive is the Monastery Emperor Artist Tour - a trekking tour that leads through local cultural history in various stages. On just under 60 kilometres, you cycle from Gothic bridges to Baroque frescoes and contemporary art hotspots. And if you want even more art, it's best to stay at the At the Park Hotel in Baden. It houses more than 400 works of art on four floors. A creative collection of contemporary art pieces that won the Cultural Sponsorship Award. We spoke to owner and curator Axel Nemetz, who reveals why the Vienna Woods combine the best of two worlds - culture and cycling.

Mr Nemetz, why would you say Baden stands out as a cultural hotspot and what do guests expect in terms of culture when they come to you? 

A mix of contemporary and classical art. The visitors want to walk in the historical footsteps of great artists. But we also notice that contemporary art is in demand.

Besides art, cycling is her great passion - a combination that does not first spring to mind.

In the Vienna Woods, and especially at the Baden location, you can combine both wonderfully. As far as cycling is concerned, the region offers all kinds of possibilities from road bike to mountain bike trails. Numerous themed trails lead to historical and culturally significant places. The geographical proximity also gives you the opportunity to get on your bike at lunchtime, enjoy nature and visit one of Baden's museums in the afternoon.

Which cycle route do you recommend specifically to cyclists interested in art?

The Lindkogel trail. It first leads through the Helenental valley and on to the Sooßer Lindkogel. You cycle through dense mixed forest, past colourful flower meadows and natural gravel banks of the Schwechat. The route also has a lot to offer in terms of culture. The castle ruins of Rauheneck, the Cholera Chapel, the Hirschkreuz and the Beethovenstein are close to the route. One of my favourite places on the trail is the Schneebergblick, an inconspicuous bench with a direct view of the Schneeberg mountain.

You curate the artworks in your hotel yourself. Is there a cycling route where you get inspiration?

One of my favourite routes on a road bike leads to the Vienna Woods Lake between the municipalities of Purkersdorf, Tullnerbach and Pressbaum. You are surrounded by forests for the most part and then eventually come to the dam wall of the lake. You progress quite quickly and finally the view over the lake opens up - which is thought-provoking.

Apparently, this has happened to many artists before. A conspicuous number of them settled at least temporarily in the area of the Vienna Woods. Why could this be?

Location certainly plays a big role. On the one hand, we are on the doorstep of a major city that has always been home to a thriving art scene. On the other hand, we are embedded here in a green oasis. You can find places of retreat here - in general, it's a little quieter. These are advantages that great artists have also recognised. One of the most famous was certainly Beethoven, who originally sought a place to stay in Vienna but ultimately found the city too hectic. He then found what he was looking for in the Vienna Woods and especially in Baden.

Finally, an insider tip for those interested in culture. What should you definitely not miss in the region?

There are a lot of really great cultural institutions, but the Arnulf Rainer Museum is really something special. Not only the works of the Baden-born artist are impressive, but also the 200-year-old building.