The Thaya river connects Austria’s northernmost national park with the Czech Podyji National Park. Ever since the fall of the Iron Curtain, both countries have been cooperating to preserve Europe’s untouched wilderness. Looking at the National Park Centre Hardegg, you’ll have difficulty believing it belongs to the smallest town in Austria. It’s large, spacious and
The Thaya river connects Austria’s northernmost national park with the Czech Podyji National Park.
Ever since the fall of the Iron Curtain, both countries have been cooperating to preserve Europe’s untouched
Looking at the National Park Centre Hardegg, you’ll have difficulty believing it belongs to the smallest town in Austria. It’s large, spacious and modern. We’re visiting the country’s nor-thernmost national park, characterised by the Thaya river. The park is one of Europe’s most beautiful and species-rich valleys, abundant with untouched wilderness. The perfect habitat for wildcats. “Actually, we thought they had died out”, says Robert Müllner, a ranger. “But they’re being sighted again since 2007.” We won’t be lucky enough to see the reclusive forest dwellers in the wild. They mainly come out at night to hunt. But visitors can have a look at Frida and Carlo in the game reserve. The two wildcats look just like normal domestic cats, just a bit larger and with bushier tails. They lazily bask in the sun. We’re allowed to enter the reserve to see how they are fed. Dead chicks are distributed everywhere to let the predators live out their hunting instinct. They are not afraid of us.
To reach their prey, they nimbly and swiftly climb up trees. In May 2018, a wildcat camp for children and teenagers will open here. Its focus: discovering and exploring the national park.
Making participants curious about its special features in need of protection. Experiences in nature are important for children, who have to live out their scientific curiosity. Here, they’ll have every opportunity to do so.
Thaya knows no borders
The Thaya river tells many stories. We can learn from its past. It gently and peacefully meanders through the valley next to the castle above Hardegg. From the viewpoint at Hennerweg, you can enjoy a wonderful vista. Hardegg lies right on the border with the Czech Republic. When you cross Thaya Bridge, you reach the Czech Podyji National Park. “The bridge, built in 1873, was closed in 1945 because of the Iron Curtain. It was only when the Iron Curtain collapsed that it was reopened for pedestrians and cyclists”, Heribert Donnerbauer, the town’s mayor, explains. He also tells us how people on both sides of the border got to know each other and noticed that “the others” weren’t as different as everybody had
been told for decades. “Thaya knows no borders.” Today, biologists and rangers from both countries work hand in hand to protect the valley and preserve the wilderness for the flora and fauna. That works perfectly. Nature has once again taught humans that borders only exist in our heads. And they need to be overcome in order to save Mother Earth.
Mirella Sidro, a journalist
and blogger leads you through
three National Parks in Austria