Welcome to the jungle
Austria's heavenly primordial forests
Do you fancy going on an adventure, to somewhere like the Amazon? Well, you can, in Austria’s primordial forests. But first you have to find them…
Anyone who has ever spent time in the jungle knows that you can’t describe it – you have to experience it. No tree is the same; every plant is a different colour and the vegetation is so diverse that it’s difficult to comprehend it with the naked eye. And that’s even before we mention the wildlife. The sheer density of plant and animal life per metre of forest floor is astounding: under every rock, on every leaf and in every tree, a little creature is hiding.
If you think that you have to travel to a tropical rainforest to experience this, think again. While nature that’s completely untouched by humans has become increasingly rare, it still exists – in Austria, the home of Högl! Almost half of Austria is covered by woodland, and though much of it has long since been turned into large-scale commercial forests, a few natural havens have been spared by the chainsaw. A ‘primordial forest’ is one that has not been touched by humans since reforestation, which occurred after the last ice age. Only in a habitat such as this is true biodiversity guaranteed. They are subject to strict nature conservation legislation.
Austria's primordial forests
Just a small number of these wilderness areas exist throughout Europe, with a handful in Austria. Austria’s primordial forests are magical places. Enormous beeches, ancient oaks, poplars, arolla pines and larches soar majestically into the sky. Nature’s life cycle is left undisturbed: dead trees lie on the ground, where they rot and provide a new habitat for other living organisms, such as fungi, mosses, insects, woodpeckers and saplings. Only a few ‘run-of-the-mill’ walkers are allowed access, to ensure that these wilderness areas are protected. However, guided tours are available and are a truly memorable experience!
The Dürrenstein Mountain’s Rothwald Forest
The Dürrenstein Nature Reserve in southwestern Lower Austria is home to the largest remnant of primordial forest in the Alps – the Rothwald Forest. Formed around the 1,878-metre-high Dürrenstein Mountain in the Ybbstal Alps, the reserve has a number of different vegetation zones. Here, rare alpine herbs and a variety of fungi, which have found a fertile breeding ground amongst the decaying wood, mingle together in beech, fir and spruce forests. This thriving plant life supports an abundance of wildlife. As well as common species such as red deer, chamois and mountain hare, wild boar and the occasional lynx may also be seen. Lizards and insects alike are drawn to the fertile forest floor, and in turn, become easy prey for the rare white-backed woodpecker and sea eagle.
You can explore the wilderness area as part of a guided tour or via official trails.
The Lahnsattel’s Neuwald Forest
One remnant of primordial forest that you can visit the fringes of is located on the Lahnsattel, a mountain pass in the Styrian-Lower Austrian Limestone Alps. As a result of its moist, cool, vegetation-friendly climate, red beech, fir and spruce trees all thrive here, with trunks 50 metres high and 1.5 metres in diameter. The sheer magnitude and scale of this collection of 300 to 500-year-old trees is astonishing. Once again, it’s the deadwood that provides a habitat for plant and animal species, habitats which would never have a chance to establish themselves in commercial forests. The forest is continually punctuated by small streams and ponds that teem with life. Peacock and red admiral butterflies flutter among a vast array of plants. The Lahnsattel’s primordial forest is a place for quiet meditation and mindful observation and listening. It’s one of nature’s wonders, which remains unspoiled by humans.
The Kalkalpen National Park
The Kalkalpen National Park is Austria's first UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s one of Europe’s last natural beech forests and is therefore subject to special protection. In an area that spans 5,250 hectares, of which 200 have been officially declared primordial forest, beech trees, some as old as 500 years of age, tower in the air. However, in contrast to other primordial woodland, plant growth on the forest floor is noticeably limited, as the dense tree canopy allows little light to filter through. In places where isolated rays of light do manage to reach the forest floor, plants and ferns flourish. Many of them are precious and exist nowhere else in the world. As natural weather extremes like storms, floods and avalanches occur here unhindered, the large quantity of fallen trees and surface debris create new habitats for both plant and animal life. Dense forests with a high proportion of old trees and deadwood attract countless wood-dwelling insects. They are the bedrock that supports the diverse range of birdlife in the national park.
The Waldviertel’s primordial forest
An hour from Vienna and once again, you’ll find yourself among giant 300-year-old trees.
A few steps further and you enter a dense, enchanted forest, full of moss-covered deadwood that’s riddled with tree fungi and bursting with colourful birdsong. Welcome to the jungle! The Waldviertel’s primordial forest has been left to its own devices for centuries. Due to its very humid climate and many marshes, a natural habitat for green moss and lichen has evolved, which gives this protected area a unique mystical quality. Oddly shaped trees offer numerous species of birds a home. Tiny brooks flow continually from the foothills of the Danube wetlands through the forest floor. It’s home to approximately 60 different species of fish and also provides beavers with sufficient food and the right environment in which to build their lodges.
Each of these four primordial forests is a wonder of nature. A visit to one is a real adventure – devoid of man-made sights, sounds and action. It’s an adventure where the main attraction lies in the stories told by the 500-year-old trees, the great spotted woodpecker or the lizard.
Have you chosen your own jungle favourite yet? Högl is on hand to help you select your jungle-fashion favourite. No one can escape this summer’s trend for animal-inspired footwear. Heels and mules come in luxurious embossed leather and their fine straps and feminine details are set to delight. Sneakers and espadrilles in neutral tones and camouflage print will also feature heavily this summer. It’s time to make the urban jungle a wild place!
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