I visited Pöchlarn in the Autumn of 2017. I’d passed through the train station many a time when heading to Wieselburg, and curiosity got the better of me. Pöchlarn sits between Melk to the East and Amstetten to the west. It’s around an hours journey time from Vienna and you’ll need to change at St. Pölten for the Amstetten service.
Autumn is perhaps not the best time to visit. The weather was chilly and a low mist hung around for most of the morning. Nevertheless, I had two hours to explore this small town next to the Danube.
From the train station, it’s a short walk into the town centre. Along the way, I began to get a feel for the place. It soon becomes clear that Pöchlarn is a town that’s steeped in history, and a little mystery. The first place I come across is the Demmerturm, A large tower that formed part of the town’s fortifications. Today it’s a private home, but sat on top of the tower, is a large metal sculpture of a wasp. Curious is a word I’d use to describe the sight. For some reason I find my mind wandering to an Agatha Christie-style story. I suspect I’m thinking of a Doctor Who episode involving both Wasps and the famous mystery writer. Still, the giant Wasp is an interesting sight.
Leaving the wasp behind, I head into the town itself. Pöchlarn is a small town, with a population of around 4000 or so. Small is almost always interesting though, and soon enough I find myself stood outside the main church. This tells me that Pöchlarn has been around for a long time. The church was built between 1389 and 1429 in the Gothic style. A fire in 1766 meant the church needed rebuilding, having lost its tower. The rebuilding took 2 years to complete and its design became more baroque in style. The new tower was built once the main building had been refurbished, and took six years to complete, finally opening in 1781. Along the way, the graveyard that surrounded the church was moved to a new Friedhof in 1784. Today the church has seen new stained glass windows alongside its historic features, and it looks gorgeous.
One of the nicest features I came across was the beautiful public fountain outside the church. Dated 1640, the fountain is ornate yet simple. A single sculpted fish provides the water whilst a Saint looks down approvingly from the arch above. History on display is always great to see.
It’s not the only fountain I come across. I find a second in a beautiful small square that contains numerous old buildings, along with suitable artwork. It turns out the fountains are a pair. The fountains were presented to the town as a gift from Regensburg bishop Albert IV Count Thörring. How very nice of him.
For all its history and beautiful historic buildings, Pöchlarn doesn’t simply live in the past. The all-important Rathaus, or town hall is anything but old. Its modern facade seems to blend with its surroundings perfectly.
As I wander on, I find my way to the Danube, and yet more strange oddities. First up I come across what I assume is a Viking, of sorts. Now it turns out that Pöchlarn has a history that can be traced to a rather famous German/Scandinavian legendary story, the Nibelungen saga. I know nothing of this and have researched the subject a little, I can’t say I’ll ever fully grasp it. However, Pöchlarn lays claim to one character found within the saga, Rüdiger of Bechelaren. Rüdiger of Bechelaren is definitely a legend, and his existence hasn’t yet been proven. Pöchlarn claims him as their own, and much of the town features callbacks to the Nibelungen saga. My Viking is just the first callback I’ve come across. What makes these figures even more interesting is that they speak and tell a story, if you wander close enough to activate them. Among the mist of the morning, they make for an eerie yet interesting experience.
The saga runs deep and next along my way I come across the impressive Nibelungen monument. Created in 1987, the monument features 16 coat of arms mosaics that represent the known locations from the Nibelungen song. According to the Pöchlarn town council
The Nibelungenlied also tells of a Margrave Rüdiger von Bechelaren and his hospitality.Pöchlarn Town Council.
The monument was created by Heinz Knapp and is seen as a symbol of peace within Europe.
Back on the river bank and the mist has begun to clear. Across the river lies Klein Pöchlarn, while on a distant hill is the Maria Taferl church. I have no time to check out either today, but I pop a pin in them for the future.
A walk along the river bank brings me to a pretty little street that reminds me more of the Netherlands that of Austria. Pöchlarn is quite a pretty place
Time is fading and my train leaves within the hour. So I head back to the town centre. Just a little way from the Nibelungen monument, I find a Saint. St. Nepomuk to be exact. Canonized by Pope Benedict XIII in 1729, The Saint is said to have refused to relinquish the secrets of the Confessional, angering the king, King Wenceslas IV. Despite torture, St. Nepomuk refused to tell the king of the Queen’s confession and eventually, the King left the St to fall from the Charles Bridge in Prague. Today, St. Nepomuk is the patron Saint of Secrets, and watches over the waters, protecting those who find themselves in difficulty on the river. So that explains his presence next to the river.
Moving on I find another tower. The Welserturm dates back to the 15th century but today it acts as the Towns Museum. A fire in 1664 meant the tower lost its impressive top, and it would have to wait until 1999 for a new top to be built. Sadly it was closed when I visited, as it was very much outside of tourist season.
There’s time for just one more stop on the way back to the train station. Pöchlarn is home to a Schloss (Or castle in English) and a Schloss park. The former is now a rather posh nursing home. The park however is a beautiful large space with a number of outdoor tables and chairs, and a large, wooden bandstand. The Autumn weather isn’t the best time to take a look around, but I did enjoy a little play amongst the fallen leaves. (Growing old is unavoidable, growing up is optional!)
Leaving Pöchlarn I make a note to return when the sun is shining and the town is more alive. In summer the whole town will seem much more alive compared to the sleepy little place it’s been today. I also make a note to look into the Nibelungen song. Being Welsh, the story has never been taught to us in schools, and it’s always good to learn something new.
Pöchlarn is a great place to visit if you’re visiting the Wachau Valley. The Donau cycle path takes you through Pöchlarn, so why not take the morning and enjoy this pretty little town.
Since my original visit, ÖBB has launched a new CityJet Express service from Wien Westbahnhof to Pöchlarn. Trains run every 30 minutes and tickets cost €20,80 each way.
If you’d like to know more about Pöchlarn or the various places I mentioned above, check out the links below.