Pielachtal Valley, © weinfranz.at

Pielach Valley: Valley of Dirndls

The picturesque landscape is popular for its typical Cornelian cherries and the nostalgic Mariazell Railway.

The Dirndls, how the Cornelian cherries are commonly known, are symbols for the natural richness of the Pielach Valley. The shining red fruits of olive-size are not only typical for the region; in their processing one can also observe profound sustainability. Thanks to the inhabitants’ commitment, holidaymakers nowadays celebrate in and go on a hiking tour through a picture-book landscape.

Loads of woods, the crystal-clear river Pielach embedded between a colourful potpourri of hedges, meadows, fields and lonely standing farmsteads: These are the only ingredients needed for a perfect holiday in the Pielach Valley, which starts in the south of the provincial capital St. Pölten and leads up rolling hills to the Mostviertel Alps near Styria. Since more than a hundred years, Austria’s longest small-gage railway, the Mariazell Railroad, winds its way along majestic summits, first and foremost landmark Ötscher.

Centre of attention: the Dirndls

Year in and year out, in Pielach Valley everything revolves around the tiny, coral red to nearly black fruits of a wild-growing shrub, the so-called “Dirndls”. Following an old tradition, the juicy-acidous Cornelian cherries are harvested by hand. In loving manner, they are processed to Dirndl jams, juices, brands, ice creams or even vinegars. Of course, the little, red fruits do have their own representative: The Dirndl queen herself wears a “Dirndl”, which in latter case stands for a traditional Austrian dress. In spring, the Cornelian cherries are celebrated while hiking along the blossoming trees and hedges. After the fruits have been harvested in autumn, there is time to party at the traditional festivity “Pielachtaler Dirndlkirtag”.

Healthy and sustainable

Not only the Dirndl fruits itself are healthy because rich in vitamin C: There are growing and thriving many other culinary delights as sheep milk cheese, dried fruits, perries, apple ciders and wild herbs as well. For their efforts concerning sustainability, the community of Pielach Valley was rewarded with the EDEN (European Destinations of ExcelleNce) Award. Having been honoured as one of ten European rural holiday destinations, the prize makes the valley an international flagship region.