Pöchlarn: On the Verge of the Wachau
Strictly speaking, Pöchlarn is not part of the Wachau area anymore - "Wachau" refers to the stretch of the Danube valley between Melk and Krems, and Pöchlarn is just beyond Melk. However, the general prettiness of this walled town make it a popular destination for many tourists that look for a less busy place than the vineyards of the "Wachau stricte sensu".
Those Austrians that are now from the area will know Pöchlarn primarily because it features in the "Nibelungenlied" or "Song of the Nibelungs", a Medieval German(ic) epos. Thus, and for obvious merchandising reasons, Pöchlarn is also called the "Nibelungenstadt" of "City of Nibelung". The epos was written down in the 12th century, but is set in the fifth century, when the Huns invaded Europe and destroyed an early Kingdom of Burgundy. The Nibelungenlied is hugely important for German literature, especially since Romanticism saw the rise of pan-Germanic thoughts.
There are few cities specifically named as sites that feature in the epos - it is actually surprisingly wide-spread for an early Medieval myth: Iceland, Norway, Burgundy, Austria and other places feature. Pöchlarn is among the few cities whose name is actually given, as the residence of Margrave Rüdiger. Another city that is named is Tulln, upstream the Danube.
Modern Art in Pöchlarn: Kokoschka
The second claim to fame of Pöchlarn is Oskar Kokoscka. The city is the birthplace of the prolific painter, and although he lived a rather nomadic life with only occasional stays in Austria, Pöchlarn makes the best of the "OK" (Oskar Kokoschka) heritage. The birthplace itself is situated in a mill and now houses a small museum. Some reproductions of Kokoschka′s works are shown here, alongside some information on his life. The collection of Kokoschka memorabilia includes a bullet that had been removed from his skull following an injury in WWI.
Alongside with Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka is often seen as one of the tree big innovators of Austrian art in the early 20th century. Klimt is often portrayed in a mentor-like manner, with the two younger artists Schiele and Kokoschka growing into different directions. Schiele is mostly recognised for his use of lines, whereas Kokoschka′s style is characterised by surface, shape and colour. Thus, they are often said to be the 20th century′s echo of Gothic (Schiele) and Baroque (Kokoschka) art.
Beside of that, Pöchlarn is generally a pretty place for a walk with a well-preserved historic Altstadt or town centre. It has the obligatory attractions of the main square, Rathaus city hall, parish church and a bunch of Baroque burgher houses. It also makes a good (meaning: relatively quiet and cheaper) base for exploring the Wachau area. Nearby attractions include the previously mentioned Melk, the Schallaburg Castle, the pilgrimage basilica of Maria Taferl and Schloss Artstetten Castle.
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