A severe traffic accident involving multiple bone fractures sent Martin Samek, a Krems local, to a hospital bed more than 30 years ago. "As I was leafing through a motorbike magazine in hospital and counting the days until I would be discharged, an ad for one of the first mountain bikes on the market caught my eye. Suddenly it dawned on me: What I needed to do is trade in my motorbike for a mountain bike." Since then, he has geared his sporting activities to two sports seasons: "The winter ski season and the time when the snow’s melted and I’m jonesing for a ski substitute: my mountain bike." It had long been a dream of the tourism graduate to put his local region – the Wachau – on the mountain biking map. And in doing so, he has managed to pull off a landmark coup some might even say is heavenly.
"My bike is my ski substitute for when the snow is melted."
"Finding a needle in a haystack would be more likely than getting the chance to realise a project like the Trail Area here on Göttweiger Berg."
Göttweiger Berg and Mountain Bikers
Though mountain bikers have always been generally tolerated around Göttweig Abbey, as far as liability and insurance are concerned, we were biking at our own risk. With breath-taking views of the Danube valley facing Krems, the landscape is truly gorgeous. Its climate is pleasantly mild, and its flair unique: You just didn't have the same conflicts flaring up among hikers, nature lovers, hunters and other stakeholders as you did in so many other mountain biking destinations. On the contrary, responsible riders and property owners had always made an effort to co-operate with each other by sticking to a few sensible rules. It was ultimately Father Maurus of Göttweig Abbey who approached Martin Samek and his Trailwerk Wachau Club to ask if he could come up with a solution. A challenge that the passionate biker whole-heartedly embraced: "Finding a needle in a haystack would be a more likely prospect than getting the chance to realise such a project. It took two years of tinkering, forging cautious plans and discarding unrealistic ideas until the finished concept was unveiled: the Göttweig Trail Area. "Working together with countless volunteers, we’ve constructed a 22-kilometre network of trails."
From Beginners to Pros
From beginners’ trails to World Cup routes, we've got something for riders of every skill level. "Each trail has its own personality. From shady to sunny, from moist, clay-rich soil to dry, rocky terrain, there's a trail here for everyone. The Schickhn Way passes by Landgasthof Schickh, where we always try to grab a bite to eat. Ragazzi is the beginner's trail, while the Andi U Trail is dedicated to a friend of the club who died in a tragic avalanche. And the name Potschnweg (Flat Tire Trail) probably speaks for itself. We've got five levels of difficulty, ranging from beginners’ and kids’ trails all the way up to routes for seasoned bikers. The only requirement is a basic level of fitness." The trails, incidentally, were built entirely by manual labour; 120 volunteers pitched in, spending more than 10,000 man hours on the Göttweiger Berg. That's why you won't find any machine-engineered or artificial passages here – only the existing terrain was used, which really lends the trail area a special charm.
A Passion for Playing Host
Whenever Martin Samek isn't shredding the trails of Stift Göttweig on his bike, he's busy running his own business. He and his wife Elisabeth run the ad vineas country inn at Nikolaihof in Mautern on the Danube, mainly catering to families and travellers who want to actively explore and experience the Wachau region. Though Martin doesn't run his own mountain bike tours, you can always join a ‘ride-along’, as he calls them. "We realise that we're never going to be a tourist draw on the order of Bike Park Leogang, but that's not what we aspire to, either. Our assets are the ancient cultural landscape of Wachau, as well as our location at the crossroads between Vienna, Linz, the Bohemian Massif, and the Mariazell region. So much converges here that you can easily get anywhere in no time at all. That's what makes the region so attractive." And when his guests bike to the picturesque Göttweig Abbey on the Trail Area at the end of their tour, they not only tick off a ‘culture’ item on their holiday bucket list – they also see proof that an extraordinary symbiosis between man and nature is growing and thriving.