Sunday, May 18, 2014

Neusiedler See -- the Biggest Wading Pool in Europe

Reed at Neusiedler See (Lake Neusiedl)
Did you know Neusiedler See (Lake Neusiedl) is only a bit over one meter deep? Wait. You didn't know there was a big--yet famously shallow--lake in Austria on the border to Hungary, did you? Nor did you know it's the largest lake in Austria or that the fancy scientific name for it is an endorheic lake? You can admit it. I didn't either--until I went there a few weeks ago. Did you know it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site? No? It doesn't matter. Take a deep satisfied breath: now you know.

The lake is bound by a reed belt and fed only by precipitation and drainage (and that's why the call it endorheic, which is Greek), although there are rumors of plans to help the lake survive global warming by building a canal from the Donau (Danube) to keep water levels up.

Woolly pig on the Greener side of life
While you can laze away your days at Neusiedler See aboard a boat or strolling through the picturesque villages, you might want to be a bit more active (like me). In Rust, the town not the oxidation of iron, you can rent bikes from the sweetest couple. They have hundreds of bikes to rent and two very big smiles between them. They gave us candy. You have to love people who give you candy. You can find them right in the middle of Rust. Just look for "Radverleih" (Bike rental).

On our bike ride around the lake, however, we did happen upon these woolly pigs. Have you ever seen a woolly pig? Is this a pig in sheep's clothing? This little guy had managed to get out of the grand mud patch and was grazing happily and greedily when we arrived; his brethren had apparently been too big to squeeze through the fence. Don't believe what anyone tells you; it really is--as you can clearly see in the picture--greener on the other side--when your home is a mud patch. We fed the other pigs handfuls of grass through the fence and sang "Born Free", or at least the first couple of lines before we started humming and then lost interest.

The Neusiedler Bike Path is 135 kilometers long, 38 km in Hungary, 97 km in Austria. We cycled for around four hours, but you could also go sailing, windsurfing, kitesurfing; or you might choose to play beach volleyball, ride horses or go inline skating. There's no shortage of leisure/sport activities. Before, during and after or bike ride, we mostly sat in cafés and ate ice cream. Because balance is important.

The Local Stork -- He's famous!

Fantasy

Reality
Storks. That's right. If you've turned up in Rust mid-April, you'll be craning your neck at storks quite a lot. You'll be taking at least four thousand pictures. Storks are cool, not only becaue they bring babies but also because they can poop wherever they want. Bear with me on the following line of reasoning: I'm seriously entertaining the notion that a stork brought me home on the day of my birth. See, I was born on April 8 around the time the storks show up in Austria. Huh? I hear you huhing. I was born in Frankfurt Germany, so I'm thinking maybe a stork dropped me off on its way to Neusiedler See. It's not implausible.



What is implausible is that Neusiedler See will still exist in 2050. If global warming has its way, this lake--which is only about a meter deep right now--will dry up before I do. That's worrying. The villages around the lake depend on it for tourism and some industry. I'm not sure what the people do with the reed here, but they do harvest it. A delicate yet varied ecosystem depends on the lake. A community of non-humans--amphibians, reptiles, birds and 40 types of mammals--would also be homeless without Neusiedler See.

The Hungarian name for the lake, which is about an hour south of Vienna, is Fertő tó, which means swamp. And this could very well be a self-fulfilling prophecy if something isn't done soon.

Have you been to Neusiedler See, or Lake Neusiedl as we call it in English apparently? Have you been to another endorheic lake? Seen a woolly pig?

I must be off,
Christopher

PS: Have you started writing your entry for the Second Annual I Must Be Off! Travel Essay Contest? Check out the guidelines HERE.

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Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, The Best of Every Day Ficton, PANK, Word Riot, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.  

2 comments:

  1. The writer of this blog provided huge information about Neusiedler and it’s true that it’s a family park. But we should say that it’s kids Friendly Park. This is a very nice opportunity to spend a day with your kids. I spent here a whole day in August with my children before grand canyon bus tour from los angeles. There are attractions for all age categories. If you are going there than try to visit this park on Friday because on Fridays the tickets are a little cheaper.

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  2. Well, Juliana (SPAM) Juan, Nuesidler See is in Austria and Hungary, so I'm not quite sure how you got to LA so quickly if you did both in one day. Magic powers, I guess. Only logical explanation. Long live spam.

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