Nationalpark Thayatal

2082 Hardegg

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National Park Thayatal
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Town history

Information for visitors | Town of Hardegg

Old town view
Picture of Hardegg castle before reconstruction
Old town view
At the border to the Czech Republic, in the Thayatal, visitors can catch a glimpse of the past. Through thick forests one drives down the steep serpentine roads into a town where time stood still. The town of Hardegg offers a particularly picturesque image. It lies harmoniously in the narrow basin of the Fugnitz, dominated by a proud castle that looks back on over thousand years of history. At that time, Hardegg was the centre of a dominion in northern Austria. The owners of castle Hardegg played an important political role in the country.

Today Hardegg is the smallest town in Austria. About 80 people currently have their main residence in this border town at the Thaya. Hardegg is probably the only town in Austria with more houses than inhabitants.

Hardegg castle in the mist
Wafts of mist around Hardegg castle
Hardegg castle in the mist

A town since 1290

Hardegg was documented as a town for the first time in 1290. The name derives from the old German words "hard" = forest and "egg" = rock, stone. Figuratively this means: "strong house in the forest". Over the years Hardegg lost its importance. Its immediate neighbour, the wine city of Retz, started booming. At the end of the Thirty Years' War the castle was in bad condition and was only inhabited by a reeve. In 1764 a big fire raged through Hardegg. The inhabitants were allowed to use material from the castle for the town's reconstruction.

Besides various crafts, cloth manufacturing and trade dominated in Hardegg. Futhermore, for centuries, the people of Hardegg were also dabbling in the production of gun powder. During that time, the powder mills exploded a few times.

Boating on the Thaya
Summer guests rowing on the Thaya
Boating on the Thaya

Summer Guests

Tourism developed at the end of the 19th century. Hardegg turned into a summer retreat (see Summer Retreat). Tourists enjoyed the tranquility and the pleasant climate, swam in the river and developed an extensive cultural programme. In 1929 Hardegg had a capacity of 500 beds! The construction of the power plant in Vranov in 1933 marked a turning point. Since then, deep water has been released from the storage plant, bringing the water temperature down to 10 degrees Celsius on average in the summer. No more swimming in the river. World War II brought tourism to an almost complete standstill.

At the End of the Free World

At the border of the Iron Curtain Hardegg went into an economic decline. As jobs became scarce, young people moved to the cities; the old ones stayed and carried on offering private rooms to summer guests attracted in particular by the fishing opportunities of the Thaya.

Thus, one can imagine the joy when the bridge was reopened in 1990. Since then, tourism developed again. With the regional exhibition in the baroque castle of Riegersburg in 1993, which attracted 160,000 visitors, the area was brought back to life.

But the most important initiative was the creation of the National Park Thayatal. Conditions were ideal. Because of its border location, no large infrastructural projects such as road constructions were carried out. Interferences in nature were minimal. Natural forests remained untouched, sensitive fauna such as black storks, otters or eagle owls found an ideal habitat there.

The commune of Hardegg too benefits from nature protection. Besides protecting nature, a national park is also a place of relaxation and personal development. Thus, nature-loving visitors bring new perspectives to the little town at the Thaya.