• Monastery Pernegg in lower austria

    The Strength of Silence: Holidays at Pernegg Abbey

    Silence allows us to reflect, to lose ourselves completely, and return to what really matters. Self-care amidst nature: Pernegg Abbey in the Lower Austrian Waldviertel is a place to slow down and fast between forests and meadows.

    "Conscious being means not just letting yourself be led by others. Thus the silence. Look and listen to what is inside."

    Portrait Florentina Rebernig at Monastery Pernegg in lower austria
    Florentina Rebernig, director of Pernegg Abbey
    • A good hour’s drive from Vienna to the far north of Austria – and everything is different. It’s as if the timekeeper were stopping the clock that reminds you of all of your duties from the minute you wake up until the moment you go to bed. Yes, time seems to stand still at Pernegg Abbey. Marina, 45, a busy PR Manager from Vienna with a child, career – the full programme – comes to this place of silence once a year. "I am not responsible for anything for several days, and that’s the best feeling in the world", Marina explains when asked why she chooses to recharge in retreat and tranquillity on an annual basis.

      Fasting is actually the focus at Pernegg Abbey, but the distance a week of silence gives Marina to her hectic schedule is equally beneficial. Arriving in this particularly quiet corner of the Waldviertel can be a bit of a culture shock for many a workaholic:

    • From 100 to 0, you could say; from the busy city into the silence of nature. The Waldviertel is a mystically beautiful place, but it shows itself from its wildly romantic side here. Not far from the abbey, a dense forest covered in moss leaves you expecting knights to gallop out of the thicket. Man-size boulders are scattered across the forest floor, like stone marbles tossed away by giants. In actual fact, they are granite stones that were transported through glaciers during the ice ages and have remained lying in large parts of the Waldviertel for thousands of years.

      Ana, 42, from Vienna, regularly returns to Pernegg Abbey to enjoy a week at a slower pace too – sometimes as a guest, and sometimes as a writing coach for the "Writing and Fasting" package. But why Pernegg Abbey?

    • "It’s important to me that I’m in the heart of nature." An urban setting would be out of the question for Ana. And why a week in complete retreat? "I travel a lot, but nowhere else do I feel like I have as much time for myself as throughout this week of silence at Pernegg."

      Ana recalls a scene from her room when asked to describe her first visit: "I was lying on the bed and looking out of the window at the clouds passing by. It was a wonderful feeling of not having to do anything at all." How do you feel after a week at the abbey? "Happier, lighter, and more grounded. Most people leave full of optimism and good intentions", summarises Ana. "You always find something that will serve you in everyday life – a way to take better care of yourself. I have the impression that lots of important life decisions are made at the abbey."

    "Ideally, People Meet Themselves"

    The Resonance of Silence

    Asking questions that you might never have asked yourself – this is often only possible when surrounded by silence. Florentina Rebernig describes time out at the abbey as a triad that leads you back to yourself: fasting, silence, and nature. Together with her husband, Florentina has been running Pernegg Abbey as a fasting centre and place of silence for more than 20 years. The surrounding nature plays a particularly large role in slowing down and recharging your batteries here. A 5 km circular trail leads into the forest along 14 stations: past the herb maze in the monastery garden and the Nikolaikapelle (the oldest part of the abbey), along a river through the forest, via the village of Pernegg, and back to the abbey.

    What exactly do guests experience in their week of retreat? "Ideally, people meet themselves", says Florentina, "in a down-to-earth form of spirituality that deliberately sets itself apart from esoteric approaches."

    Portrait Florentina Rebernig at Monastery Pernegg in lower austria
    • Pernegg Abbey was founded almost 1,000 years ago. So can it be presumed that rejuvenation works better within a time-honoured, historical and spiritual environment? In this case, one can perhaps rely on the wisdom of our ancestors, as monasteries have always been built at places of special energy after all. Long before "slowing down" was introduced to offer relief from our stressed, loud, and fast-paced society, people knew how to take a slower approach here.

    • But how can we maintain that pace and continue to look after ourselves once the holiday is over? "Conscious being is the way", Florentina insists. "Conscious being means not just letting yourself be led by others, not always conforming, but listening to what your inner voice has to say."

    • "Thus the silence. Look and listen to what is inside." Makes sense – perhaps not just for the down-to-earth spirituals amongst us. And how do you leave Pernegg Abbey after a week of fasting and silence? Florentina considers her answer well: "Relieved, elated – in terms of motivated and strengthened." Qualities we most certainly all desire! 

    "How do you feel after a week at the abbey? Happier, lighter, and more grounded. Most people leave full of optimism and good intentions."

    Monastery Pernegg in lower austria
    Ana, 42, coach and visitor at Pernegg Abbey

    Fasting, Silence, and Activities

    The Many Ways to Experience a Week at the Abbey

    Fasting is always a part of retreating into silence at Pernegg. Experts guide you through the change in diet, which you automatically sign up for when booking a week’s stay. Nature again plays an important role in helping you stick to the fast. Almost all activities take place outdoors – in the monastery garden, forest or on the lawn.

    A day may begin with a group walk into the nearby forest, where movement meditation wakes you up slowly. Each week has a different focus and the packages are varied, ranging from Tibetan Healing Yoga, writing, golf, and singing to fasting and hiking through the Waldviertel, dancing, painting, and even drama. Try something completely new or further develop an old passion – the programme offers it all.

    To the Pernegg Abbey packages (German only)
    Haus Rosalia - Teezimmer - Kloster Pernegg © Schewig Dieter

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