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A pilgrimage on the Mühlviertel’s Way of St John

A pilgrimage gives you the ultimate timeout. On a three- or four-day hike along the Way of St John – the Johannesweg – in the Mühlviertel region you can hit the reset button on your life.

The Way of St John – the Johannesweg – winds its way for 52 miles (84 kilometers) between the gently rolling hills and the expansive, mystical pine forests of the Mühlviertel region: a pilgrimage route with twelve checkpoints that was established in 2012. Small yellow signs mark this route through the unspoiled countryside, dotted with only a few traditional farmhouses. You immediately sense that this is a special area. The rivers and streams follow their ancient courses through the countryside, and the woods seem endless. The landscape radiates a remarkable energy that lets you immerse yourself in the experience.
 

The perfect timeout

The Johannesweg is a circular trail that passes about 6 sleepy hamlets in Upper Austria. There is a lot to discover along the route - like summit crosses, scenic meadows, chapels, and castle ruins - but the central purpose behind any pilgrimage is spending time with yourself. The “refuge of the pilgrimage” allows you – from a safe distance – to look at your life and to evaluate, review and improve it; to forget the everyday worries and, above all, to get to know yourself better. For many pilgrims, their journey represents a fresh start in a new chapter of their life. 

The kindness of the locals

Kindness and goodwill are also hallmarks of this pilgrimage, because even the locals who live along the Way of St John radiate exceptional warmth and friendliness. The approximately 30 inns that welcome hikers to spend the night are run by enthusiastic hosts, who want guests to become part of the local culture. Every time you are greeted with a hearty Grüss dich! from off in the distance, you are spurred on to forget your tired feet and keep persevering. 

The Way of St John takes three to four days to complete and offers the perfect opportunity to spontaneously flee your daily routine and give yourself a timeout.


 

All about the pilgrimage

Way of St John - Mühlviertel © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck Way of St John - Mühlviertel © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck

The Way of St John in the Mühlviertel

  • Distance: 52 miles (84 km)
  • Hiking time: 3 to 4 days depending on fitness
  • Starting point: You can access the circular trail at any point
  • Trail villages: Pierbach, Schönau im Mühlkreis, St. Leonhard bei Freistadt, Weitersfelden, Kaltenberg, Unterweißenbach, Königswiesen
Good hiking gear © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck Good hiking gear © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck

Tip

Blisters adieu!

Even the most beautiful hike is difficult to enjoy with blisters on your feet. They can be avoided by wearing boots that are properly broken in. Depending on how stiff they are, you should do one to three break-in walks before beginning the hike.

The choice of socks is also important: cotton socks promote a warm and humid climate in your boots, which can lead to the formation of blisters, so a better choice would be merino wool or a cotton/synthetic blend. Applying tape to sensitive areas can also help prevent friction. When you take a break, always retighten your shoelaces in order to gain more support from your hiking boots.

Along the Way of St John

  • Way of St John © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck Way of St John © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck
  • Ruin Ruttenstein © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck Ruin Ruttenstein © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck
  • Make a pilgrimage- Way of St John © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck Make a pilgrimage- Way of St John © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck
  • Sunset © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck Sunset © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck
  • Evening sun on the Way of St John © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck Evening sun on the Way of St John © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck
  • Way of St John © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck Way of St John © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck
  • Farm at the Way of St John © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck Farm at the Way of St John © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck
  • A pilgrimage on the Way of St John © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck A pilgrimage on the Way of St John © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck
  • Way of St John © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck Way of St John © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck
  • Way of St John © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck Way of St John © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck
  • Way of St John © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck Way of St John © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck

“Making a pilgrimage means being alert to the opportunities of the moment: Completely by myself, open for the journey, on the way to the destination.”

Peter Müller, Pilgrimage guide and author

Pilgrimage FAQs

 

Who can make a pilgrimage?
Anyone! Pilgrimages are not about speed or the number of miles you cover, but about mindful walking and the timeout from your daily routine.

What should I take with me?
Important are properly broken-in hiking shoes in order to avoid blisters, protection against the sun and rain, a first-aid kit and, if desired, a hiking staff. You will need hiking clothes and “relaxing clothes” – for when you go out to dinner in the evening or want to do some sightseeing along the way. Your backpack should be as light as possible. On some pilgrimage routes – such as the Way of St John – the inns offer a luggage transfer service to your next stop.

What does a pilgrimage cost?
You should plan on spending 30 to 50 euros per day, depending on the accommodations you choose and how you want to eat during the day.

How does one organize accommodations?
The distance pilgrims travel on a given day often depends on how they are feeling, so looking for accommodations is generally a spontaneous affair. This is fine if you are just one or two hikers, but with a larger group you should definitely reserve accommodations in advance. Along the Way of St John there are some thirty family-run accommodations, so capacity is limited and it is thus a good idea to make reservations.

What time should one begin walking each day?
This depends on what the goal is for the day. But in any case you should begin between 7 and 9 a.m. in order to avoid the midday heat. You can then also spend the afternoon relaxing at a lake or sightseeing after you have completed your distance for the day.

When does one begin benefitting from a pilgrimage?
Basically, one can say that every step counts. Even if you walk only one day, and do it mindfully, you have given yourself a timeout. But the longer you walk, the more you get into the flow and can cast off your troubles.

Are there rules on a pilgrimage?
No. What is important is to pay attention to the signposts and to keep on public roads and paths in order not to stray onto private property and to protect nature.

  • Johannesweg (St. John's pilgrimage route) / Johannesbrunnen-Irxwasser © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck Johannesweg (St. John's pilgrimage route) / Johannesbrunnen-Irxwasser © Österreich Werbung / Lukas Beck

    The Way of St John App

    The Johannesweg App provides information on the pilgrim’s current location on the Way of St John (Johannesweg) and displays the hiking route. The twelve checkpoints where hikers can collect a stamp for their hiking “passport” are marked here, as are all the places where one can eat and/or spend the night.

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