How carp and potatoes came to be ambassadors of the Waldviertel
When the Cistercians expanded to the northern forest (Nordwald) in the 12th century, they constructed fisheries. Asia Minor is considered to be the original homeland of the carp. It is thought to have made the trip to Europe via the Danube. Carp quickly became a popular food item. At that time, when up to 150 days of fasting were observed, fresh-water fish counted as an indispensable source of nutrition. In Central and Eastern Europe, carp became an important component of both fasting meals and Christmas meals. The Waldviertel fish farmers have long toiled on a refinement of the carp culture.
In particular, ponds were configured as natural, species-appropriate environments. Most of them are so-called ‘heavenly ponds’, since their only access to water is via precipitation in the form of rain and snow. Today carp is considered one of the ambassadors of the Waldviertel, right alongside potatoes. The latter were presumably grown in Austria for the first time in 1620 by monks at the monastery of Seitenstetten. The empress Maria Theresa took it upon herself to promote the spread of potatoes. In 1740 they were cultivated for the first time in the border village of Pyhrabruck near Weitra. Yet this miracle tuber from South America still had a long way to go before gaining full acceptance. Its breakthrough came during times of war and scarcity. In the growing cities they came to be seen as a welcome addition to people’s diet.
Today the Waldviertel ‘Eapfi’ (potatoes) are an indispensable base for Waldviertel dishes, including the famous dumplings