“During summer, we throw up a BBQ and our guests say, ‘Hang on Maria, and look: The stars. So many and so clear! It is so beautiful here in the Waldviertel. Such clean air. We sleep so well here, and just love the silence, you know.’ And Elena, comments like these, they just get to me, you know”, Maria says and looks me deeply in the eyes. Then, her expression changes as her face wrinkles up into a large smile: “But now, let’s first go and get a taste of the fresh ‘Mohnzelten’ I’ve made this morning. I always love baking for my guests, you know.”
Yay to fresh ‘Mohnzelten’, which I know from my own granny’s baking who by the way has also lived out here in the Lower Austrian Waldviertel area, in a place called Freitzenschlag, Groß Gerungs – right near Maria! Small world.
And then, it hits me. Likely the best bite of a ‘Mohnzelten’ poppy sweet I’ve ever taken! “Do you want some more? Take them home with you, my dear”, Maria smiles at me full of love.
There is no denying an old lady that could easily be your own granny: Within a few minutes, she has packed up 12 delicious, typical ‘Mohnzelten’ sweets in a cute little cake box that she now closes with a string of wool she actually spun herself.
Made by hand, with love by me: The “motto” of the happy octogenarian Maria Rienesl.
Maria Rienesl really is one of a kind. She loves to look at things like “the Internet, my emails and the computer”, although it really is her son who now manages the family home including two holiday apartments for families in the Waldviertel. “People don’t call anymore, it’s all via email and online booking these days”, the great-grandmother of a whole bunch of children, grandchildren as well as great-grandchildren adds nonchalantly. “But once our guests are here, everything’s just wonderful. Some people still book for several weeks! They just love it, they absolutely like to relax and enjoy the area out here”, she tells me with pride in her voice.
Finally, it’s Maria Rienesl’s kitchen where travellers really become friends, even family. Gotta love the open world spirit of the “sweet old lady” here!
I remember going through a lot of handwritten letters, Christmas cards, and photographs with Maria, each one of them sent to her by guests turned family friends over the past thirty years. She is still in touch with most of them: “Look here, Elena, the first entry in my guestbook … August 1983!” – “One month before I was born”, I exclaim, smiling at the sign. There is so much love, and HOME offered in this kitchen, that I finally decide to ask Maria to take our photo too: “But you must send it to me, will you?” Of course I will. As I always do for my own granny, too!
So many visitors that have come to see Maria in all her (baking) glory, over the years and turned true friends of the family, what with sending hand-written letters and photographs to her still today.
The secret, I am sure, has to be in these beautiful ‘Mohnzelten’ poppy delights and just look at them: Wouldn’t you want to take a bite yourself? THANK YOU so much for your kindness, dear Maria. What a happy day up here with you in the Waldviertel !!!