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Nearby Offbeat Attractions

Leaving Illmitz, head east on the main route and then cut north at the junction with Route 51. From Route 51, the little villages of St. Andrä bei Frauenkirchen and Andau are both signposted.

Near the Hungarian border, the tiny village of St. Andrä bei Frauenkirchen is filled with thatch houses. The town is known for its basket weaving, so you might want to drive here for a shopping expedition.

A short drive farther will take you to Andau, which became the focus of world attention in 1956 during the Hungarian uprising. It was through this point that hundreds of Hungarians dashed to freedom in the west, fleeing the grim Soviet invasion of Budapest.

Starting in the late 1940s, the border with Hungary was closely guarded, and people who tried to escape into Austria were shot from the Communist-controlled watchtowers. But now all that has changed. In 1989, the fortifications were rendered obsolete, and before the year was out, the once fortified border was completely opened.

The surrounding marshy area of this remote sector of Austria, called Seewinkel, is a large natural wildlife sanctuary. The area, dotted with windmills and reed thickets, is a haven for birds, many small animals, and some rare flora.

Seewinkel is very different from Austria's celebrated Alps and thick forests, and is little known to North Americans or even to most Europeans. In other words, it's a great place to get off the beaten track and add a little adventure to your travels.

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