Muehlviertel Region (officially: Muehlkreis), Upper Austria, mountain region which was not settled until relatively recently, north of the Danube between Jochenstein and Strudengau (named after the River Grosse Muehl). Bounded in the east by the Lower Austrian Waldviertel region, in the south by the Danube, in the west by Bavaria, and in the north by Bohemia. The fertile plain in the southeast is called Machland (originally "Riedmark"). Geologically, the Muehlviertel is the oldest landscape of Upper Austria and belongs to the Bohemian Massif (Austrian Granite Plateau). River valleys with deep ravines at their confluence with the Danube (Muehlsenke, Haselgraben and upper Rodltal valley and Feldaistsenke depressions) divide the Muehlviertel, whose southern parts from west to east along the Danube are called Passauer, Linzer and Greiner Wald. The torso plain, which is deeply intersected by Danube tributaries and about 500 m high at its southern edge, rises in big steps up to over 800 m in the north. It merges into the elevation bulge (Bohemian Forest, Ploeckenstein mountain 1,379 m), the European main water shed and the Czech border. Small settlements (Weiler) and block fields along the ancient salt road to Bohemia, in the Feldaistsenke depression, and in the west, i.e. around Rohrbach, nucleated villages with strip-fields can still be found; elsewhere scattered settlements prevail, which are replaced by wood hides at the edge of the northern boundary forest. The Muehlviertel region is also characterised by several types of farmhouses: in the settlements cleared in the late Middle Ages by the boundary forest of the Muehlviertel, the "Streckhof" and "Hakenhof" types dominate, whereas in other parts the Muehlviertel, "Dreiseithof" and "Vierseithof" farmhouses prevail, replaced by the "Vierkanthof" in the southern part of the districts Perg and Urfahr. - Castles and castle ruins: Falkenstein on the Ranna river, Sprinzenstein on the Kleine Muehl river, Neuhaus, Puernstein and Piberstein on the Grosse Muehl river, Oberwallsee on the Pesenbach stream, Ottensheim on the Danube, Rottenegg, Lichtenhang, Lobenstein and Waxenberg at the Rodl river, Weinberg, Reichenstein, Schwertberg, Dornach, Prandegg and Freistadt on the Aist river, Klam, Innerstein and Klingenberg on the Klambach stream, Sarmingstein on the Sarmingbach stream. Main villages and towns: Rohrbach in the west; Freistadt in the east; and Kefermarkt, where a carved Gothic altar is a major attraction for art lovers. Sandl, which has a glass painting museum, was a centre of glass painting (verre eglomise); the Muehlviertel Heimathaus, a local museum in Freistadt, houses the biggest collection of glass paintings in Austria - Until the 1950s flax cultivation was the basis of an old-established linen industry in the upper Muehlviertel; the textile industry has been continuously reduced in the last decades. The former weaver's market town of Haslach an der Muehl is still a centre of textile production today; the village of Helfenberg is one of many villages with weaving mills along the Muehlviertel weaver's route. Hop cultivation has a long tradition (1880 cultivated area of 1,000 hectares, hop cultivation stopped after World War II, started again in the 1960s, 1990 again up to 104 hectares). The Muehlviertel is also famous for its breweries (Freistadt, Grein, Schlaegl, etc.). The region is largely agricultural; the whole district of Rohrbach is a hill farming area (zone 1); in the district of Freistadt about 95 % of farmers are hill farmers, half of the agricultural enterprises lie in zone 3 with unfavourable climatic conditions (cultivation of rye, spring barley, oats, silage maize and green maize, about 60 % of the cultivable area is grassland and cultivated pastures). In the district of Perg one third of agricultural enterprises are located in a favourable area along the Danube (cultivation of grain, maize and lately also alternative cultures with soya, etc.). In recent decades the number of agricultural enterprises has been decreasing, many being run on a part-time basis, whereas commuting to Linz has been increasing. - Economic activity is limited, and small and medium-sized commercial and industrial enterprises dominate. The district of Perg has important industrial enterprises (Manner, Engel Maschinenbau and Poschacher Company); granite quarry at Mauthausen, granite works in Freistadt and Aigen; tourism has increasingly become an important and promising economic factor ("quality tourism"). Being a structurally weak region, two thirds of the Muehlviertel is classified as development area class 5b according to EU regulations. In 1994 the Euroregion Bavarian Forest/Bohemian Forest/Muehlviertel was founded.
The oldest archaeological finds of the Muehlviertel date back to the Hallstatt period. Excavations in Mitterkirchen between 1981-1990, uncovered a graveyard with 80 graves, more than 900 vessels and numerous other grave goods as well as ruins of a settlement from around 700 B.C. (open air museum of prehistory). In Roman times the Muehlviertel was a sparsely inhabited primeval wood. When the Bavarians settled along the Danube, most areas of the Muehlviertel became part of their duchy (from the middle of the 6th century), then became Babenberg property; they latter acquired large estates between the Danube and the Bohemian Forest; in 1180 the Babenbergs also acquired the western Muehlviertel. The main part of the Muehlviertel was not cleared until the high and late Middle Ages. The region was especially important for transit trade between Upper Austria and Bohemia (especially salt and iron). The Railway, Horse-drawn from Linz to Budweis was built along the old salt route across the Muehlviertel in 1832 as the first railway on the European continent. During the National Socialist July Putsch of 1934 a vanguard of the "Austrian Legion" attempted to cross the German-Austrian border near Kollerschlag. In the National Socialist era the largest Concentration Camp on Austrian territory was built at Mauthausen. During the Allied occupation, 1945-1955, the Muehlviertel as a part of the Soviet occupied zone, was administratively separately from the rest of Upper Austria (with Urfahr as its administrative centre).
The Muehlviertel is a clearly defined and characteristic part of the province of Upper Austria, comprising the political districts of Rohrbach, Urfahr-Umgebung, Freistadt and Perg (total area of 3,082 km2 with a population of 246.000, 1991) as well as the part of the town area of Linz lying north of the Danube (Urfahr with Poestlingberg hill).
Literature#B. Ulm and W. Hofstadler, Das Muehlviertel, seine Kunstwerke, historische Lebens- und Siedlungsformen, 1971; E. Merl, Besatzungszeit im Muehlviertel anhand der Entwicklung im politischen Bezirk Freistadt, 1980; C. Honeder, Situation der Klein- und Mittelbetriebe in benachteiligten Regionen, insbesondere im Muehlviertel, master´s thesis, Linz 1990; B. Heindl, Textil-Landschaft Muehlviertel: mit einem Reisebegleiter durch die Muehlviertler Weberstrasse, 1992; J. Kramer (ed.), Das Muehlviertel in seinen Sagen: Vom beschriebenen Taennling, 1992.