Donate button

Hikes in Nature as part of a culture festival? Big Friendly Giants at Tangente STP festival



Knut Wimberger

Short summary:

Three Big Friendly Giants walks will be led by Green Steps as part of the Tangente Summer Residency from August 12-14 to learn about the neighborhood around the University of Applied Sciences and Kulturheim Nord in an ecological, cultural, and social way. What does nature have to do with culture? This question is explored here.

Tangente St. Pölten is the name of a newly founded festival in the provincial capital. It sees itself as a follow-up project to the application for the title of European capital of culture. Together with the citizens of St. Pölten, the festival curators want to use the means of art to address the pressing issues of the world. The festival will continue until October 2024. The Summer Residency will be the first highlight, which will offer various program points between August 10 and 20 with the participation of four invited artists and local initiatives and will end with a block party on the last day.

Green Steps was invited to contribute with three guided Big Friendly Giants routes around the University of Applied Sciences, the Kulturheim Nord and across the Glanzstoff quarter. These routes form an integral part of Mobile Campus 4.0, which Green Steps has developed over the past 18 months as an innovative environmental education program. The routes travel along more than 300 giant old trees throughout the city, making it easy for participants to understand the city as an ecosystem and the old trees as the major underpinnings of that ecosystem in need of protection.

But what does a guided tour of the city's oldest trees have to do with culture? Old trees that have been shaping the image of our hometown for 100 to more than 300 years during which have experienced a lot of history and, with the help of Green Steps Nature Guides and local citizens, can provide deep and extremely interesting insights into the development of each part of the city.

Telling the story of the city and its neighborhoods through old trees is easy to understand and can be seen by everyone as a part of culture. In addition, trees themselves are parts of our human history when we reflect on how in pre-industrial times trees served as the foundation of our economy. During the forgotten age of trees, which is commonly understood to have lasted until the onset of the chemical industry, well into the 18th or 19th century - depending on the region - trees were the source of most materials used by humans.

While today the value of a tree is generally measured by the quality of the wood supplied, trees were once the donors of substances now chemically produced, such as tar, glue, medicinal preparations and, of course, a variety of food products that have fallen into oblivion. As an example, the lime tree, which dominates our region, whose bast was long used to make clothing and whose flowers provided both tasty honey and anti-inflammatory tea and other medicinal extracts.

The more you study trees, the more you realize that we humans would not exist without them. Ancient tree giants are literally the pillars of our existence. On more than 20 other routes across St. Pölten you can experience with our Nature Guides that nature is not only the basis of culture, but that culture could not be separated from nature for the longest time of human existence.

In times of climate change, a return to this connection is healing in various ways: on the one hand, culture is called to humility, since only culture that protects and respects nature represents added value in the Anthropocene. The confrontation with nature inevitably leads to the question of what ever-changing purpose culture should and must serve. On the other hand, the artificial separation of nature and culture as well as city and country, perhaps also between wild and civilized, can be overcome.

Green Steps also offers hands-on, accessible formats to accompany the Big Friendly Giants hikes and cultural information about ancient giant trees, specifically designed to help children develop a multi-sensory relationship with nature. We practice a wide variety of seasonal nature art, which means we use materials from nature and shape them into small and fleeting works of art. Currently the mud faces, which you can see in the picture above, are very popular.

Furthermore, every Wednesday at Sonnenpark we offer a format inspired by Japanese Shintoism, using origami-like paper art to decorate old trees. Traditionally decorated trees are called shinboko, meaning sacred trees, by the Japanese and represent a form of polytheism practiced there. A kami, Japanese for deity, may reside in any part of nature, whether a rock, waterfall or tree. The participating children draw these kamis in their nature journals inspired by the respective tree.

We are looking forward to welcoming you at one of our hikes in the Kulturheim Nord or at one of our workshops in the Sonnenpark! New friendships are always made during our activities - whether with plants or people! Please register at or directly on our event platform: