Tagged: history

Wachau Wine Weekend

It was mini-adventure time this weekend, so despite the weather being less than summery, we set out on a daytrip to explore the Wachau. What is Wachau I hear you cry? Well for starters, its this….

Only a big glorious beautiful area about an hour’s drive out of busy Vienna, completely hidden a little further down the Danube from the more famous Melk Abbey & Krems. I was gobsmacked. I know Austria is beautiful, but the countryside keeps hitting me in the face with just how stunning it is, right when I start taking it for granted…

Countryside in background, badly done selfie in foreground

We had a pretty little drive to get out there, through lots of cute little villages, even saw a few weddings en route – but the effects of recent flooding were still evident along the sides of the road.  The spot where we took the photo above would have been completely unerwater a few weeks ago. So to revive local tourism, S had a surprise in store for me, in the form of a Giant Castle!! I love castles! On top of A Mountain! Beside the Danube! Glorious!

Aggstein panorama

Lost the pointy bit on top, but you get the idea, no? CASTLE!!

Aggstein Castle is a big, reconstructed Fortress that was first built in 1350. Most of the roof has gone but a whole heap of the original rooms and castle walls remain. Its been really well restored and you can roam about freely to get a good feel of the place as it would have been in its heyday. Battlements, wells, cellar’s and original kitchen elements are all still there.

Huge stretch of castle to frolic in!

And if geeking out over historic details isn’t your thing, then the views alone are worth it!

Note adventuring Austrian’s paragliding in background

Peeking through a lookout point

We spent a good two hours here, wandering about, enjoying the views, pretending to be from Medieval times and, of course, snacking. Austrian style snacking which is…large:

yowze

Blurred photo and half demolished plate due to marauding hungry Austrian & Australian

The cafe restaurant is very traditional style Austrian, super homely and lots of wood. Because the weather was a bit scheisse we headed for a table indoors, where they had dellightful bay window seats and kitschy posters.

retro ad

cafe Aggstein

The manager/waitress revealed the upstairs area had been a hostel in the ’70’s. Can you imagine staying here as a backpacker for about ten bucks a night??!! Luxury!! I was tempted to request an overnight but S is yet to stay in a hostel (travel princess much??) so I thought this was maybe not the best induction one could ask for.

After conquering the castle our next mission was to cross to the other side of the Danube to the adorable village of Spitz. This proved harder than expected as the regular ferry was non operational after flooding. We had to loop around a bit but this took us past a few different kinds of street vendors selling fresh peaches, cherries and natürlich, schnapps.  I got to taste my first Steckerlfish, which was, hand on heart as a seafood lover, one of the freshest, tastiest best spiced fish I’ve had:

Taste’s better than it looks, I swear!!

We rounded out the day at a local Heuringer, which is like a winery but on a smaller scale, where you sit in someone’s home. Basically, for different periods of the wine season, local winemaker’s open up their backyards or courtyards as a place to drink and eat while tasting their produce. They only have a licence to selll their wine, no beer, spirits etc, and only cold food. Which, as you may have gathered by now is more than sufficient when Austrian Granny’s are making the snack plates!! We went to one owned by a friend’s family, and it felt like we were in Italian Wine country – stunning views, sunset, delicious cheap wine, and good chats with the locals

good cheap wine

                            I can never go back to Australian prices for wine….

spitz kiche

Spitz Kirche from Heuringer terrace

After whiling away 3 hours ‘tasting’ the beautiful wine the weather came in on us, but it had definitely been well worth braving it all day!

For those who want a visual on where we were, try this handy dandy map:

map wachau

If that doesn’t help you, stay tuned, because I think we’ll be headed back here soon, hopefully with friends in tow!!

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Medieval Madness!

Confession time guys – I am a MASSIVE  history nerd. You may have noticed from the posts on all things traditional, plus the fawning over Austrian architecture, but recently I got to indulge my über geek to a whole other level.

MEDIEVAL FESTIVAL IN A REAL LIVE CASTLE FROM THE 1300’S!!! YESSSS!!!!

Here’s the thing, Australia didn’t have Medieval times – white folks didn’t make it over to the island until the 1700’s by which time Knights, Chivalry and y’know, the Plague were long gone from Europe. So, when I get an opportunity  to get amongst something so historically geeky but cool I got a leeetle bit excited.

Kufstein is the closest big town to my misters home village in Tirol, and we were lucky enough to be visiting relatives when they were hosting this wonderful festival. I hadn’t actually been inside Kufstein Castle either so it was a good geek-out opportunity all round.

What I hadn’t expected to find, was an entire community of ‘medieval’ performance folks who legitimately live their lives like its the 1600’s. These festival folk setup their tents on the grounds of the castle or location where they’re performing and all live on ground in ye olde fashioned way. Shared tents, benches to eat at, sleeping on truckle beds, it was cool to see but an interesting lifestyle choice to say the least!

Two kids swordfighting, living the Knight life!!

The festival itself was really well organised (naturlich in Österreich!) and had roving performers, a big mainstage, food stands with ye olde style sausage, mead and ale!! I got to drink mead surrounded by Knights!! Life success!! Entrance was free if you came in costume, so it felt pretty authentic all day. There was storytelling for kids and they even staged one of the famous battles that took place in Kufstein castle, setting off the old cannons on the drawbridge, plus some super realistic fighting…..

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Pretty much exactly how the battle looked originally…..

It was really cute and loads of fun. Even though I couldn’t always understand what a lot of the performers were saying, medieval style comedy is mostly visual jokes and lots of prop gags with ‘dimwitted dudes’ being confounded by their sidekicks


Half naked men dressed as bunnies is funny in any era!!

The museum itself inside Kufstein castle had the worlds oldest organ inside (resisting all urges to make inappropriate pun there…) and loads if info on life in the castle. I’m calling it a castle, though technically (as I was told multiple times by the ever-precise Austrians!) its a fortress, and a pretty impentrable one. It was never infiltrated and was the focalpoint of all Tirolian defences throughout history. When you see the incredible views across the countryside from the windows, you can see why enemies never really had a chance to ‘surprise’ the locals.

Pretty sure I can see straight across to Germany through that Valley

Also in the museums, we got to see loads of fancypants outfits of soldiers, and big ‘ole impressive flags of their former armies:

In short, it was the perfect, most nerdilicious way to enjoy a castle I could’ve imagined!! This is what living in an incredibly old country is all about – and why my mother is sure I won’t be home anytime soon when I can enjoy this on a weekend. Sorry Mum!!

So what I’m wondering is, has anyone else come across these festival medieval types? I know they happen in England but the Bavarian ones I don’t know much about.  I’m trying to find out more info, but I’m guessing all details are probably in German, and though my Deutsch course is good, I’m not quite up to that level of research!! Let me know if you’ve seen stuff like this, or feel free to just share your nerd-out indulgences, especially if they’re as geeky/awesome as mine!!

Schloss Belvedere

This is one of my favourite little spots to drop by on a weekend. A princely little Palace smack in the middle of all the new construction underway for Vienna’s new – and surely gigantic – Bahnhof. They reckon it is currently one of the largest construction sites in Europe, but in pure Austrian style, its extremely efficiently run, as every time we come back there seems to be a new building. But enough of Bahnhof construction sites, lets see the Palace!!!

I am a sucker for a Palace and as far as they go, I think I like this a liiittle bit more than Schonbrunn. That may be sacriliege to say to a Viennese as Schonbrunn Palace is their number 1 tourist site, UNESCO World Heritage listed etc etc, but for me, something about the Belvedere feels more simple. Well, in terms of Baroque architecture ‘simple’:

The very ‘simple’ main gates!!!

Its a gorgeous little spot just for a stroll or picnic in the sunshine. The Palace itself also holds art exhibitions and has a long long association with artists and the Vienna Secessionist movement (modern art radicals in the early 1900’s).

This was also the Palace where Franz Ferdinand (yes, THE Franz Ferdinand, not the 4 british lads who write catchy tunes) lived before he was assasinated and got the ball rolling for WWI. If its good enough for a Prince and heir to the Habsburg Empire….

Not a bad place to drop by of an afternoon. But if I’m honest with you guys, I maaayy use the palace as an excuse to visit my absolute favourite cafe and brunch spot in Vienna – Hotel Daniel

Its basically a hipster kids paradise – funky design, Instagram worthy seating and magazines, indie but not overwhelming soundtrack and cute-but-cool menu’s. I love it sooo much, feels like a little slice of Melbourne in the middle of Vienna!! Right down to the fixie bikes attached to the wall, functional use of wooden pallet’s and inappropriate seating hanging from the roof

They do the best brunch I’ve had in Vienna – which as a brunch aficiando is saying something. I cannot reccommend this highly enough and find any excuse when visitor’s are in town to go and visit it!! They use local ingredients where possible and get their cakes and cookie related treats from a local lady who bakes. Adorable.

I have to give entire credit and many many thanks to the amazing  Sushi and Strudel blog for leading me here – http://sushiandstrudel.com/2012/05/10/hotel-daniel/

My advice? Go to see the Palace, but stay to enjoy this little gem of a Bakery!

Spring Awakening!

Its been a glorious few days here in Wien and I am loving the sense that the city is awakening, stretching its limbs for summer and preparing to thrive and hum in the coming months. I wanted to quickly share with you all the last few days’ exciting and inspiring moments. Defintely falling in love with the city right now….

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 1. This mini palace (Schloss? Palais?) I found en route to a lovely little wine and cheese bar  after Deutsch class on Tuesday. I loved it because even though I see the grand architecture of the city every day, little corners of the city like this can still take me by surprise with how stunning they are, completely out of nowehere, and still useful in the modern city. Absoloutely gorgeous.

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2. Walking towards the Hofburg last night down the back of the Ringstrasse…you can’t see it in this photo but I was looking at the sunset behind the Rathaus (pictured), to my right was the Burgtheatre and to my left was the Volksgarten. I was literally surrounded by history, gardens and managed to be there at the perfect time of day. A little moment but its these moments that still make me pinch myself for being here!

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 3. This was sitting on Heldenplatz, out the front of the Hofburg waiting for the free Symphonic Orchestra concert to start. They were holding it in celebrative memorial of 68 years freedom from the Nazi’s. It’s actually the first time the Austrian’s have ‘claimed back’ the day. It used to be an excuse for modern day Neo-Nazi’s to gather here and ‘celebrate’ but to combat that kind of negativity the city of Vienna in association with the Mathausen Trust organised a free concert in the park, and as you can see it was glorious. Happiness, beers, frankfurter stands, smiles and celebration of a ‘new’ Austria, one that is no longer a victim of Nazism, but a survivor. We lounged on the grass, a beautiful collection of Austrian, Swedish, German, Australian and Dutch expats and locals all enjoying the sunshine and stunning surrounds. Couldn’t think of a better way to commemorate freedom. The weather really turned it on as well!!

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 Just look at that picturesque sunset!! Unreal!!

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4. Lastly our own little corner of heaven. We had a bit of an Ikea splurge recently but the results have been well worth it. This is our new setup on the back porch – cushioned corner seat, little bench for food/games/glasses of wine and a new plant setup. It gets the sun in the morning and is cosy and protected from the wind in the evening. This was our Sunday brunch, and I can’t think of a better brunch spot in all Austria!! Am I getting a bit domestic in my old age?? Surely not! But I sure as hell love a sunny Sunday brunch….

In short, this week I am absoloutely loving my Viennese life!!