Austrian wine. It’s delicious. Though maybe not quite as famous as Italian, French, or Spanish varieties, it is still a major facet in Austrian culture. Of course, it is produced all over the country but also in it’s cities. Yes, that’s right, Vienna has famous vineyards just outside is sprawling metropolis. In fact, it is one of the only capitals left in the world where vineyards not only exist, but also produce and distribute significant quantities of wine within the city limits. So of course, I had to check it out.
A visit to the heurigers of Vienna are simply a “must” according to all the research I did prior to my arrival in Austria. A heuriger is a unique Viennese wine tavern where you can often find wine tastings, seasonal vintages, yummy snacks, and fun people. Essentially it’s very similar to the American bar, but much more highbrow because, c’mon, we’re in Vienna!
Since it came so highly recommended and I had already seen much of what I wanted within the Ringstrasse, I opted for a nice boozy day trip to the small village of Grinzing. Leaving in the mid-morning for an optimal amount of daylight, I set out for wine country; or city in this case. The hostel directed me on how to get there via public transport and I was amazed at how close this place was to the city! It took maybe 25 minutes and all of a sudden I was transported back to “heuriger age” of taverns and small, cobblestone streets where you can find great local wine around every corner. It was quite a trip (literally and figuratively).
Unfortunately, it was also raining so the plan to spend the day sight seeing around town was clearly out of the question. The bus that I took from the metro station to arrive in Grinzing also carries on up the road to Kahlenberg and Leopoldsberg, “famous hills” in Vienna from which you should get terrific views of all of Vienna and the surrounding riverscape of the Danube. In my mind, being on a warm bus is better than walking around cold and wet, so I got back on the bus and headed up the hill.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who thought this as I encountered a very nice couple on the bus imbibing in the same day trip and having reached the same conclusion about the weather. Having also been sent here on a recommendation from their hotel and fellow travelers, they were hoping to experience the charm of the village life and taste a bit of the gruner veltliner wine. Made from the gruner veltliner grape, this white wine is known for its young, fruity taste and bubbly kick (something I quite enjoy). In Grinzing, you can practically find it anywhere, at all the heurigers, because it is a staple to the oenology of Austian wine. Though they have ventured into the red varieties, the best wine (that I had) in Vienna was always white.
But I digress. Back on the bus, I began chatting away with Keith and Nikki, my bus-mates. They were a very nice couple, on holiday from the UK and hoping to experience a bit of the “townie” life outside of metropolis Vienna. Heading in the same direction, we all decided to check out the mountain views together.
Once we got to the first stop, Kahlenberg, we decided to pop out for a bit of coffee and sightseeing. There really wasn’t a whole lot to see, but there was a cafe so at least one need was met. Since it was still a little drizzly outside, we lingered a little longer in the cafe before going back to the bus stop. Just outside of the cafe was a great balcony with an incredible view of the Danube and downtown Vienna so I did take a few pictures, but rather briefly as I was not dressed for the weather. The forecast in Vienna was supposed to be “sunny”… Not the case.
It was a lovely view though. Vienna is absolutely gorgeous from above. And to the right of the city, you could see all the vineyards down below, growing up alongside the mountain/hill. Leaving the cafe, we passed a small church and some booths selling souvenirs, but that was pretty much all there was to Kahlenberg.
Keith and Nikki had heard about a nice restaurant on the way back down the hill where you can get good wine, cheap food, and a gorgeous view of the whole city, so when the clock struck twelve they headed back down for lunch. But I continued on to Leopoldsberg!
Also, not a whole lot to see, but it is a very famous hill in Vienna where you get an even better picture of the glory below. Like its neighbor Kahlenberg, there is also a church or monastery perched high on the hilltop, but it was unfortunately closed during my visit (or possibly for eternity as it was looking a little dilapidated). You could still walk all the way around the church however and see what the city looks like from all angles. Having only enough time to really look at the city center, it was nice to see the less congested parts of Vienna.
After getting thoroughly soaked and cursing my choice of footwear, I decided I had seen enough of the hillside and was finally ready to head back down and seize that illustrious glass of gruner veltliner that everyone seemed to be so wild about.
By this time it was around 2 o’clock in the afternoon, high time for wine taverns to be open, or so I thought. Alas, it appeared that this was not the case as they don’t officially open until around 3 o’clock and don’t start “popping” until around five or so. I was a little disappointed because this excursion had been explained to me as a day trip, but really it was more of an afternoon jaunt. Having had all my wine tasting experiences in California where you can literally drink wine at any time, all the time, I was shocked that the heurigers were closed until the late afternoon.
Fortunately for me, there was one tavern capitalizing on the stupidity of its neighbors. So, having no other choice, I headed in for a bite and hopefully wine. I was in luck! And so were they, as it seems the entire village was here having a hearty lunch out of the rain.
Serving traditional Viennese food like schnitzel, goulash, pork knuckle, and all the rest, it was quite the find. Not wanting to tackle a whole meal (and the price associated with it) I opted for a nice, hearty, lentil soup that was very good! And of course, I finally got my wine! I tried both the red and the white, but the white was definitely my favorite having that nice, almost carbonated taste on your tongue.
While I was there, I met a nice couple from Hawaii on a long vacation around Europe where they had spent most of their time in France drinking wine (what else?). They were not as impressed by the veltliner as I was, but I suppose they had a more refined palate after all the Bordeaux they had tried.
After lunch, I had kinda seen it all, so I decided to head back to Vienna and catch the last few hours of daylight checking the final two items off my to-do list: the Naschmarkt and the giant ferris wheel.
Since the Naschmarkt was right outside my hostel I went there first on my way to Prater, the oldest amusement park in the world. The Naschmarkt is like a huge farmers market that happens every day from 6 am until 7:30 pm, or whenever they feel like it. Since it is a sort of culinary institution here in Vienna, there are built-in stalls that house restaurants, bars, food stalls, spice markets, souvenir shops, clothing stores, the works; you name it, they got it. Of course, past the permanent stands are canopies upon canopies of pop-up tents selling more of the same you can get within the market, but sometimes for a better price. I was just there to see what all the fuss was about, but had I been hunting for literally anything, this is where I would play.
After getting the feel for all that was happening at the Naschmarkt, and believe you me, there was a lot going on, I set out for Prater.
This was not close. Don’t misunderstand my jovial blogging tone. I walked for what seemed like forever to reach this amusement park and the iconic giant ferris wheel. But it was worth it in the end. Though it was no Disneyland, Six Flags, or Great America, it was still quite impressive for being the oldest amusement park in the world. Of course the oldest and most famous ride at Prater is the Riesenrad, or giant ferris wheel. This ride offers the participant a view of the city from 200 ft up, as well as the ability to say that you rode a ferris wheel from 1897! Just kidding, the original actually burned down in the forties, but it’s still probably older than any ferris wheel you have been on in your lifetime. I, unfortunately couldn’t justify the €9 cost, so I just took pictures from down below like the cheap little tourist that I am.
After walking around Prater and seeing all that it had to offer, I was really impressed at the variety of rides to be found here. I don’t know if it’s necessarily as grand as Disneyland, but it’s the oldest amusement park in the world so that should mean something, right? Though they do definitely take advantage of that angle since all the rides are at least €4. There were quite a few enticing attractions, but I just couldn’t quite justify spending the money on such short lived euphoria. And it was honestly enough just to watch those around me enjoy it all. Should the rides interest you, you can get a Pratercard but this is basically like a ride debt card that you put credit on and then use each time you board a ride. Although, you do get a free ride for every 100 euros you spend, but that’s hardly incentive to spend 100 euros. It was a nice park and I recommend visiting, but don’t let the free entry fool you; it’s not cheap.
Then I began the long, long, long walk back to my hostel to pack my things and get ready for my bus to Budapest the following day. Let the next adventure begin!