It was a warm evening in early June as a friend and I climbed down from the bus at the top of the Kahlenberg, an ancient mountain 484 meters high, in the northeastern foothills of the Alps. Here from the board terraces of the tourism university Modul, the entire city of Vienna lays spread out before you, and on the clearer days even parts of Lower Austria. There is nothing lovable about this pristine complex that replaced an older restaurant and abandoned hotel on the site; the new construction is too barren, too Bauhaus for many. But at least it doesn’t block the view.
It was now just after 18:00 and a pleasant-sized crowd has gathered on the terrace; the gentle sounds of laughter and conversation floated over the light breeze and we were tempted to stop for a first drink under one of the umbrellas.
But we had other plans: We were going Heuriger-hopping!
So we peeled of the right, following the stony path down the mountain on a self-fashioned ‘watering tour’ of several of our favourite haunts, where we would sample this year’s local wines served by the vintners themselves, according to Austria’s beloved tradition, consecrated by more than two centuries of pleasure. And in the proccess we would also get to imbibe the lush scents, sounds and scenes of the Wienerwald in Spring.
There are two routes down, the easier, a well-paved road that snakes its way by hairpin turns through woods and wine fields (a favourite training route of mad mountain bikers, whom one passes straining through the masochistic exercise of actually riding up the hill!); the other is a much steeper foo path, mark by wooden “Wanderweg” sign, that turns into stone steps at the sharpest places. Sheltered, serene and splendid for the legs!
As we emerged from the woods and back onto the road, we could see the yellow facades of a villa in Nussdorf down past the vineyards to our right; to the left when there is a break in the trees, a glimpse of the church spire in Kahlenbergerdorf.
A little farther on, the roads splits and we turn off to the left and head for Heuriger Hirt. This is favourite, owned and run by Helmut and Romy Klapf, tucked into a fold in the hillside with a view up to the castle of Leopoldsberg above, and down to the river in the middle-distance below. This is non-frills Heuriger, with only a small inside seating area with the rough wooden charm of a hunter’s cabin and the far more generous outside seating, partially sheltered under open sheds. So hopes were high…until we arrive at the final turn…Closed on Tuesday. Sigh. So be warned.
So back up we go and 15 minutes later we are coming up on to Sirbu, the veteran of so many happy occasions past. On this late spring evening, the entry walk is a riot of flowering shrubs, apple blossoms and climbing roses. We were about to turn in when….”Na, hallo!” A squeak of brakes and two old friends in racing togs and helmets screech in to a halt in front of the gate. They had been cycling the mad- mountain roads and – of course – just happen to appear at exactly that moment. “Wien ist ein Dorf” – Vienna is a village, as we learned once again.
to be continued soon….