Repatriate Games


Wiener Wald

Hiking and (Not) Schnitzeling. Genussmeile!



An alcoholic drink before midday, typically Sunday, at a heuriger, in the company of friends.

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Hiking and Schnitzeling. Perchtoldsdorfer Heide

Rarely is it our preference to remain entirely in Vienna on the weekends; this weekend, though, Tony was on call at the Emergency Response Center, meaning that we could travel no further than an hour from the U.N. Saturday’s weather looked the most promising of the two days, and so a close-in hike was the vote.

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Hiking and Schnitzeling. The Hapsburg’s Other Summer Residence

This weekend finds us staying local, but not for lack of trying to find us somewhere else.  (Weather, she is a cruel mistress.) We made the best of our First World Problem with a short and lovely outing on Saturday to the Hapsburg’s back up summer residence, Schloss Laxenburg.

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Not a "Boar"ing Time at All: Naturpark Sparbach


Tuesday’s activity du jour was an outing to Naturpark Sparbach, Austria’s first nature preserve, bequeathed to the empire in 1810 by the Liechtenstein Family.  The preserve contains Roman ruins, including a temple, and the remains of three 12th century castles. There are farm and wild animals, as well, including the star attraction, Wildschweine (boars).

Mayerling and Heiligenkreuz

On Saturday we were not in the mood for a long day trip; no, we were not feverish, we just have a summer holiday approaching that entails a fair amount of driving. Thankfully, there is always a castle or palace or stately villa nearby that is worthy of exploring, and in this case, it was the Jagdschloss Mayerling, the former hunting lodge of Crown Prince Rudolf, heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian throne.  Except for that murder-suicide matter with his teenage mistress. And WWI, of course.
The Vienna Woods are gorgeous this time of year.
In less than an hour we arrived at the lodge, just ahead of four tour buses!  Sometime after the Crown Prince’s death, a chapel was added to the lodge, encompassing the bedroom where the incident occurred.
The Crown Prince led a troubled life. His parents were not particularly affectionate; and as a most eligible bachelor found himself caught up with ladies of ill repute, let’s just say. He even brought along one of his mistresses en route to Belgium to marry his wife, Duchess Sofie of Belgium, and convinced a different mistress to end her life with his. His story is rather tragic.


In the former bedroom now resides a statue of the Virgin Mary, with a “dagger of anguish” piercing her heart, along with a pictorial of the Emperor upon learning of the death of his son.

In the tea pavilion there is on exhibit several of the Crown Prince’s sketches, most of them ornithological in nature, as he was big into birds.  To think that if only the incident had not occurred, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand may have never found himself in Sarajevo on that fateful day in 1914…


Near to Mayerling is Heiligenkreuz, a small village home to the oldest continuously occupied monastery in the world.  Beautiful grounds to walk about for a little bit before lunch.







During lunch this delightful insect (?) amused us; and then, an easy drive home before the late afternoon rain showers arrived.

Day Hike: From a Sleepy Little Wine Village to an Ancient Roman Spa Town

There are several ex-pat and Trailing Spouse guilds and associations in Vienna that offer a multitude of ways to network, make friends, and, my personal favorite, “leave the housework at home.” While I don’t quite have the patience for endless coffee mornings (an almost-required sport here) I am game for most other pursuits.

This week one of the groups offered a hike in Lower Austria. The ÖBB whisked us in no time to Gumpoldskirchen, a sleepy little wine village south of Vienna, where our hike began to Baden, an ancient Roman spa town 7 kilometers south.

For your orientation.

The organizer of the Hiking Club informed us newbies that, “Every hike begins with coffee and a sweet.” I liked the organizer, and the rules, immediately!  We found a small heuriger that was open, and were treated to warm Zwetschkenkuchen (plum cake with powdered sugar). Light and perfectly sweet.
Gumpoldskirchen is a picturesque wine village, with a main street lined with vintner’s cellars. It being morning most were closed, but the village certainly warrants a return visit.

“Most” is early, early wine, pretty much like grape juice; Sturm, of course, is the intermediate new wine.

 “Harvest Time” (rough translation) doesn’t last long!

 A whole pond of these unusual but very friendly ducks in the village.

We walked along part of the Wiener Leitungswasserweg (Vienna’s watershed).

Schloss Gumpoldskirchen, with guest rooms for rent.

Of course, no hike through vineyards is complete without the grapes.

The group paused here to tackle the second phase of our hike, where to enjoy lunch in Baden. By the time we reached our destination, we were all too hungry to take photos of the pretty town, sorry. You’ll just have to visit to see it for yourself.
Vienna experienced its first frost two nights ago, at least up here in Döbling, so it won’t be long before the days are cold, eternal, and grey. Until then, however, one would have to be crazy not to savor the blue skies and warm sun of autumn in Austria.

(Sore) Tails from the Vienna Woods

Our first Christmas in Austria was just delightful. The peals of the church bells from Nußdorf and Heiligenstadt Pfarrkirchen woke us at midnight; and then, about five hours later, our children woke us (after the coffee had brewed, most definitely) to inspect the Czech handhewn bows and arrows that Santa brought them.  The morning passed leisurely into evening, and we brought the holiday to a close with our traditional dinner of borscht, pierogis, and kielbasa.
The holiday hustle and bustle over, today dawned with the promise of an empty agenda. By late morning the breakfast plates were cleared, the snow apparel located in one of the handful of remaining unpacked boxes, and off we headed to Styria for an afternoon of fun in the snow. 
A four-run toboggan ticket kept the children occupied.

While Tony and I were occupied with lunch in the lodge. (I can dress for snow, but that does not mean I desire to be out in it.) 

The Knoblauchcremesuppe (garlic cream soup) with black bread toasts was perfect.
A few hours, and a couple of cold and sore bottoms later, we were settled in with dinner in front of the fire and a movie on the flat screen at home. I love the holidays.

Time Travel in the WienerWald

Since my OCD-like tendencies during the week mean there are few if any errands to run, or chores to do, on the weekend, we awoke on Sunday to a day replete with options. I tossed a pork roast into the slow cooker (which, amazingly enough, I had to order from because I was unable to find one anywhere in Vienna. Meat slicers?  Everywhere. Rice steamers? You bet. Slow cookers? All I received were blank stares from the store clerks) and off we went.

Wotrubakirche was our first destination. The church, built in the 1970’s, sits atop Georgenberg more or less between the unattractive modern buildings of Vienna’s 23rd District and the beautiful villas that trim the edge of the WienerWald, the Vienna Woods. (During the Third Reich, the church site was used as Wehrmacht barracks.)

Continuing to wander through the scenic WienerWald, before long Burg Liechtenstein came into view. Built in the 12th century, parts of it were destroyed by the Ottomans.  The castle holds no special significance other than to impress us as we approached.  And impress us it did. I hope that we never cease to enjoy the sight of a real castle!

Journeying back toward home we detoured to Seegrotte, a former gypsum mine in Lower Austria.  A blasting accident in 1912 caused 20 million gallons of water to rush into the mine, creating what is now Europe’s largest subterranean lake (6200m2).  The mine is no longer operational, except for tours and a boat ride through parts of the lake.

There is more sadness associated with this mine, though, in addition to the lives lost in the accident. During WWII the mine was used by German military forces as an underground aircraft factory; the labor for the factory were the prisoners from a Mauthausen concentration sub-camp located above the mine. The prisoners were, quite literally, worked to death building German’s “secret weapon,” the HE 162 Salamander.

Taking the Waters

To Baden we went to escape the heat of Vienna. The former Imperial spa town now offers the common man (and woman and child) the opportunity to frolic in the Roman baths of sulphurous mineral water and soak up the sun along the largest seashore in Austria.  Not bad for a landlocked country, now, is it?
The changing “cabins” were charming, and our belongings were kept very secure by the Thermalbad Hall Monitor. If I had ever summer vacationed at a family resort in the Catskills in the 1960’s, this is how I imagine it all would have looked.
The largest seashore in Austria did not disappoint.  Even I went into the water.
Art Deco and blue skies to the north.
Castle ruins of Rauhenstein to the west.
And who doesn’t like fake palms trees?
In the main pool the water is warm, but nothing compared to the spas in the center.  And perhaps because this bath is outdoors, the sulphur smell was rather minimal. 
Some in the family preferred the cooler waters of the other pools.

Time for a break. A cool himbeere soda tastes perfect on a hot day.

 Long shadows on the sand means it’s time to head home.

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