A WALK IN THE WIENERWALD
(THE VIENNA WOODS)
PART ONE: The Kahlenberg
Strauss, Schubert and Beethoven reputedly came to these hills and woods to be reinvigorated and inspired by nature. The Vienna Woods partially surround the city, from its north to its southwest. The hills offer copious greenery, trees and birds, and grasses and flowers, in the right seasons. In Winter they are gray, or white with gray.
Johann Strauss wrote a set of waltzes called Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald (views from the Vienna Woods). There is a great set of photos (with leaves on the trees!) accompanying this famous music on YouTube (click here to go there).
This visit was still in Winter, no leaves, no grass, no flowers. But it was at least a mild day.
Let's get oriented first. Here is look at where we are going, from the bridge the subway takes from where my hotel is into the city. The destination is the set of hills in the distance, in particular the hill with the communication tower:
It was a good choice to do this walk on my arrival day. Had I waited until my "play day" I would have faced weather like this:
Notice the two tiny spires at the base of the hills to the right in the photo above. That is the Klosterneuburg, “the most significant abbey in Austria,” according to my Frommer’s Vienna & The Danube Valley guidebook. “It was founded in 1114 by the Habsburg Margrave Leopold III and was once the residence of the famous Habsburg Emperor Charles VI.” But, the guidebook explains, the place is the home of numerous historical art treasures including an enamel altar dating from 1181.
Here is a closer view:
I would like to go see the place on some future trip, but not this time although we will see at again on this page from the top of the above hills.
I took the subway into the city and then to where I could catch the 38A bus to Kahlenberg where I got off and walked to the city-overlook, then to where the two towers marked the local high point. From there I walked over three hills and then came down as indicated with the green line superimposed on a Google-map™ base:
The green line I drew on the above map ends at the Cobenzl road where there is a bus stop, and I got on.
After that I decided to walk partway back down the hill. The Kahlenberg, if you like feet, is about 1,660 feet above sea level. As you can see by the 20-meter-contours on the map above, the three hills are all about the same height with about 40 to 80 feet lower points between them. Finally where I picked up the bus again was only about 200 feet lower, but it was still a challenging walk because there was only a choice between re-frozen snow (ice) and deep mud on or off the trails. Both the ice and the mud were slippery, the ice more so.
This page will finish with some views at, and from, the top of the Kahlenberg, with a historical note thrown in for good measure.
From the bus I walked directly to the city-overlook and got this view of the way the Danube is split into an Old Danube (far left, just a meander no longer part of the flow), then a New Danube (straightened out and deepened for ship traffic) next to the natural Danube. Inside the city itself there is also a Danube Canal, built to allow shipping into the heart of the city.
In this first city-view from the Kahlenberg the Danube tower on the left has some tall buildings to its right, which is where the United Nations complex is where I spent three days in meetings.
There are two towers on this hill, one is a lookout tower (closed for the season), the other is a comm tower.
The lookout tower is dedicated to a crown-princess, Stephanie Warte:
Stephanie (1964-1945) is also known as the crown-princess of Belgium and there is some scandal involved in her long life, she "had to get married" to Archduke Rudolf of Austria thereby becoming crown-princess of Austria and Hungary as well.
She was a good looking woman:
On a circuitous walk back down from these towers I walked several delightful trails:
At one point I saw a famous church through the trees (another excuse for a historical, and an a-historical, aside):
This church, at Kahlenberg, is the Church of St. Joseph where, according to my Frommer’s Vienna & The Danube Valley guidebook “King John Sobieski of Poland stopped to pray before leading his troops to the defense of Vienna against the Turks.”
This turned out to be an epic battle. September 12, 1863 and the Turks were at the gates. Allied (Polish, Austrian and German) infantry troops were outnumbered, but held on until the Turks began to show signs of stalling in their forward progress, at which point Sobieski, at the head of the allied cavalry, stormed down from the Vienna Woods where they were in hiding and completely routed the Turks, marking the final end of westward progress for the Ottoman Empire.
This is a famous painting: Sobieski sending Message of Victory to the Pope after the Battle of Vienna. Painting by Jan Matejko, 1880, National Museum, Kraków (underlined words are links are to Wikipedia articles used to tell this tale here.)
An a-historical aside: The name Sobieski reminded me of someone, so I looked it up: Leelee ! Of course! Look at the picture (faithful to his official portrait) above. and then look at these photos of Leelee. Thank goodness for human evolution!
From Kahlenberg, the path I followed started out beside the incoming road:
After crossing the road at the bridge shown above, the path branches off to several destinations including a first, second and third unnamed (names not known by me, that is) hilltop. After that last hilltop there were still many more hills. After all, these hills and woods stretch all the way to the Alps to the southwest of Vienna. The hills previously visited around Baden are still part of the Vienna Woods!
So the photos I'll show on the next several sub-pages document my progression through these woods, with just a few peeks toward the city below.
Go to second Wienerwald page
Go to third Wienerwald page
Go for an underground boat ride in the Seegrotte
Compare and contrast Vienna and Baden plague monuments
Discuss paintings of Mary Magdalene in a grotto
Arrive in Vienna once more
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