Despite all of our Vienna exploration this semester, most us had not explored the outskirts of Vienna until last Friday, when we took a field trip to Klosterneuburg, Kreuzenstein and Josef and Anita Regner’s winery. The trip was led by our cultural history teacher, Frau Hanreich, who is one of the sweetest and smartest professors I have ever had.
We loaded onto a bus and traveled north of the city. The area is gorgeous, especially with the hills sporting a fall mosaic of green, orange, red and yellow (grün, orange, rot und gelb for the German speakers). The powerful Danube River that flows through Vienna and the rest of Central Europe was next to our road the entire way to our first destination: Klosterneuburg.
Klosterneuburg is a small town in the hills north of Vienna. On top of the hill, towering above the hamlet, is what began as a Babenberger monastery (the Babenbergers were the ruling dynasty in Austria before the Habsburgs. They ruled from 976 to 1246) with Romanesque architecture. This now includes Gothic and Baroque elements to the architecture as well as a partially completed palace. Charles VI, the Habsburg Emperor in the first half of the 18th century, wanted the palace, but only ¼ of the plan was completed before he died. For some reason it is not shocking that a ruler wanted an unnecessary palace, but I digress.
Monks still live in the complex and use the monastery, connecting the past to the present. If you ignore the gold that covers the church and focus purely on the incredible Verdun Altar and Organ, the church is exquisite.
Kreuzenstein was our next stop, and if we had not had our teacher or a tour guide, we would have believed that we were seeing a medieval castle. It turns out that the castle had been rebuilt in the 1800s by Count Graf Wilczek (Wilczek is probably the perfect name if one desires to become a Count), a rich man who fancied collecting objects from all across Austria, such as the fantastic furniture that decorated the rooms, the stained glass windows and the vast swath of weapons in the weapon room.
We ended our tour of Kreuzenstein in the kitchen, and despite the immediate flashbacks to the Red Wedding episode from Game of Thrones, the kitchen sent us into a realization that we were quite hungry. After touring two places for six hours, our group was ready for dinner. We bid adieu, adieu to you and you and you and made our way to our final location. Little did we know that our dinner would end up being one of the best experiences of our semester.
Our dinner was at Josef and Anita Regner’s winery. Joseph has been friends with Hermann (Weißgärber, our director) for a long time, and each Linfield group makes a trip to see Josef and his endless supply of wine. Yes, our field trip was ending at a vineyard. Field trips sure change once you get older (for the better, might I add).
The winery has been owned by Josef’s family for several generations, and there was no doubt that he was proud of this fact. Josef was one of the most passionate people I have ever encountered. His love for wine combined with his effervescent personality had us eminently curious as we tasted grapes off of the vines and meandered down to one of his cellars.
As we tasted our first wine (an excellent Riesling), Josef asked, “Do you know what the five senses are for?”
We all looked at each other. We thought we knew what the five senses were for, but now we were not so sure. Please, tell us Josef?
He illuminated the deep importance of each sense as it related to wine. The sound of the glasses clinking, the smell of the wine, the color, the taste – is it sour or sweet or bitter or earthy or does it taste like caramel?
Of course, the feel of the dark, 500-year-old wine cellar we were in was easy to figure out. The room felt welcoming and friendly. The rolling autumn hills filled with vineyards and Austrians for generations had secrets to hide, and this wine cellar was one of them. The cellar and Josef were happy to provide us with a fitting end to a great day, just as his ancestors would have wanted.
And so, after a feast and some more wine, we headed back to the city, but after today, another trip outside of Vienna sounds like an excellent plan. It sounds almost as excellent as the clink of the wine glasses.