Bob Corbett's note:
Yesterday was Motherís Day and honestly as best I can assess it, now some hours later, this has to have been among the very best travel days for me in the last 20 years.
Some background. A heuriger is a wine garden that serves only the local wines that the heuriger itself has made. These gardens were given a tax-free or at least tax-limited status some centuries ago and are treasured Vienna institutions. Almost all of them are out in the Vienna Woods surrounding Vienna proper, or close to it. They serve tradition Austrian foods and normally have large outdoor gardens and such.
I ADORE heurigers.
Several years ago the academic dean of the university, a good friend of mine, invited me to a heuriger in his neighborhood. It was really different from most of the more famous ones in places like Grenzing or Ottogriner areas. It was much smaller, family run and the cooking done by two quite senior women and the food was simply fantastic. Over the years he took me there several times and I went there a couple times on my own. I had never been outside in the garden, and never had heard any music there at all.
Since Motherís Day here was a brilliant sunny and very hot day, we decided to go to one of the big heurigers in either Grenzing or Ottagriner since they can seat hundreds in the outdoor gardens and would have Blas Musik (umpah pah stuff).
As we were just heading out about 11 AM I got this crazy idea. We would go to this heuriger (didnít know the name) of which I spoke above and we would just EAT since the food is spectacular. Then we would go on in the later afternoon to one of the more touristy places. But, where the hell was it and how do I get there? I couldnít remember and didnít have the deanís telephone number with me. I got it into my head that I got there by strassenbahn and it was one of the 60s -- somehow 62 stuck in my mind.
Sally is really awesome with maps and got out the huge map that has all the strassenbahnen, U-bahnen and buses on it. However, as I was worried about, the 60s went off the map -- this place is outside Vienna proper. However, she noted strassenbahn 60 not far from where we were. (At the time we were walking and bench sitting in the gardens of Schonbrunn Palace). Off we went to Heitzing station and the 60 strassenbahn. The second I saw it -- and the end line was Bodun, I knew immediately THIS WAS THE STRASSENBAHN to take. This was it. We hopped on, now the only question was, where to get off. I had remembered the name of the -- I was going to write "street" but thatís not right, I knew it wasnít a street, it was like an alley way. I recalled itís name as JESUITENSTRASSE. I recalled a church near the strassenbahn stop, and a Chinese restaurant across from the stop. (Turns out the Chinese restaurant is now gone). I figured I could recognize the stop and knew that two streets up would be Jesuitenstrasse.
After a very long ride (and yes, we rode right off Sallyís often checked map) the announcement came (every stop and connection is announced) we were at MAUERHAUPTSTRASSE. Oh did I jump up. Mauer. That was the village name. Yes, and Hauptstrasse (main street) was the stop.
The church was there, the Chinese restaurant gone, but I recognized everything else. Two streets up was the tiny alley way and the name was not JESUITENSTRASSE, but JESUITENSTEIGE. (walk way).
Down we went and I was so excited, nearly dancing the path. But, no heuriger. I was crestfallen. Cars were parked along side the little way, but no people, no one in the closed up house gardens. Down and down, farther than I remembered us going, but I didnít want to give up until I could ask some person, it was absolutely the right place. Where the hell was the heuriger?
We turned a little bend and there it was. Gate open into the yard. But a huge sign: SONTAG RUHITAG. Closed on Sunday. Oh again I was just crestfallen, but in the trees I could see dressed waiters and waitresses. It was exactly noon. I called out -- Sind Sie Offen? AM Sontag? And a waitress called back, YA,YA, Ist Muttertag. Yes, yes, itís Motherís Day.
There were about 12 tables in the garden. Four were occupied and three of them were the three that had shade. The fourth, which they pointed us to, had two seats in the long picnic table that would be in the shade -- for the moment. We sat, and then I noticed a huge shock -- two of them really -- one, there was a guy setting up live music!!!!!!! Secondly, right next to him, in a small grove of lovely trees was a beautiful, simply stunning, tiny gazebo. I asked the waitress, is it possible to sit in there? She looked at me very surprised like and said, of course. We RUSHED in. It had three benches round the table, each would seat 3 people. We took the back bench, looking out the opening to the sunny garden. The other three walls were laced woodwork and this gazebo was simply ancient. I told Sally there was no doubt we would have to share the gazebo with others, but thatís neat too.
Our plan was to have some food and leave to go to one of the other places. HA!!!!!!! 6 and 1/2 hours later, 2 1/2 liters of wine later, 2 full meals later we literally staggered out of the place, as happy as we had ever been.
Good grief, we had just sat down in the gazebo, not even ordered our first wine yet and I look over at Sally and sheís CRYING!!!!! I freaked -- what in the world could be the matter??? She was crying because she said it was the prettiest place sheíd ever been in her life.
Finally I got to know the name of the place. Heuriger Familie Steinklammer. founded in 1697 and operated by that one family every since. We started with some white wine, the delicious fruity dry Austrian specialty, Grunerweltliener. Sort of close to a Pinot Grigio. This, of course, was their own vented wine.
Our first meal was Weinerschnitzel, first weíve had on the trip with some awesome sweet/sour potatoes salad and a huge Gemisched Salat, also with sweet- sour dressing, corn, greens, cucumbers, tomatoes and such. Another liter of wine soon followed.
There were only about 7 families in the garden, one was just an older couple, and the others were in groups of 10-12. The man right next to us, just feet away was an awesome keyboard specialist who also played some sort of according type instrument. He played relatively LITTLE Austrian music, mainly 1930-50s music, and some early soft rock. I teased him about it, brought him a drink, and soon, for the Americans, he played The Blue Danube. Well, much, much against Sallyís will I knew we just had to dance it or he would have his feelings hurt. Wheeee did she resist that dance. But dance we did and that changed the whole day. No one else danced at all, but they applauded and laughed and enjoyed it. Next he started playing romantic dances, Tea for Two, Stardust, stuff like that and Sally and I really danced, and danced.
The guy came to our table on his first break and we chatted. He had played at piano bars in Naples, Florida for a couple years and was a good deal older than we.
After a bit he played another lovely Austrian waltz and I told Sally weíd go to the next table and Iíd dance with the very old grandma and she with grandpa. Sheíd had enough wine by this time not to resist. Well grandpa, in his mid-80s couldnít dance but the startled family was embarrassed and one of the sons or grandsons jumped up to dance with Sally. But, grandma -- oh me the old lady was utterly in heaven. She was really smooth and hummed the melody as we danced. I danced with her again in a bit.
Sally and I were dancing all the time now, and then I noticed another very very old lady back by the door to the kitchen in the grass dancing with a tiny boy about 3. So I hurried over took her hand to form a threesome, but the boy would have none of that. But Sally joined in and the four of us did a circle dance. The whole kitchen came out and the waiters and waitresses too, it turns out this was Great Grandma Steinklammer herself.
Oh me, after that Sally and I were king and queen of the walk.
The next fascinating thing was the first grandpa, who couldnít dance, hobbled over to the gazebo on his cane and sat with us. They had told him I could speak German and with the biggest laugh and smiles he told me he had been an American prisoner of war for three years and loved the Americans. I asked him where? In Georgia? (Iíve met quite a few Austrians who were in prisoner of war camps in Georgia.) He roared with laugher and said, no, in Italy!!!! Italy, I replied, how so. He said the Americans ran it and he was there some years.
Later grandma and her daughter came over to get Sally and I for an Austrian line dance, whose steps we NEVER got, stumbled all over ourselves, but had a great time. When they were leaving one of the younger woman who spoke some English came over than thanked Sally for me having danced with grandma, said it made her motherís day.
Well it was now time for meal number 2 and we got fried chicken -- these are both major heuriger dishes. It was delicious with roast potatoes. After both meals we had dessert and some of their simply AWESOME home-made birne schnapps, sorry LeGrace, I have to tell it as it is even if you go into shock again.
It was now 6;30 PM and weíd had a good deal to drink and eat. We left with everyone seeing us off!!! Somehow we made it back up that little street to Mauer Hauptstrasse and got the 60 strassenbahn back to Schonbrunn, and then the U-4 subway to our stop. I guess we were sound asleep by 7:30, but I must say, that last hour just isnít there in my memory to dig out.
I had no idea what a fun time it is to dance with Sally. A few times at my house weíd had some music on and Iíve said letís dance, but she says she doesnít dance. Oh me, NOT SO. I canít wait for more of that.
Now we will take a easy day. It is again gorgeous, warm and sunny. Tomorrow, our last day here, rain is expected. So, despite our weary bones, we may try to get over to the Burg and the little park next to it to sit and do some serious people watching. Tonight we go to the Volksoper to see the Magic Flute, one of my favorite Mozart operas. And we will first have dinner and Hatam, a stunning Persian restaurant just two blocks from the opera house. Last time I ate there four years ago I was on my way to the Volksoper to see Die Lustige Witwe -- Iím blanking on what that is in English..... Ah, The Merry Widow. Yes. Wunderbar, and I know Zauberflaute will be too.
Long note folks, but yesterday was awesome and I didnít even detail the wonders of yesterday morning in Schonbrunn gardens.....
Oh good grief, home on Wednesday. I am TOTALLY not ready.
Itís Monday at almost 11 am here, and both Bob and I are taking it slow today.
Yesterday started out as an easy day. We rode the strassenbahn a bit, walked a bit, and sat and enjoyed the benches at Shoenbrunn a bit before deciding what direction we would be going.
We had several choices, but knew that Bobís idea of going to a heuriger for our Sunday dinner. By the time that we walked toward the strassenbahn station, Bob knew that though we might not stay and eat there, he definitely wanted to try to find one that he had gone to at least a half doyen times with his Webster Univ friends.
Oh, and yesterday, though both of us had forgotten it, was Mutterstag!! Thatís Motherís Day in the US. And it meant that likely lots of families would be doing the same thing that we would be going to dinner at one of the outdoor heuriger and it was a gloriously sunny day!
As I said, we had several choices of heuriger, though one was a bit touristy and another was a suggestion by our host at the hotel, and Bob knew both of them had music!! A very fun addition.
But first Bob wanted to try to find this smaller one that he had enjoyed so much. So we got on a No. 60 strassenbahn, which Bob thought would at least get us to the right neighborhood. These heurigers are out away from the city in smaller neighborhoods. From all that Bob said, I knew that it didnít matter to me which we chose.
Bob heard the announcement that we were coming up to another stop/street/location, and his face lit up! Thatís it!! I didnít remember until just now, this is the stop. And the street is just one (or two) blocks from here. Not sure of the spelling but the street he was looking for started with something like ďJesuitĒ something.
And sure enough it was the very next street, so we turned down the street but it seemed like a very quiet, tree lined street with larger residential homes, homes which were hidden behind concrete and wrought iron fences! But Bob kept walking and saying I just know this is the right street, but I sure didnít think it was this far. And not finding the place we were looking for, Bob said lets walk a bit further and maybe we will find someone to ask -- there were NO people around, at all, at least none that we could see or hear.
Right around the bend, Bob found it, the opening in the gates and fences and said ďhere it is!Ē Luckily the gates were open, because Bob read the sign on the gate that said in Viennese.. Closed Sunday!
It was just as Bob had described it, so very quaint, so very Viennese, with wonderful inside and outside seating. Bob wanted so much to look around, and to see what foods were on the menu, but said we wouldnít stay, we would go find another one for food and music.
Our hostess, who was dressed in the costumes that must be the uniform for these little fun places showed us to a table that was only partly in the shade. Bob looked around and spotted a little square gazebo and asked if we could sit there, the answer was yes, of course... so we did.
Then, Bob noticed that there was a kind of portable keyboard and some speakers right next to this little gazebo, and he was soooo excited!! Music too!!
Ah, we didnít need to go anywhere, we could get everything we wanted right here!! And they were so darling to us.
It never did get crowded, but we knew that there wasnít a tourist in the crowd, another huge plus!
The ďmusic manĒ was darling too, and sang his selection of songs in several languages, some in English! And he did have a mix of songs!
Ah, what can I say -- we enjoyed wine, food, a bit more wine and a bit more food. Even several desserts which I think led to my downfall. Bob has never met a dessert that wouldnít taste better with a bit of schnapps!!
Did I say that both of us were moving a bit slowly today? Well, we sure werenít yesterday!!
Bob heard a Viennese waltz and decided to teach me to waltz and after a while, it didnít matter that I didnít know how, we danced and danced, to lots of kinds of music.
The cutest was when Bob said to me -- see the party next to us, you ask the great grand dad and Iíll ask the great grand mother to dance!! And we did that too!!
Well, the g-grandmother just glowed, and it was evident quite soon that the g-grandfather wanted to dance with me, but may have had a stroke or something that kept him from doing it. He smiled a large smile, but after stumbling a couple of times, his son/son-in-law helped him sit down and then turned to me and said something very sweet like... its my pleasure to take his place... and we danced the rest of the dance.
Some time after that, Bob danced once more with the g-grandmother and the whole family thanked us both for making it such a wonderful Motherís Day for her.
Oh, and somewhere along the line, the music man played a folk song which went along with a folk dance, and the mother got up and showed me how to do it. Wow was it fun but boy did it take some energy!! Skipping one way about 6-8 steps, turning around with arms entwined, then skipping the other way .... whew!! That was a lot of fun!! Bob had a chance to do it too, but decided to watch!
We stayed there for at least 6 hours and its a toss up who helped the other home... :) Did I tell you that we are moving slowly this morning? Well, its me that moving the slowest!!
But what an experience, what an adventure!! I will NEVER forget it!!
Tonight we have tickets to see The Magic Flute at what they call the Volksoper and we will be out late, so Bob promised that we can go back to the hotel for a nap... either before our mid day meal or after... ah, bless his heart, sounds like a very good plan.
But because we didnít get to our internet place yesterday, I didnít have a chance to but wish to send a belated... HAPPY MOTHERS DAY!!
Hope you enjoyed your weekend, will write again tomorrow... which sadly will be our very last full day in Vienna, and for this wonderful trip.
Sally Ryan Sharamitaro
Bob Corbett firstname.lastname@example.org