Burgenland is a place of contrast with the rest of Austria. It is known for its wine, the composer Joseph Haydn, and, yes, storks. Lying east and south of Vienna and bordering Hungary, Burgenland lies at the edge of the relatively hot and dry Pannonian plain, an ancient sea bed.
Its prominent feature is the Neusiedlersee, today a major water recreational area for Austrians and especially the Viennese. One can rent boats, go wind surfing, bird watching in this wildlife sactuary, and just enjoy the setting by sitting on an outdoor patio, having a glass of wine and soaking up the scenery.
Although a relatively large lake, some 200 square miles, the Neusiedlersee is very shallow, measuring only 5 feet at its deepest point. Nonetheless it basically controls the micro-climate in the area and contributes to it’s major product – wine, which is proudly served at the local Heuringens (wine bars) and restaurants.
By the way, don’t mistake the Heuringens as just being wine bars, along with the wine, the establishment may serve cold cuts, pastries and frequently, most also serve great home cooked local fare.
Burgenland is also the birthplace and home of Joseph Haydn. The area definitely has music in its blood, with major summer festivals in the town of Mörbish and in St. Margarethen, at an an old Roman Quarry, where you can witness performances such as the passion play, whose cast is all local.
Then there is the “Haydnmatineen”, a series of concerts of Haydn music held in Schloss Esterhazy in Eisentstadt, the capital of Burgenland. Schloss Esterhazy was at one time the residence of the aristocratic family that ruled Hungary during the Habsburg dynasty. Nearby and further up the street, is the church dedicated to Haydn and where his body is entombed.
The nearby town of Rust is quite unique in that every spring, dozens of pairs of storks come to roost on the town’s chimney tops to rear the next generation of “baby bringing” storks.
Another unique feature of Rust and a number of other Burgenland villages is that they were built in the so-called “Anger style” with one house attached to another, so that the entire village would form a court around its main street. In the early days both ends of the street were gated so as to keep out the Turkish raiders.
After some walking around and gawking at the stork comings and going, rest your feet at one of the numerous Heuringens and taste some of the local fare and main product – wine.
P.S. Burgenland′s National Park Neusiedler See is also a birdwatcher′s paradise: it hosts approximately 320 species of birds over the course of a year. There’s quite a lot to see and experience in the small package of Burgenland.