Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Life of an Ex-pat Foxhound: Wien Weinwandertag!

Plans for a short weekend getaway were changed by events beyond our control, but no worries. Clayton Theodore was all too happy to board the 38A bus with us to the top of the vineyards for the annual Wien Weinwandertag weekend hike through the vines. Sunshine and blue skies accompanied us, as well.

We found it amusing that the woman in blue looks terrified of Clayton Theodore. All he wanted was love.
Clayton Theodore's arthritis is steady-state, but we still stopped often for him to rest. And, let us just be honest, for us to enjoy sturm and snacks. What would a Weinwandertag be without the snacks?

A particularly long stretch of our walk took us not only uphill, but also along a creek.  Outdoor time, snacks, and a creek to romp in for Cletus! But he is not spoiled.
The culinary pinnacle of our trek was Mayer am Nussberg, one of Vienna's premiere Buschenschank atop Nu├čberg.  On the previous two Weinwandertag we have enjoyed stopping here for some rather well-prepared traditional heuriger food, and for the most part our third visit was pleasant. Along our trek we encountered what we dubbed, "not very wandertag-like behavior": overcrowded trials, crazy cyclists, people impatient with Tony (who uses hiking poles to balance the weight on his recovering knee and ankle) and families with slow-moving children, and so on. At the Buschenschank we watched numerous parties practically come to fisticuffs to secure a red lounge chair in the sun. People, really? Grab one of the blankets provided and make a picnic.
Four hours and 7km later, we all had our second Weinwandertag pins. And a tired puppy.

Pannonhalma (when Plan A becomes Plan B)

I am a planner; last weekend was planned over a month ago. Friday night we were to host students coming in for the soccer and XC tournaments. Saturday would be spent at said XC tournament. And, with Monday being a school holiday, I had reserved an overnight getaway to Cesky Krumlov for its St. Wenceslas festival for the three of us and Clayton Theodore.

Then, the XC tournament was canceled. And Tony had a Monday meeting he needed to attend. So much for Plan A (and cancelable reservations!), but I almost always have a Plan B. Every week I spend a couple of hours reading through tourism newsletters and calendars from Austria and her neighbors, and "pencil in" events of interest on one of the many Google calendars I keep, so Plan B was easy to hatch: still hosting students Friday night (two remarkably engaging young ladies from ISPrague, with equally remarkable housing gifts); and now, a day trip on Saturday, with Sunday's activities a toss-up. Anna Grace decided to spend Saturday at home, catching up on studies, laundry, and social media (probably not in that order, but her clothes were clean and the homework complete when we returned).

Pannonhalma, in western Hungary, was the destination of choice for Saturday. Atop the village sits a 1.000 year old abbey (within whose walls resides Archduke Otto von Habsburg's heart), and at some point in my planning I'd noted a "Harvest Festival" for Saturday. Good enough for us!

The village is small, as in, only one restaurant and a pizzeria. We arrived midday and opted for the 100+ year old wine cellar restaurant and a cozy table by the fireplace (autumn has arrived in Western Hungary). Much to our delight we discovered that we had crashed a wedding reception (we were not the only wedding crashers)!  We felt a bit underdressed, but were still excited to see a rural Hungarian wedding reception. Music was playing, the sparkly beverages were being poured, and guests were arriving.
While we waited...the perfect antidote to a chilly autumn afternoon: creamy and perfectly roasted garlic creme soup, and a shared plate of crispy roast pork atop red cabbage and potato pancakes.

Then, a most depressed-looking young woman arrived, wearing what appeared to be a vintage white dress and blue leather coat. Behind her, an equally depressed-looking young man in an ill-fitting (and probably borrowed) suit, pushing a baby carriage. During the toasts neither the bride nor the groom smiled at one another or their guests; the music was turned off for the baby; and practically no one conversed. Perhaps this was not the most representative of rural Hungarian wedding receptions, we thought.
Following lunch we went up to the abbey under grey and threatening skies, only to discover that the interior grounds were closed for (several) weddings, though we could walk along the exterior. Might our forlorn couple have been denied the opportunity to marry in the abbey?



Back in the village to enjoy the festival we spied the Town Elder. We know this because moments after he arrived, the grey skies parted and the blue skies appeared just in time for the harvest judges to inspect the wines.  Only the Town Elder could achieve that.





Our last stop in the village was the old synagogue. Pannonhalma once had a thriving Jewish community that played an important role in the commerce of the village until the latter years of WWII. Though many families were able to hide in the abbey, there were also many families rounded up and deported to extermination camps.

The synagogue is currently being restored; in the front is a memorial to those murdered. 

Plan A did not happen, but Plan B stepped in quite nicely. It is great to be a planner.