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Burgenland – the exotic land of Austria

Burgerland: Eszterhazi Palace

A few days ago I was invited by the people from Austria Incoming to spend a longer weekend (including Friday) in Austria, to be more specific in the Burgenland land, somewhere close to Vienna, on the Hungarian border. Of course, I gladly agreed, so, after only a few days after my homecoming from China, there I am again at Otopeni, embarking on a Niki flight to Vienna and further on towards Burgenland.

Burgendland is perhaps a lesser known land (region) in Austria, but it does have its beauties. First of all, there’s an “exotic” Austria, that means a mountain-less Austria! The highest bump in Burgenland is about 884 meters high. Probably, if this hill were to have 888 meters, tens of Boeings 747 filled with Chinese people would have landed in Vienna eager to climb the hill…8 is the magic number of luck and wealth for over a billion Chinese people :). But in this case most tourists comes from somewhere around – Slovaks, Hungarians, Germans and obviously, Romanians. So, in case you love skiing and luxury chalets in the mountains, you should go just few kilometers away you will definitelly find plenty !

Oh well then, if there are no mountains, there is no skiing, then what the hell to do in Burgenland? Let’s take a small break and let me tell you a couple more things. As I already said, Burgenland is a more exotic land in Austria. Although inhabited mostly by Germans established here for more than 1000 years, Burgenland did belong to Hungary pretty often. Matei Corvin was one of the rulers of Burgenland and after the Hungarian destruction by the ottoman armies in 1526, Burgenland didn’t become part of Turkish pashalik from Buda, but part of the Habsburgs Empire. This area was named “the royal Hungary”- the Habsburgs claimed the Hungarian crown and it was a border area for over 150 years with the Ottoman Empire.

After the banishing of the Turks out of Central Europe at the end of the 17th Century, Burgenland found its peace and quite again, and the great Grof families Eszterházy and Batthyány dominated the economy of this area. It came as no surprise when, in 1867, together with the compromise that led to the Austrian – Hungarian dualism, the german speaking Burgenland was incorporated in Hungary. The Hungarian families  Eszterházy and Batthyány were the main actors of this area. But the Hungarian domination only lasted till the end of the First World War. According to the census in 1910, 74% of the population was German, 15% Croatian and only 7% Hungarian. One initial plan was to give Burgenland to Czechoslovakia in order to build a corridor towards Yugoslavia (after the First World War corridors were in fashion, also see Danzig) but eventually it was given to Austria in spite of the Hungarian opposition. A small border war followed between the Austrian and the Hungarian, the great powers intervened, a referendum took place, after which the largest city, Sopron, the capital of Burgenland decided to join Hungary, but the rest of the region chose to become a land in the new Austrian republic. And good for them for doing so!

Otherwise, this area looks very much like the Hungarian plains. The villages look very similar to the ones in Hungary or Transylvania (you won’t get to see many wooden houses in Burgenland with cranesbills flowers in the windows like all around the rest of Austria), the area is flat and Burgenland brags with a high quality wine , in direct competition with the vineyard from across the borders, in Hungary.

Which are the things to do in Burgenland? A lot. Obviously you can’t ski, but let me run over the major attractions in this area.

You can eat and drink exquisitely – Burgenland enjoys everything that’s good both in Hungary and in Austria! The Viennese Schnitzel, the Hungarian Goulash, the apple strudel or the Budapest steaks fit in perfectly with the Burgenland wine.

You can relax at a Spa – personally, I stayed at a Spa Hotel, St. Martins Therme and Lodge, a really fine hotel, that I promise I’ll write soon about. It’s one of those Spa Hotels that exploit the richness of the thermal waters in this area. In fact, there’s a real thermal corridor that starts in Slovakia and goes down on the Austrian-Hungarian border all the way south. There are more Spa Hotels on both sides of the border. I asked my hosts about the competitive difference compared to their Hungarian neighbors, which are cheaper. The answer came unanimously – the quality of the services is net superior here in comparison to Hungary. If you want a top experience go to Austria, with St. Martins as one of the most representative Spa Hotels. I cannot have a personal opinion as I haven’t been in any of the Hungarian Spas, but what I can tell you is that I felt wonderful in this hotel (where I had access everywhere) and the parking lot was full of cars with Hungarian plates. Which led me to believe that maybe the locals had a representative point of view.

You can do safari – when the guy at the hotel told us about the safari programs from the national park in the area, I smiled.. I could already imagine giraffes and zebras throughout the Austrian plains. Although the word “safari” was a bit pompous, oh well, in this area you can do some bird watching. Apparently there are around 300 bird species and many bird lovers come to visit the national park.

You can taste a bit of history – I visited the Eszterházy Palace in Eisenstadt . Obviously, far away from the greatness and the wealth of the Vienna Habsburgs, but like in the case of the Pelisor, the Eisenstadt Palace seems to me closer to the idea of a liveable place, extravagant obviously. It’s not a museum filled with works of art, there aren’t only rooms in which you tip-toe carefully, watching out not to knock down a Van Gogh, it’s a palace where you can imagine a normal life. The Eszterházy family was one of the great noble families of the Habsburg Empire and one of the representatives was one of emperors Franz-Joseph best friends. Probably, when Burgenland became part of Austria, Eszterházy were against, but couldn’t do much about it. Eventually that led them to salvation. Paul Eszterházy, the head of the family along the largest part of the 20th century was arrested by the communists in Hungary after 1945 and managed to escape from prison only in 1956, in the middle of the revolution. He ran in Switzerland and took over the old domain from Austria, which he transformed into a foundation that still exists today and exploits the palace. Haydn is the most famous name linked to the palace, because he activated a long period as the “chapel-master” – a sort of chief-musician of the illustrious family.

You can walk along the lake Neusiedl – it is one of the largest sweet water lakes in Central Europe and numerous boats cross it from spring to autumn. You’ll find many opportunities to rent a boat, but it may be expensive. If you want to enjoy the lake you can take one of the public ferries that link several spots on the shore – including from Hungary, that owns a small part of the south shore of the lake. I only wish you a nicer weather than what I had- it rained strongly, but the lack of a pleasant hour on the deck of the boat, while admiring the view was replaced by a Burgenland wine-tasting session J

See an open air Opera – I consider it the best experience. On the site of an old roman quarry, in an interesting nature décor, the Burgenland stages for years now some sumptuous opera shows. Every year there’s another show – one every year though because the sets are really gigantic. I saw Carmen, by Bizet, in an original interpretation as directing – the story was moved in Franco’s Spain, but the show was very well done… and the open air “hall” was full with almost 1000 spectators even during rain. And I also recommend you go there even if you’re not huge opera fans – it’s a proper show, an experience you’re worth having!

And not last – for some even first – the famous Parndorf outlet center! You must have heard of Parndorf….thousands of Central Europeans go for a short visit only for shopping. But if you go to Parndorf, spend some days in Burgenland, the exotic land of Austria…you’ll like it :).

Pictures of Burgenland:

 Burgerland: St. Martins Therme & Lodge Hotel room

St. Martins Therme & Lodge Hotel room

Burgerland: Outside Jacuzzi

Outside Jacuzzi

Burgerland: Public Spa

Public Spa

Burgerland: Wine bath

Wine bath…

Burgerland: Eszterhazy Palace

Eszterhazy Palace

Burgerland: Eszterhazy Palace

Eszterhazy Palace

Burgerland: Eszterhazy Palace

Burgerland: Opera St. Margarethen.JPG


To the opera…

Burgerland: Opera St. Margarethen

Ready for the show

Burgerland: Carmen de Bizet

Burgerland: Carmen de Bizet

Burgerland: Carmen de Bizet

Burgerland: Opera show - Carmen de Bizet


Burgerland: Opera

Burgerland: Carmen de Bizet

Burgerland: opera show

Burgerland: Neusied lake

Neusied lake

Burgerland: Neusied lake

Burgerland: Rust city

Rust city

Burgerland: Rust city

Burgerland: Local food

Burgerland: Rust - Central square

Rust – Central square

Buergerland: Rust city

Burgerland: Parndorf

Burgerland: Parndorf


Burgerland: Parndorf


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    My name is Cezar (where the nickname "Imperator" comes from) and I have travelled to 105 countries around the world. In this blog, I would like to share with you stories, memories, travel tips & tricks and news to help you plan your journeys !

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