For my first wander post Lockdown, I’m heading out to the north of the city, into the 19th district, Döbling, to the largest suburb, Grinzing. Grinzing is just the starting point of today’s wander, and also the endpoint. The middle is going to be challenging but in the best way possible. So let’s dive in.
Grinzing sits at the end of the number 38 tram line. The line runs from the city centre at Shottentor and winds its way out to the hills of Grinzing, arriving at one of the prettiest tram stops I’ve come across. It feels more like an old coach house than a tram stop and sets the tone for my time in Grinzing.
Grinzing dates back to the 11th century when the noble house of Grinzinger built the first home in the area. Known as the Trummelhof, the home was actually built on the ruins of a previous Roman building, showing that while Grinzing gets its name from Mr Grinzinger, its history goes back much further. It seems that Mr Grinzinger had a sense of humour as well, as the transition of Trummelhof is Rubble court. Today the old manor house has long since gone, though its remains can be found if you look in the right places.
The Grinzingers maintained Grinzing until the death of the last Grinzinger in the 14th century. From there, the town became part of the Klosterneuburg monastery and remained so until the 19th century.
Today the whole area feels like a time capsule, with old buildings dominating. That in itself is impressive given that history shows several events that destroyed most or even all of the buildings between the 15th and 17th century. The black plague also did its best to destroy the village, where over half of the houses there were infected and over 100 people died. Nonetheless, the village endured, growing slowly, finally becoming incorporated into Vienna in 1892. From there it built a reputation as a great place to go for great food and locally produced wine.
Indeed, Heurigen or taverns are everywhere. Each one sells unique wine and hearty Austrian food. Many date back many years and have built quite a reputation amongst the winemakers in Austria. Awards are prominently displayed and had it not been 11 in the morning, I would have sampled a few of these wonderful places. Instead, I have plans to tackle something bigger.
My plan today is to follow Cobenzlgasse out of Grinzing and up into the Wienerwald. Yes, it’s a steady climb up into the woods, and to some of the best views across the city. After months of lockdown, plus winter, and the excesses of Christmas still waiting to be worked off, I think it’s time to get a little exercise. Climbing to the Cobenzl restaurant that sits above Grinzing sounds like a good idea. The weather is nice and it’s time to start the climb. Sticking to the road, the climb begins immediately. It isn’t too long until I spot a sight to photograph. The Parish Church was first founded on this site in 1426, burned down twice in its history, but was rebuilt by the Klosterneuburg Monastery, which still stands today. Sitting nearby is the Statue of a Saint. I of course forgot to take note of who this particular Saint is, though I suspect he’s either St. Martin or St. Leopold, both of whom have links to the area. I must pay more attention to these things.
In my defence, I find myself somewhat distracted by the smell of delicious pork is being slow-cooked at a nearby Heurigen. This is the first full day that Gastronomy has been back open after being closed since mid-November, and many of the Heurigen are just starting to open.
From the church and the smell of food cooking, I continue the climb up. Once again I find my journey interrupted by an unusual sight. During my wanderings around Austria, I’ve come across a few sun clocks, and today is no exception. Unlike the more usual sundials I’ve seen at historic houses in the UK, these sun clocks are found on the walls of buildings, and only track a specific time range. This particular example isn’t actually in use as the cloudy sky is casting very little in the way of shadows.
Moving on, the climb continues and I begin to leave the village behind and head into the wilderness, well a wilderness with a bus route along the way. I’ll be ignoring that of course. As the village falls away, the scenery changes from old townhouses to open vineyards that back onto rolling hills. You can buy a glass or two of wine direct from the producer here, often as a full heurigen, making for some truly interesting places to enjoy a meal.
Even the Vineyards disappear soon enough and I reach the first of three switchbacks that the road employs to get vehicles up the mountain. as I’m walking there are cuttings and paths that offer me a shorter route up than following the road. I head into the Wald and the sounds of nature fill the air, which considering the proximity of the road, is surprising. What isn’t surprising is the steepness of the climb. since I’m cutting the shallower switchbacks out, my journey is shorter but steeper. By the time I reach the end of the first path and return to the roadside, I’m breathing heavily.
The second path takes me further upwards, and by the time I reach the next road layer, I’m feeling hot and a little out of breath. It looks like Stadt Wien figured this could be a problem, as when I reach the third and final footpath to the top, there’s a welcoming bench for me to sit and catch my breath. As it turns out, the bench isn’t there to öet me catch my breath. No, it’s a ‘last chance’ for rest before the biggest climb of the day. Yes, the final climb up is the steepest and features more than a few steps. I push on, and reach the top feeling a little out of breath, but pleased with myself for pushing on. My reward is a flat bit of pavement and a fantastic view, making the climb all the more worth the effort.
At this point I’d be well within my rights to head to Cobenzl’s various gusto choices, ask for a large beer and call it a day. That isn’t the plan, plus one of the main choices for a beer stop is closed, undergoing major renovation works. The view is nice, but the sounds of building works can be distracting. Fortunately, there’s still plenty to see. Just following the road around I find a rather nice trail that promises some nature to enjoy. It has a picture of a butterfly and everything. The path will take me along a ridge to a park.
The path leads me along to another road and picks up the StadtWanderWeg 2 hiking path. Vienna has several hiking paths that get you out and about, and I’ll be covering these in various posts in the future. The path heads one way as I head uphill to Am Himmel.
Am Himmel is a fabulous park that has something for everyone. within the wide-open space, you’ll find a children’s play area, a large vineyard and my personal favourite, the Tree of Life Circle. The Tree of Life Circle features 40 trees, each one a different species, laid out in concentric circles. Similar to a horoscope, each of the trees represents a specific period in the year, where you can find your own ‘personal’ tree, much like your star sign. The Circle is huge and I would need a drone to truly capture the size of the attraction. Along with each tree, there are posts that feature a plaque that tells you about that specific tree, and a loudspeaker that is motion-activated and will tell you more. On weekends and special occasions, all 40 of these speakers play classical music. I’ve experienced this in the past and it’s really quite surreal, especially if you don’t know it’s going to happen. Finally, within the space, there’s room for 1200 in an open-air amphitheatre. Photo’s don’t really do it justice, and I suggest heading there yourselves and maybe grabbing a bit of lunch at Cafe Resturant Oktogon.
Speaking of lunch, I’m starting to feel a little peckish, and since I’ve self-catered today, I’m on the lookout for a nice place to sit and enjoy a rest. Before I do, I have one last thing to see. From Am Himmel I head into the woods and follow a path that brings me to a small chapel. Known as the Sisi Chapel, it was built in 1856 by Baron Von Sothen to mark the wedding of Elisabeth to Franz Joseph. From there the Chapel found itself in less fortunate times. The Baron himself passed away after a violent death in 1881 and was interned in the chapel. The baroness joined him in 1903. The remaining family gifted the tiny chapel to an order of Nuns who renovated it, but when World War 2 began, the chapel was severely damaged, and it was abandoned, left to fall into complete disrepair. It would be more than 60 years later before the chapel was restored to its former glory, and was once again open to the public in 2006. It’s certainly a beautiful building, and I contemplate eating my lunch here, among the trees. Sadly the ants have claimed all the benches, so I leave them to the view. I really hate ants.
Determined to find a quiet spot to enjoy my lunch, I head back out of Am Himmel and begin wandering back towards Grinzing. This proves to be a good call. Along the path, I come across exactly what I’ve been looking for. Lunch with a view.
I sit on a bench overlooking this meadow, enjoying my lunch and hearing nothing but the birds singing. Feeling happy, I take the last bite of my sandwich and head back to the path and the road down to Grinzing. After 15 minutes or so, the signs of civilisation return. The houses, large mansions, small villas and others little my path, with me reaching my final destination for a well earned, first one at a cafe in six months, beer. I arrive at the wonderful Cafe Garage, a gorgeous cafe that offers cakes, coffees, breakfast and more, all with a smile and friendly service. All told my journey was nearly 7km. And I recommend the walk I took to anyone. It’s been a great wander, and I’m very glad to be back, enjoying the sights and sounds of Austria as we all wake up after lockdown.
Getting To Grinzing
To get to Grinzing, the 38 tram runs from Schottentor in the city centre.
You can also catch the 38A bus from Heiligenstadt Bahnhof on the U4, and S-bahn lines. The 38A will take you all the way to the top of Cobenzl and onto Kahlenberg should you not fancy the climb up to the top.
If you’d like to learn more about Grinzing or any of the places I mentioned above, check out the links below.
https://www.grinzland.com – A great link to Grinzing and the various Heurigen there.
https://www.himmel.at – Information about Am Himmel and all the attractions you’ll find there.
https://www.cafegarage.at – Cafe Garage, a great place to sit and people watch.