Summer is the perfect time to get out and get some wandering done. The sun is out and I fancied taking a trip. Now living in Austria you’re never short of a destination or two. Salzburg, Innsbruck, Linz and Graz are all fantastic destinations, but you can miss so much of Austria heading to these tourist destinations. I came up with an idea that was going to mean I’d avoid the tourist traps and instead experience the countryside for myself. Yes, I’d be hitting up the S-Bahn and heading to Absdorf.
What’s an S-Bahn?
In Austria, train lines are split into various types. At the top are the Railjets and Nightjets. These are long-distance, fast trains that can get you from one end of the country to the other in a matter of hours.
Next are the EC and IC services, or Eurocity and Intercity trains. These are slower, connecting cities within Austria and beyond.
REX services come next. These are regional express trains that connect smaller areas, often making a limited number of stops along the way.
R services or regional trains connect smaller communities, stopping at every station along the route.
Finally, there is the S-Bahn. These are the commuter trains that bring people into the cities. You’ll find S-Bahn services in Linz, Graz and so on. For Vienna, ÖBB operates 10 lines covering Vienna, Niederosterreich and Burgenland. Lines S1 through 4, S7, S40, S45, S50, S60 and S80. I’m travelling to the start (sort of) of the S4 line, North of the city to Absdorf Hippersdorf station.
Absdorf and the surrounding area.
My plan for the day is simple. Explore Absdorf itself before heading out into the countryside. Along the way, I’ll visit Absberg, a tiny little hamlet a few km away. From there I’ll take the road to Stetteldorf to visit Schloss Juliusburg before heading back to Absdorf for a cafe stop and the train home.
Time for a wander.
The idea here is to follow the S4 line back to Vienna, stopping at each stop along the way in search of something to see. That said, getting to Absdorf today I took the REX service rather than the S4. It’s a 35-minute journey via Tulln as opposed to the 1 hour plus journey on the S4 via Stockerau. I arrive around 11.30 am and get on with the wandering. First up, just out of the station is an old, preserved steam train called Moritz. Built in 1930, this imposing steam engine plied its trade from Vienna Franz Josef Bahnhof on the Vienna – Eggenburg railway. Moritz wasn’t a quick engine, with a top speed of just 60km/h. After its retirement, the old engine sat until restoration work began in 2016 for placement in Absdorf. It’s an impressive sight, and you can find pictures on the Marktgemeinde Absdorf website of Moritz being lifted into place.
Alongside the engine, I came across a Buchersessel or bookcase chair. This is one of 4 placed around the town by the local Kultur – und Verschonerungsverein group. The idea is that you can stop by any of the chairs, find a book and maybe stop for a while to read it. You can also the book home, or even add a book or two to the collection itself. As someone who devours books regularly, I love this idea, and these kinds of public bookcases are common across Austria. This is the first time that I’ve seen one in the form of a chair though.
From the chair and the wonderful Moritz, I follow the road along until I reach Hauptplatz. Here you’ll find a beautiful village square containing the church, lots of statues, a little modern art and the Oskar Mann Haimat museum. Let’s start with the museum. If you google Oskar Mann you’ll learn of the Historian by the same name, born in Berlin. This is not the Oskar Mann you’re looking for. In researching for this article I’ve found very little about Herr Mann. What I have learned is that he lived in Absdorf and was a keen local historian. The museum, which you can visit by appointment only, contains a plethora of local historic objects, important documents and so much more. Herr Mann certainly left a legacy in Absdorf. For the curious, the museum offers a virtual tour online, which you can find below this article. I recommend you check it out, and I may go back to Absdorf at some point to see the museum in person and learn a little more about Oskar Mann.
Turning to the church, St, Mauritius was built in 1744, making it fairly young compared to some churches in the area. Unsurprisingly, the church sits on the site of the original 11th-century church but I couldn’t quite track down what happened to it. I suspect it burnt down as most churches I come across suffer a fire at some point in their history.
Out into the countryside.
Leaving the church behind, I head out of town. Absdorf is a small town and within minutes you’re in the countryside. Fiends of wheat greet me as I browse a map depicting the various bike routes and walking paths that fill the area. there’s a vast network of hiking and touring routes that snake around the place reaching from Krems to Stockerau. My scope is much more limited today and I follow a path that will take me to Absberg, just outside Himberg. the path takes me past a wayside chapel. These are common in the country. Wayside chapels and shrines can be found in most villages and towns in Lower Austria and beyond in countries like the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
My path ends with an option to go left or right. I need to go left and as I do I pass a small outdoor theatre being set up in a field. It seems that there’ll be an open-air theatre coming soon to the town, and its small, cosy setting against a slope of a hill that overlooks the town is just perfect. With the stage still getting built, I head deeper into the treeline as the path follows a small stream. Along the way, I’m greeted by several chipmunk like creatures. Attempts to capture them with my camera fail as they quickly sprint into their underground burrows. They’re very cute, and I assume the vineyards above them provide ample food. The whole area is filled with wildlife from rodents to butterflies, bees and more. If you want to get out into nature, this is the place to come.
At the end of the trail, I reach the main road and the tiny hamlet of Absberg. Absberg is more or less a single street, lined on one side with tiny little houses. Except they’re not houses. No these are little Heurigers where, at the right time of year, you can sample some of the very local wine produced in the area. In mid-August, things are decidedly quiet, and I decide to take my lunch break here and enjoy the quiet for a while.
Up and over.
Post lunch I begin the long walk to Stetteldorf am Wagram. That walk begins with a climb along the roadside. There are two sets of hairpin bends to negotiate and not a pedestrian walkway to be seen. It’s a little nerve-racking as the corners are blind. Fortunately, the road is quiet and traffic can be heard in the distance long before it reaches me. I suspect I’ve missed a path somewhere, as when I crest the hill, I note a footpath on my right. Oh well.
Reaching the top I’m greeted with panoramic views across the Weinveirtel, and during the next 45 minutes, as I walk, I get to see a wide variety of crops and plants growing in the vast fields on either side. There’s corn, wheat, sunflowers and one point, and other things I just can’t identify. Soon enough I enter the town of Stetteldorf and immediately discover the Rathaus. Stetteldorf is a pretty little market town with just over 1000 people living there, and there are few things to see. The parish church dates back a few hundred years and sits next to its own Pestsaule or plague monument. These are a common sight in this part of the world, though the one here in Stetteldorf is a modest affair compared to the one found in Mödling.
There’s also a nice fountain, built in 2011, where a weary traveller can sit and relax for a moment. It was much appreciated I can tell you that. I didn’t come to Stetteldorf though to sit by a water feature. It was time to head off in search of Schloss Juliusburg. The Schloss was built for Count Julius II Zu Hardegg in 1588, remodelled in the 18th century and sadly looted and left in ruins in 1945. The damage was extensive and it was reported that many rare art items were lost. It would be 60 plus years before the Schloss was restored to its former glory, but at great cost. For the renovations to be paid for, the Schloss itself as well as much of the grounds were sold off. This meant that I was in for disappointment when I reached the gates. Although Google maps list the Schloss as a museum, the Schloss is actually now private property, and so there would be no wandering of the grounds today.
With the disappointment of the Schloss fresh in my mind, it was time to go home. The walk back to Absdorf would take around 45 minutes, but at least there was a nice cafe waiting at the end of the line. Walking along the lower road, I did catch a glimpse of the rear of Schloss Juliusburg, and it did look stunning. It was also at this point that the sun finally came out, slowly roasting me as I walked along. At Absdorf I waited at a level crossing for a train to pass by, before heading to the Halli-Hallo!!!! cafe for refreshment. There I met my second disappointment of the day. Absdorf is a very quiet place and it’s the height of summer. This means that the cafe was shut for a mid-afternoon break. With the clock reading just before 4 pm and reopening beginning at 5 pm, I instead headed somewhat dejectedly to the supermarket for chocolate milk instead of a beer. Oh well.
The whole idea behind this series of wanders is to explore the places that are so often missed by regular tourists. My day hiking around the Absdorf area did not disappoint, despite the Schloss being closed to the public. Getting out into the countryside is its own reward, and the people you’ll meet along the way are incredibly friendly and welcoming. All told I walked a good 12 km, got sunburned during the final 45 minutes of my day, and saw some interesting new places. If you get a chance, get out and visit Absdorf, You’ll like it.
Getting to Absdorf is simple.
You can catch the S4 from most of Vienna’s main train stations, like Meidling, Hauptbahnhof and Prater.
You can also catch various REX services from Franz Josef Bahnhof, Stadlau and Heiligenstadt.
Tickets cost €12.20 each way. To purchase them, click on the address below.
If you’d like to know more about Absdorf, check out the links below.
Kultur – und Verschonerungsverein group – Oskar Mann Haimat Museum
MarkGemeinde Absdorf – Absdorf Council –