Burgenland is a large region to the east and south-east of Vienna, bordering Hungary, which comprises the sub-regions of Neusiedlersee, Neusiedlersee-Hügelland, Mittelburgenland and Südburgenland.
The eastern part of Burgenland, near the Hungarian border, is the hottest part of Austria and includes the areas around the Neusiedlersee, home to many fine Botrytis dessert wines.
This is red wine country par excellence. The exceptional Pannonian climate enables very high degrees of ripeness unmatched in most other parts of Austria, making big chunky reds possible. To the east of the Neusiedlersee, Zweigelt dominates, yielding strong, juicy red wines.
Blaufränkisch tends to be grown a little further south, around the southern and south-western shores of the lake, and further south still into Mittelburgenland and Südburgenland. There are also some international red varieties grown, including notably some Syrah, which does very well here.
There are also many useful whites, especially from around the shores of the Neusiedlersee, with varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Traminer, Welschriesling, Muscat, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and the especially interesting Furmint. Conventional wisdom is that the soils on the west bank of the lake are more complex than those on the east and it's worth understanding the soil profile of the area around Rust, whose 440 hectares of vines follow a 100 year old classification system.
All the vineyards on the western shore of the Neusiedlersee are east-southeast elevation sites facing the Lake. The soils vary, even between close rows and can be differentiated into different types, taking Rust as the centre.
To the north, the soils are loamy, cool and dense, ideal for Blaufränkisch and humid-loving white wine varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc. To the north-west, lime-clay soils have a top layer of loess, which again is perfect for the native Blaufränkisch. Further towards the west the soils contain increasingly more chalk and are thus better for Burgundian varieties (e.g. Chardonnay). The soils of the vineyards to the south-west have a high portion of minerals, slate and quartz crystals, thus favouring aromatic varieties such as Syrah/Shiraz, Cabernet and Merlot.
The area right along the lake around the Neusiedlersee, a shallow steppe lake straddling the Hungarian border, is one of the most amazing places on earth for the production of sweet botrytis-affected wines. Only here, around the lake, and in Hungary's Tokajhegyalja does the Botrytis cinerea, or noble rot, attack grapes so reliably every year.
- Traditional Produce
While they have developed an international outlook, Burgenland’s chefs have not forgotten their roots. They rely on local produce such as Perch and catfish from Lake Neusiedl, beef from the salt marshes that surround the lake and from the mountains in the south, and pork from the black pigs that still abound in the central portion of the province.
The Burgenland cooks' partiality for paprika,in sausages, goulash or simply on the table as a seasoning,is evidence of the old Hungarian influence.
Stove and fireplace masonry in Burgenland
The villages of Neutal, Ritzing and Sigless (Burgenland) have a strong tradition of stove and fireplace craftwork. Even in families without direct links to this sector, their identification with these handicrafts is very strong.
The need for classic masonry has declined due to the replacement of brick fireplaces and chimneys by steel ones, therefore, the masons’ tasks have become limited to repair and restoration work as well as supervisory work in connection to the inspection of workers in foreign countries. Manual masonry skills have been passed on for decades within factories, working groups and families. Nowadays, retired masons transfer their know-how with regard to this tradition to younger generations in Neutal’s Museum for Architecture and Planning which opened in 2005.
Indigo Blue Printing
Indigo blue printing in Burgenland involves the dyeing of fabric with the help of a special type of printing technique called “Reservedrucktechnik”. Traditionally, wood patterns and paste are used to apply the required design on to the fabric, which is subsequently dyed indigo. It is said that textile printing was probably discovered by chance and can now be traced back for centuries in countries such as Hungary, Turkey, the Czech Republic or Egypt.
In 1930, the Koó family purchased a roll pressure machine, which is still used today in its third generation for the production of double strike, the family’s speciality. The wood patterns used for printing are more than 100 years old. The Koó family has only a few written records on the composition of the paste as knowledge about its special components is passed down from one generation to the next.
- Events & Festivals
Burgenland has a reputation for being rural and quiet. However, due to the relative vicinity of Burgenland to the capital of Vienna and the densely populated Lower Austria, several festivals and events are held in the easternmost corner of Austria. This applies in particular to summer festivals such as the Seefestspiele in Mörbisch, an operetta festival popular with elderly Viennese, the festivals of Wiesen and most importantly the Jazzfestival.
In terms of Classic and Romantic music, the composers Joseph Haydn and Franz Liszt have close ties with Burgenland. There are plenty of agricultural events and celebrations often concerned with the main glory that is produced in Burgenland - it's wine.
Throughout May, the "Great Bustard" (Otis tarda) embarks upon its courtship behaviour which is a rather dramatic dance and even experienced birders are thrilled when they have the pleasure of watching this event. The "Großtrappenbalz" is not a festival in the strict sense of the world, but it does attract hundreds of visitors and draws them into the National Park Seewinkel.
Haydnmatineen. A series of concerts of Haydn music held in Schloss Esterhazy in Eisentstadt. The season lasts until October and the performing musicians wear historic clothes. Guess whether these concerts are touristy or not.
Burgspiele Güssing. A theatre and drama festival in the castle of Güssing that is held annually. The actors are non-professionals, supervised by professional staff.
Fahnenschwingen Neckenmarkt. A rather unusual event held on the Sunday after Corpus Christi. Historic flags are raised to commemorate a victory of the Austrian armies against the Hungarian troops in 1620.
Passionsspiele. Once every five years the famous Passion Plays of St. Margarethen take place. The ancient Roman quarry serves as a stage for 300 actors that perform every Sunday from June to September.
Jazzfest Wiesen. The "strawberry capital" of Burgenland is actually much more famous for its jazz festival. I think the most innovative and creative jazz fest in Austria.
Kammermusikfestival Burg Lockenhaus. Held in the Medieval castle of Lockenhaus, this festival is dedicated to classical chamber music.
Schlossspiele Kobersdorf. Theatre productions bring life to the Medieval/Renaissance castle of Schloss Kobersdorf. The Schlossspiele begin in mid-July and last until early August.
Golser Volksfest. A fair in the traditional sense - agriculture and entertainment happily united. Held in the community of Gols in mid-August.
Burgenländische Weinwoche. A wine fair and convention with a famous highlight. The "Festival of 1000 wines" (Fest der 1000 Weine) is held in Eisenstadt, the capital of Burgenland.
Medieval Festival Güssing. The small town of Güssing takes advantage of its Medieval fortress - a fair with jesters, knights and damsels in distress.
Sun Splash Festival. Another music festival in Wiesen, this time with a focus on Caribbean tunes. Held in late August.
Internationale Haydn Tag (International Haydn Days). This commemorates Joseph Haydn, who spent (but didn′t like) a lot of time in Eisenstadt. Held in the second week of September, with concerts in the historic Haydn Hall in Schloss Esterhazy in the capital Eisenstadt.
Gans Burgenland. This gourmet festival is held from September to Mid-December in many regions of Burgenland. The festival centres around the goose (Gans, in German), the state bird of Burgenland and features events ranging from traditional crafts workshops to special restaurant menus. Until the 1960s, geese used to freely roam the villages in Burgenland. Since then, geese almost entirely disappeared until a group of farmers got together in 2002 to revive the tradition and bring back the “Südburgenländische Weidegans“ as a culinary specialty of the region. Today, there are about 6,000 geese in Burgenland. The highlight of the Festival is around the 11th of November, on Martini. Having nothing at all to do with the famous cocktail, Martini is the day of the local patron saint and traditionally celebrated with a big feast, including what else, delicious roast goose. The day is also the occasion for naming the new wine of the year, hence it has special significance for the wine regions and villages around Lake Neusiedl. Here, the Martiniloben is celebrated with open wine cellars, exciting events and culinary highlights revolving around the goose.
With the end of the wine harvest, parades and harvest festivals are held everywhere in Burgenland. Probably the merriest time of the year in this part of Austria, until…
11th of November is St. Martin′s Day and according to Austrian tradition, this is the "end of the wine year". The new wine of the running year is presented in a celebration called Martiniloben. It comes in handy that St. Martin is the patron saint of Burgenland.
Many towns and villages of Burgenland hold markets and fairs on St. Thomas′ Day (21st of December, the winter solstice). Other Christmas customs are less specific for Burgenland.
Burgenland offers many attractive ways to enjoy winter and one of the most traditional ones is visiting the Christmas markets. When the days become shorter, the icy wind sweeps across the land and the first snowflakes fall from the sky, festively lit up Christmas markets open up everywhere. Town squares and castle courtyards spread the pre-Christmas spirit and the seductive scents of gingerbread, mulled wine and roasted chestnuts fill the air. The Christmas markets of Burgenland are unique due to the handmade gifts and traditional artisan craftwork like broom making and basket weaving that can be found here, as well as the regional savoury delicacies served in addition to the well known sweet ones. Most castles such as Esterhazy, Halbturn and Lockenhaus open up their courtyards for these markets, allowing visitors to take in the festive markets and majestic castles all at once.
- Nature in Burgenland
The first national park in Austria came into being amongst reeds, small saline ponds and the swampy pastures which were formerly covered by Lake Neusiedl. The steppe lake itself lies at the lowest point of the Lesser Hungarian Plain, in a drainage basin which has no outlet. The lake basin today encompasses an area of around 320km²; of which 180km² lies in the reed belt.
Founded in 1993, the biodiversity of the National Park Lake Neusiedl-Seewinkel makes it one of the most significant bird sanctuaries in Europe. The open landscape of the Seewinkel area, which has an extensive network of paths, offers the visitor an incomparable wildlife experience. The majority of the almost 300 bird species can, with the aid of binoculars or a spotting scope, be observed here in their natural environment.
The National Park Information Centre is open all year round and is a point-of-call for all guests interested in the surrounding environment. It is also an exhibition and event centre for the national park region. Visitors can go on one of the excursions to different parts of the park to discover the wonders of nature for themselves.
Young naturalists can equip themselves with binoculars, tweezers and a magnifying glass and explore the ponds and pastures on a Children´s Excursion – water scorpions, brine shrimps, great egrets and much more await discovery.
- More facts about Burgenland
Burgenland is just a stone‘s throw away from Vienna and the Lake Neusiedl region can be reached in about 30 minutes either by car or by train.
An assortment of cultural events stem from the rich multi-cultural traditions of Austria that once inspired the composers Joseph Haydn and Franz Liszt. The open-air festivals, music and theatre performances draw hundreds of thousands of visitors to great acclaim year after year.
Visit Lake Neusiedl National Park and uncover the wild diversity of a truly unique stretch of land in the heart of Europe, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Approximately one third of the entire province is comprised of protected nature reserves which provide an ideal natural environment for a relaxing vacation.
There are 1,500 miles of bike paths, 800 miles of horse riding trails, three golf courses, running routes and superb watery terrain for sailing and wind surfing which make this countryside a veritable paradise for sports.
Burgenland’s minorities contribute significantly to its cultural diversity. Croatians settled in the region 500 years ago and have kept their dialect and traditions alive until today. Visit folk festivals and enjoy the colourful traditional costumes with their intricate embroidery and the passionate yet slightly melancholy folk dances. Even Joseph Haydn found inspiration in the folk songs of Burgenland’s largest minority on frequent visits to friends in neighbouring Croatian villages. Today, “Burgenland Croatian” is spoken in 48 towns and villages.
Hungarians have been a minority in Austria ever since the Habsburg monarchy fell apart. Their influence and the proximity to Hungary can be felt in Burgenland’s cuisine, with various Hungarian specialties as staples in Burgenland’s restaurants. The fiery energy of Hungarian folk songs makes traditional events a memorable experience.
The Roma also cherish their music and folk dances, which they proudly present at various folk festivals.