The Feast of the Immaculate Conception

8 Dec

The Trafik was closed this morning! I knew today is a holiday. When I woke up I suspected that was why I was able to sleep late on a Saturday. However, many years ago, the government decided to allow shops to open on Mariä Empfängnis so that people could do their Christmas shopping. That made me think our Trafik would be open, too.

Instead, disappointment was great. Maylo pulled me over with great enthusiasm right up to the door and then looked at me as if to say, “What’s happening? Where are they?” And I had to explain that they were having a well-deserved day off.

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06 – Bahnhof Hütteldorf to Lainzer Tor

2 Dec

Well, I didn’t get the stamp in my Wanderpass today, even though it is Rundumadum stretch with a Stempelstelle but for that I was flooded with memories and had a really nice walk through the snow, too.

What happened is this: I set off relatively early this morning (for a Sunday) so that I could be back in time to clean up for a First Sunday in Advent celebration with friends. I went without Maylo because this stretch of the trail goes through the Lainzer Tiergarten, where dogs are not allowed. (I’m not sure Empress Elisabeth would approve of that—she loved dogs—but it is the case nonetheless.)

As I left the Hütteldorf station and crossed the bridge over the Wien Fluss (Vienna River) I saw a heron landing on the water among the ducks. While it’s not quite in the middle of Vienna, it’s still within the city limits. That made the trip worth it right there.

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I got to the Nikolaitor (St. Nicholas Gate), no thanks to the Rundumadum signs. I saw only one near the beginning. Luckily, I know the neighborhood. Not that it did me any good. As I drew nearer the gate, something stirred in me and I seemed to remember that you cannot get into this part of the Tiergarten between November and March. Sure enough, when I arrived I saw the sign with opening times:

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Some day when I have a moment, I’ll have to work out when I can actually go and get the stamp. This was too complicated for me today!

As I was trying to decide what to do—I really wanted a proper walk this morning—a woman all alone in a monster black Mercedes SUV stopped and asked if the gate was locked. I told her it was and she decided to go to Grinzing for her walk. She was nice enough to invite me along but I declined (“Never get into cars with strangers”), and I thought about the amount of gas she was going to use to get to Grinzing in northwest Vienna from where we were more in the south, where there were still plenty of beautiful places to walk, and marveled at the essential cluelessness of some people.

I considered getting on the S45 (commuter rail) at Hütteldorf and traveling that direction myself, and then I thought how this was a real chance to re-visit a part of Vienna I used to come to regularly and stopped coming to when I got Maylo (since he’s not allowed to go in). I remembered that you don’t have to walk through, you can also walk around the Lainzer Tiergarten, and that is what I decided to do. I hadn’t done it since my very first time when I ended up doing it by default because I managed to find the Tiergarten but couldn’t find a gate. (A lot of my discoveries in Vienna have been hit or miss.)

It was a beautiful walk (if somewhat strenuous in places—steep and slippery with snow) and in the beginning I saw very few people. Here is a montage to give you an impression:

As I walked, the memories came—like the first time I went in through the Nikolaitor and saw a huge wild boar within meters of the gate. I backed out and tried to pull the gate closed only to be hindered by the people on the other side trying to pull it open so that they could get out. I let them out and then took a second look. Was it really a boar I had seen? It was. However, it was a peaceful boar eating some hay that had been specially provided, and there were people, even families with children, watching him. I joined them.

That was not my only encounter with boar in the Lainzer Tiergarten. I once left the beaten track only to find myself unexpectedly at a feeding station. I was just getting ready to sneak away again when a boar came racing out of the woods towards me. Before I knew it, I was up a tree, lying on a branch, looking down at him. (Isn’t adrenalin a wonderful thing!) I looked down at him and he looked up at me rather perplexed, as if to ask “What are you doing up in the tree?” At some point, he realized I wasn’t there to feed him, got bored, and left again, and I climbed down and carried on.

On another occasion, I was walking with a cousin and heard the characteristic galloping of a boar, yelled “Boar!” and hid behind a tree. My cousin, not primed in the fauna of the Lainzer Tiergarten, stayed where he was and was unscathed as the boar galloped past us on a mission known only to him.

The one occasion when I actually was a little afraid was the time I was out taking a walk in the spring with a friend and her two relatively small daughters. We wanted to go to the Rohrhaus (a rustic restaurant in the middle of the Tiergarten and, by the way, the Stempelstelle) and had to go past two boar fighting each other in order to get there. That took some gearing up. We were fine, though. They seemed to be far too absorbed in what they were doing to give us a glance (thank goodness).

There comes a point on every walk when I’m on a new route when I start to wonder how much longer the trail is and whether I have missed a turning. This time it came after the Adolftor, when the path started to weave around a little. I was relieved to make it to the St. Veiter Tor and find an older gentleman there who knew not only the right direction but the names of the streets I would need to take. As we were chatting, I saw someone exit the Tiergarten by climbing over the wall and remembered that I, too, had climbed that wall, albeit at a different point. Many years ago I went with a friend, eager to show off this beautiful place, and didn’t realize that the gates are closed (or were closed) on Mondays. Having taken the U4 all the way out to Hütteldorf and having set aside the afternoon for the hike through this former Imperial hunting ground, we decided to climb the wall and go for a walk anyway. We then quite brazenly exited through the main gate (the Lainzer Tor), playing the foreigner card.

Following the excellent directions the old gentleman had given me, I found myself in the right place near the right bus stop, with only about three minutes to wait for the bus (which only runs every 20 minutes so that was nice). On past visits, I have always changed from the bus to the tram—probably because I didn’t have the benefit in those days of Qando, the app for the public transportation system in Vienna. Now, Qando told me that the 56B bus would also take me to Hietzing to the U4 but that it would be quicker than the trams. I thought it would be interesting to see a different route.

The 56B bus goes over Küniglberg, where I hadn’t been in years, and the trip woke more memories. I remembered a fascinating visit with students to the ORF (Austrian Broadcasting Corporation) production center out there as well as singing at the funeral of a mentor and friend at the Hietzing Cemetery. As we went past the zoo in Schönbrunn, I remembered that our panda twins, now aged two, were on their way to China today and felt a pang. Pandas are special no matter what, but for a panda mother to successfully raise twins, even with human help, is very special indeed, and now they are gone.

All in all, for a relatively short outing there was a lot going on!

Distance: ? (because I couldn’t take the recommended path, which would have been 7.6 km, I don’t know)

Time: About 1 hour 45 minutes

05 – Feuerwache Steinhof to Hütteldorf

1 Dec

Actually, I did this stretch last Sunday with a friend (which explains, perhaps, why I didn’t take as many photos as usual–we were too busy talking) and am only just getting around to writing about it. It’s been a very busy week!

Whether it was the fact that we were talking or really that there were some signs missing, we lost the trail a couple of times. We even had some trouble finding the starting point! Ah, well. At least my friend wasn’t troubled by this. 😉

It was a somewhat quiet walk. As the weather gets colder and grayer, fewer people seem to be motivated to go out. As before, one of the aspects that surprised me was that I have walked in that area several times but discovered new corners this time. There are roads back there that look like country roads–paved, but only wide enough for one car at a time. And there are lucky people who there in modest, one-family houses! Vienna the way it was for many decades before property developers got greedy here, too.

I was also surprised by this small lake (Silbersee) in the 14th district, serene in the middle of the woods, a bit of a hike up from Dehnepark. I wonder if one can swim here in summer.

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We both were struck almost speechless by this gem below, which seems to be a culture center with concerts and other events. We were not alone in being struck with it. I had to wait my turn to get this photo!

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Not far from this, we were reunited with the Rundumadum trail and found our way on to Hütteldorf. There we were quite taken aback to see hordes of police with what looked like riot gear standing along the road to the new Rapid football (soccer) stadium. I like watching soccer but perhaps not when it requires a full squad of police in full gear.

We made it into the station at Hütteldorf and thankfully made our way home unscathed.

Distance: Officially only 3 km, but we put in quite a bit of extra, partly through starting at Schloss Wilhelminenberg rather than at the Feuerwache, and partly through getting lost.

Time: 1.5(?) hrs of walking

Ice skating in Vienna

1 Dec

This interested me very much. I used to live near the Engelmann ice-skating rink, which is on top of a building. Apparently, it opened in 1909 and was the first open-air rink. Cool! 😉

http://unnuetzeswissen.eu/wien/erste-freiluftkunsteisbahn

Did I mention it has gotten colder?

19 Nov

A photo from our morning walk in the 6-a.m. murk:

And, yes, that is snow.

04 – Marswiese to Feuerwache am Steinhof

18 Nov

Today Maylo and I had company as we did the next stretch of the Rundumadum hiking trail. A good friend and hiking companion joined us and was a great help at seeing the Rundumadum signs. I have to confess that right towards the end we lost sight of them. We still ended up where we were supposed to, though. Since this is still a part of the Vienna Woods I know pretty well, I find myself wondering what will happen when we get to the parts I don’t know so well and can’t rely on my sense of direction, but that won’t be for several weeks yet.

The first thing both of us commented on was how much the woods have changed in the last week. It’s suddenly gotten much cooler and the leaves are now down.

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The next thing we both remarked on was how parts of the trail were completely new to us, even though we have been hiking that part of the Woods for a couple of decades. Endless variety.

And we were delighted to see this “toad tunnel” near Schottenhof, constructed by the City of Vienna to protect wildlife. 🙂

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We made it to the Feuerwache am Steinhof (fire watch and station) just in time to jump into the bus down the hill. We were very grateful for that, as the bus doesn’t run very often on that stretch.

Back to my place then for coffee, cake, and a chat.

Distance: 5 km (actually a little more because we walked from the 43 tram to Marswiese instead of taking the bus)

Time: About 2 hrs.

03 – Häuserl am Roan to Marswiese

11 Nov

It wasn’t clear if we were going to continue our hike around Vienna today, but after I took a look this morning at how much I have to do this coming week and the week after (way too much), I decided this was the best way to make the most of our Sunday.

This is a route we know well. We have walked it often in the other direction, where it is disguised as Stadtwanderweg 3 (City Hiking Path 3). Again, it was strange taking the bus up the Höhenstraße. It almost feels like cheating and, on top of that, I realized today how much I actually enjoy the exertion of walking uphill. Ah, well. Another time. 😉

Here is finally a photo of the Häuserl am Roan (our starting point today) and the view from their front garden:

(The photos are gray because the weather is gray today.)

The bus was quite full, but there appeared to be very few people out. I thought with some relief that perhaps the density has died down as last week was a holiday weekend. Nope.

Empty as the Höhenstraße looks …

… there were plenty of people out and about.

First of all, we were almost run over by a large group of runners coming at us along the trail. Then there was the ongoing threat of the mountain bikers and Nordic walkers. And on the stretch from Hameau to Marswiese we encountered a group of at least 70 people all hiking together. That’s a big group!

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Finally, we made it to Schwarzenbergallee, where at least one expects to dodge people constantly. And from there we made our way home. All in all, it was shorter and quicker than I expected.

Distance: 4.8 km

Time (without a break): 1 hr 15 mins