Climbing the Kahlenberg

It’s Easy to Imagine all Those Men and Horses Charging, Banners Flying, Swords Against Scimitars in the Thunder of Battle… All Right Here

On The Town | Jessica Spiegel | November 2006

The Battle of Vienna, which took place on Kahlenberg Sept. 12th, 1683, by Juliusz Kossak | Picture: Creative Commons

Walking through the Vienna woods around Kahlenberg it’s hard to believe that downtown Vienna is just a few Kilometres away.  The blanket of leaves that covers the ground in the autumn and winter seems to absorb any sound, and the old trees that border the well-maintained trails provide an arch above your head, blocking out any view of the world outside. That is, until you reach the peak.

There, the entire city of Vienna opens out at your feet.  Walking out to the edge of a stone-ridged overlook, I can take in the whole city, the Danube, and the villages, vineyards and Heuriger lying at the foot of Kahlenberg, the Bald Mountain.

Nussdorf is one of these villages, where the main street is lined with Baroque and Biedermeier houses, whose back gardens open onto vineyards that reach up into the hills beyond.

Looking through my guide book, I see that this was where Beethoven spent his summers.  Even farther back in time, I discover that the Kahlenberg was the setting of the great Turkish Siege of Vienna more than three hundred years ago.  I start to read... September 12th, 1683…

...the great army of Grand Vizier Kara Mustapha, some 200,000 strong, are surrounding the great city of Vienna from all sides. The  capital of the Holy Roman Empire, Vienna has been hounded by the Turks for nearly 200 years. But now, things are coming to a head, and the ultimate question of whether the green crescent of Islam will be hoisted above St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The Viennese are outnumbered ten to one. Turkish troops have already breached the walls of Vienna…

But look! A great army of Polish soldiers is marching up the ridge of the Kahlenberg, a division of the Imperial army under the Polish King Sobietzky, fighting its way through the vineyards and the villages below, meeting Mustapha’s forces head on.

And now the Turks are retreating, turning tail and fleeing eastward, never to return.....

Standing on top of the Kahlenberg, it’s an amazing feeling.  All of this, all these men and horses charging, with banners flying, swords against scimitars in the thunder of battle…  to know that all this happened right here, where I am standing.

I pause for a moment, looking out at the quiet, green hillsides below me. It’s an extraordinary view from this point, 483 meters up, the highest point of the eastern end of the Vienna Woods.  In one panorama, you can take in nearly the entire city, the Danube, and the villages folded into the sloping vineyards below, all lying at your feet.

On my way home, maybe I’ll stop at Hueber, one of my favourite Heuriger, for a Viertel  of young wine and a hearty country meal, and later maybe drop by the Trummelhof. Crowds are a little young there, perhaps, but the music is good, and I do love to dance.  It’s a little expensive, but someone may offer to pick up the tab…

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