The final stop of my very long Balkan Tour was the small town of Gallbrunn, Austria which is nowhere near the Balkans.
I had come here to visit my girlfriend’s hometown and stayed to enjoy the charm of a small farming community about half an hour east of Vienna. Gallbrunn is the typical, small village populated with one church, one grocery store, and two pubs/restaurants. A small road cuts through the center and is lined on either side by traditional farmers’ houses. Each has a large gateway to accommodate farm equipment and livestock. On either side of the gate are two wings of a home, one of which traditionally houses the parents, while the other houses the family of the eldest child. Such living arrangements have passed down through the generations and continue today.
My girlfriend and I stayed in the house in which her father was born and in whose basement he and his mother hid from the Russian army in the closing days of World War II. The other side has been converted into the town’s only shop, which is amicably run by the wonderful Doris Glatzer. Be sure to stop by and ask, “Haben Sie Schnapps?”
For such a small town, I was surprise to discover the very fine Landgasthof (hotel) Muhr, a popular weekend escape for Viennese looking for a little country relaxation. The hotel’s accompanying restaurant is superb and has a fantastic wine cellar. In fact, the whole region is quite well-known for the spectacular wines it produces. As you drive along the country roads, wine cellars are built into the hillsides like little hobbit houses.
A popular evening activity is to visit a local Heurigen where one can taste such wines. We went on a Sunday night with Doris and her husband, Franz pictured above. The outdoor restaurant, located amongst a wide swath of fields, is like a beer garden without the garden. Long tables and benches line a patio filled with local farmers dressed up in their Sunday best trying out the various wines and having a jolly old time. You may have never heard of Austrian wine, but let me assure you, it is quite excellent, and very affordable.
The Heurigen also serves food. Schnitzel is, of course, on the menu, as was a mouthwatering pork roast, dumpling and sauerkraut special that was simply delicious.
Certainly the highlight of my time here was being invited into the homes of some of the locals. In traditional European fashion, the schnapps and/or wine comes out in a hurry, followed soon thereafter by food and great conversation. European hospitality is so very,… very hospitable. I love it! Immersing myself in the small town feel of provincial Austria was simply a wonderful way of ending my travels.