Burgenland is a very lengthy state. It is 166 km long from north to south, but much narrower from west to east, in one place only 5km. It is divided into seven districts, but for this travel guide, it will first be divided it into larger regions, called Northern Burgenland, Mid Burgenland and Southern Burgenland. Those regions have better public transportation within them, as opposed to the very, very poor public transportation from north to south, which is mostly a bus which starts in Eisenstadt (Kismarton) twice a day.
Northern Burgenland is composed of Neusiedl am See (administrative center Neusiedl am See), Eisenstadt-Umgebung (Eisenstadt) and Mattersburg. Mid Burgenland is home to Oberpullendorf, while Southern Burgenland comprises Oberwart, Güssing and Jennersdorf,
The whole of Burgenland was historically Hungarian territory, but has become part of Austria after World War I. Even today, a substantial Hungarian population lives in Burgenland (Őrvidék in Hungarian), especially in the northeastern parts.
Northern Burgenland is also the better developed part of the whole, since it is very near to Vienna and could profit from the economical updrift of this region after the World War II. The mid- and southern parts of Burgenland have poor infrastructure and economics.
In Jennersdorf, you will mostly find completely different weather (sunshine) situations than compared to the rest of Austria (rain). It is commonly thought by inhabitants that it is some sort of dependence of Italy, but this theory still lacks scientific acknowledgement.
The native language of Burgenland is German, though most people speak a very strong Austro-Bavarian dialect, especially the older generation. Understanding the dialect can be a challenge even for German native speakers. Also widely spoken are English and to a lesser extent Hungarian (due to the proximity of the border), and there are also minorities who speak (natively) Burgenland Croatian and Hungarian, and there are also Romanes. These minorities are almost always bilingual in German.
If you happen to own your own sports plane, you will like (and may already know) that there is a small military and hobbyists' airport next to Güssing in Punitz, LOGG (123,20), which is usable throughout the year. For bigger planes you will need to consider Maribor.
Regional lines pass through from Styria, and suburban trains from Vienna. Wiener Neustadt especially is a good train hub for northern Burgenland. If you want to go to Southern Burgenland, you might sometimes prefer the destination "Fürstenfeld" to Jennersdorf and then take the local bus to the desired village. There are many train stations in Burgenland, you can search on the ÖBB website for timetables.
Burgenland has a quite good bus network. Buses go hourly from Vienna's station Südbahnhof. Travelling time is about an hour, but it might vary because of the traffic situation. The capital Eisenstadt can be reached daily from each village in Burgenland by bus. The schedules differ on the weekends and national holidays. A one-way-ticket costs about € 2,00 depending on where you want to go. Tickets to and from Vienna are much more expensive, but it's cheaper than going by train.
The most eastern state of Austria is a popular biking area. Generally, all kinds of bikes can be rented at the bus and train stations. Some cities use the system "nextbike", where you have to register yourself. The system tells where and where bikes are available.
Burgenland can be reached by boat from Hungary. The villages around Lake Neusiedl offer boat tours and public transport across the lake.
Originally called "The Land of four Castles" (Vierburgenland), most of them are now in Hungary. It is not that they moved there by themselves, but in the political confusion of this area, a lot of unification, reunification and division took place, and that's where things stand now: a land of castles (Burgenland) with only few of them. But still there are some which are worthwhile to visit.
The Castles were originally built as some sort of (de)fence against the Osmanic and Magyar threat from the east. The "Road of Castles" (Schlösserstrasse) starts in mid-Burgenland and goes right down to the most southern place in eastern Styria. By the way, don't be confused: the name of the castle is almost always the name of the corresponding village, minus "Burg" or "Schloss".
Ordered from north to south:
- Schloss Halbturn 13th century
- Schloss Esterhazy 15th century
- Burg Forchtenstein 14th century
- Burg Bernstein 13th century
In this small castle in Bernstein, which was owned by families like Batthyány and Almásy, you will find a small hotel , a restaurant and a nice garden, which is open to visitors. The Castle is very ancient with big rooms and a knight's hall. (Hotel: phone: +43 (0) 3354 6382, mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Burg Lockenhaus 13th century
A stronghold and knight's castle located in Lockenhaus, with knight's saloon, frescos and a subterranean apsis hall. The knight's hall is regularly used for chamber music festivals and big stylish weddings. The hotel has ancient apartments, a wedding suite, a tavern and other features. (phone: Tel: +43 (0) 2616 2394 or +43 (0) 2616 2321, mail: email@example.com)
- Burg Schlaining 13th century
The Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution is located here, as well as the European Museum of Peace. In the village Stadtschlaining you will find a medieval heart, churches, and a synagogue. In the castle Burg Schlaining you will find remarkable medieval architecture, a knight's saloon, pomposity saloons and a chapel. (Castle: phone: +43 (0) 3355 2201-30, opening times Apr 11-Oct 31, Tu–Su 9AM–6PM, closed M)
- Burg Güssing 12th century
The oldest castle in Burgenland, built around 1157 on an extinct volcano, served as a defence castle against threats from the east. It features an ancestors gallery, cultural items of the renaissance and barock, a restaurant with atmospheric music events and an excellent vinotheque. In summer, the Burgspiele take place, which is open-air theater with the picturesque background of the castle itself. You can visit Burg Güssing with an elevator.
Theaters and plays
There are many hot springs in southern Burgenland and south-eastern Styria, so watch out that you don't fall into one of the many thermal basins if you don't watch your step. The water for the thermae comes right out of the earth, heated by volcanic activity and is mostly around 36°C, enriched with minerals and very nice to relax in. There will also be offered common wellness services such as solarium, massages, drinks, mudbaths, sauna and others. Often enough there are opportunities to play golf, do horseriding, go bicycling or hiking, do sports and such.
The Village you find the thermae in will contain a lot of expensive hotels and cheap hostels to spend your time. You should not think about staying outside the actual thermae village, because stretches of way between villages are rather long in Burgenland, and the public transportation infrastructure is, to say the least, poor.
Thermae in Burgenland with their primary targets are:
- Bad Tatzmannsdorf A village more for elderly people (mostly on rehab)
- Stegersbach For families with children, with golf links
Not in Burgenland, but in the area:
- Loipersdorf Very nice for kids, with golf links
Before you start reading right away, think about yourself and your relation to food. Do you eat grasshoppers? Slugs? Do you dare every cook you meet for his local fashion and tradition? Well then, but you have been warned. You will notice that the following dishes just aren't the ones anyone would consider "kosher".
In Mid and Southern Burgenland, and also in some parts of Styria, a procedure called Sautanz - "pig dance" takes place. This is, when a hog is butchered. But well, it is not done in some industrial way of killing. It is a celebration, where all friends and neighbours of the respective peasant, who owns the hog, are invited. Usually, a professional butcher is organised, who does the actual filleting with some better parts of the pig as payment. As a first step, the hog is let out of its cage, then the peasant tries to catch it and set the slaughtering pistol (or sometimes, they use an axe for the same job). You will notice a loud and awful screaming of the hog, until it is caught and shot (or cut). What is called "dance" is the running around before it is killed - poor pig. Well then, you have that hog right there, bleeding. What happens next? And what has all this to do with food?
- Blutwurst, Blunz'n
First of all, there will be a LOT of blood. But this is not shed. No. It is collected in a bucket and cooked until it is coagulated, with fat, cream and spices. This will be later filled into the cleaned gut of the hog. This is the Blutwurst, or often just called Blunzn (pronounced: bloontsn). Sounds yummy? It really is, no matter how much you watch it being made.
- Grammeln, Schmalz and Grammelschmalz
Then, the fat of the hog is diced and cooked. The fat then starts separating from the tissue. The tissue is fried in the fat which was separated by cooking. The fried tissue itself, which looks like big brown bread crumbs is then called Grammeln (sg. Grammel), the fat itself, which turns white and hard as butter when it is cold, Schmalz. And when the Grammeln are left in the Schmalz, this will be another local speciality called Grammelschmalz. Schmalz is the fat used for much of the traditional cooking in this area.
Together with all that, you will most likely be served a distilled transparent fluid called Schnaps, which has most likely also been made by the owner of the hog. It is made of distilled rotten fruit. You will rarely come to drink something as stiff like that, so don't miss it.
- Other products
Of course, not all of the butchered hog is used at that occasion. Most of it is given to friends and neighbours and put into the fridge for the coming year.
Using the Grammeln and the Schmalz from the Sautanz, the older women will often bake Grammelpogatscherl with it, which is a very fat, salty and tasty little cookie. Ask for it.
- Knoblauchwurst, Knoflwurst
Garlic-sausage you could translate it. Ask for it. You must not miss this, and you won't get it like that anywhere else than in Southern Burgenland. Take it on your plate in a big chunk and eat it with generous bites together with bread and the wine served. You can also cut it into slices and put it on a piece of bread, but this just isn't the whole thing.
This is the Blutwurst from above roasted in a pan.
- Presswurst, Sulz
This is a sausage which consists of different pieces of meat and jelly.
The thing which is called "Heuriger" in Vienna and Lower Austria is called Buschenschank ("bar in the bushes") in Southern Burgenland and South-Eastern Styria. This is where the peasants serve their own products without having to pay any gastronomy license fees. Drinks and food are extraordinarily cheap and tasty. You will get heurigen (this year's) wine and the products mentioned above, plus cheese and curd cheese made parfait.
You can order most of the products available served together on a plate, for one or more persons. This plate comes with additional sweet pepper, tomatoes, hot peppers, horseradish (called Kren) and bread. If you come to Burgenland in autumn, you are really bound to try this, it is an extraordinary culinaric experience you might never forget.
For drinking, you will be served white wine, red wine, Uhudler, Most or Sturm, the latter three is explained below at "Drinks", don't miss it!
When you decide to go to a Buschenschank, ask a resident where a good one takes place.
In Northern Burgenland, around Neusiedlersee, and in Southern Burgenland you will get exceptional good wine for no money. Try to visit some Buschenschank or some Winery and start trying and tasting right away, as the local Wineries will be happy to assist you in a professional degustation.
Being a special wine which must only be served in Southern Burgenland and the bordering styrian area, you will not find it anywhere else. It is drunk cold, and though its appearance has some resemblance with rosé, it tastes entirely different. It has the smack of berries, after the uncultivated grapes from which it is made. This wine is supposed to be drunk - pure or with soda - together with friends, in a warm autumn evening, in the open air, having a nice talk and laugh on a candle lit table. Most Buschenschanks will provide you with those prerequisites; you still need to bring the friends, though.
This is an alcoholic beverage made of fermented fruit juice. It can be clear or clouded and can taste a little astringent. You can get drunk from it easily. Common fruits used for making Most are grape, apple and pear. It is similar to cider and perry. In wine making, Most preceds Sturm. One differentiates between Pressmost, the product of pressure applied to the fruit, and Seihmost, the liquid that naturally flows out of the fruit stacked in the press.
A fermenting grape juice of high alcohol content, Sturm is the stage following Most. This beverage is only on sale for a few weeks in the winemaking regions of Austria and only during the season of wine-making as it cannot be preserved. If sold in bottles, it is not corked as the fermentation process of the sugar is still in process. It is opaque, and off-white to greenish in colour. Depending on the stage of fermentation the taste can be very sweet. It is deceptively refreshing, and has a surprising punch - more often than not it also delivers also a punch to your digestion.
- Austria's capital Vienna is only an hour away from northern Burgenland.
- Graz, the capital of Styria, is quite near to southern Burgenland.
- Visit Western Hungary. Kőszeg and Sopron,-the two nicest towns of Hungary,-are walking distance from the state border.