The Burgenland Region of Austria
The Burgenland, Austria’s youngest Bundesland or state, shares the Neusiedler See, Austria’s largest lake, with Hungary. Eisenstadt (Kismarton), its capital, was the seat of the Eszterházy Hungarian noble family and Joseph Haydn lived there as Hofkapellmeister under Esterházy patronage. 2009 is the Haydn-Jahr (Haydn Year) in honor of the 200th anniversary of the composer´s death. This area was once referred to as “German-speaking western Hungary”.
The capital has a lot of worthwhile sights. The Schloß Esterházy, esp. the Hadynsaal, is worth spending time in as is the Schloßpark. The former Jewish district is also noteworthy and near the Schloß: visit the Österreichisches Jüdisches Museum (Austrian Jewish Museum) in Unterberg.
Inside is the Wertheimer’sche Schul, a private chapel from the 18th century that was somehow spared destruction after the Anschluß. Samson Wertheimer was a key financier for the Esterházy family and the Holy Roman Emperors in the late 17th and early 18th century. Not only is this museum the first Jewish museum to open in Austria after the Second World War but officials found hidden Torah scrolls and other sacred objects hidden in the walls. The Schul is still used for occasional services. Also visit the historic Jewish Cemetery in this district. (Remember to bring a hat or head covering if you visit either the Schul or the cemetery.)
Haydnhaus, where the composer lived, is also nearby and very much worth a visit. His mausoleum (the composer was reunited with his head in 1954) in the Bergkirche is also worth a stop. If you are lucky, you may find a concert being played on the church’s organ, the same one that Hadyn himself (and Beethoven one time) played.
There is a tourist office in the rebuilt old town hall on Hauptstraße, the main pedestrian-only street. (The building is architecturally and historically interesting itself.) The top restaurant, also named Esterházy, is in the old stables building opposite the Schloß (basically at the top of Hauptstraße), and there are several simpler places to stop for a light lunch.
Rust is a wonderful area to visit, right on the border of Hungary. Explore the Weinländer “Neusiedlersee” (north and east of the Neusiedlersee) and “Neusiedlersee-Hügelland” – both famous for Spätlese and Eiswein as well as Traminer.
Storks are part of the city´s essence as well; Rust is sometimes called ,,Die Stadt der Störche“ (,,Stork City“) and you will see many storks as you wander around town.
Consider staying at the Seehotel Rust, directly on the Neusiedlersee.
Other Neusiedlersee locations
The Neusiedlersee is a broad shallow lake and marshland area with the exact borders shifting from year to year. The Leitha River used to be the border between Austria and Hungary, but the border moved east in 1921 with the formation of the current Austrian Burgenland. Lake access is at Rust and the town of Neuseidl am See. There is public swimming, sun-bathing, and an informal restaurant at the lake near Neuseidl am See. (Possibly this one.) The price is quite reasonable, but be prepared for the mushy lake bottom.
Purbach (formally Purbach am Neusiedler See) is a small town between Neuseidl a. S. and Rust, with walls built in the 16th and 17th Century to defend against the Turkish invasion. One recommendation is Weingasthof Pauli’s Stuben for both its food and rooms. It was an amazing bargain at less than €40 per person per night, and the restaurant is popular with both locals and tourists. The food is several notches above the traditional heavy country fare, with interesting dishes (lamb, duck, fish, etc.) in light sauces with fresh local ingredients. Local wines without the typical restaurant markup.
Taubenkobel, a pleasant restaurant and R&Ch hotel in 7081 Schuetsen am Gerbirge, now has two Michelin stars.
–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.