New Wine in Vienna

A Viennese Treat

In 1784, Emperor Joseph II issued a decree allowing vintners to sell their newly fermented wine without tax and directly to the customer. An evergreen bough, a buschen, hanging outside the gate would signal that the wine was ready. Eventually the vintners began providing wooden tables under the arbors for their guests and setting out a variety of snacks to go with the wine. The rustic wine tavern that evolved from this is called a ‘heuriger’, meaning ‘this year’s’, referring to the young wine. Vienna is said to be the home of the heuriger and from there the concept spread across Austria.

A short taxi ride from the city centre brings you to Mayer am Pfarrplatz, a typical heuriger (and Vienna’s smallest vineyard). They mainly produce Gemischter Satz, a blended wine from two or more different grape varieties grown in the same vineyard and vinified together. This wine has gained DAC status. Other white varieties are Grüner Veltliner, Weissburgunder and Rheinriesling. Red wines to try are Blauer Zweigelt, Blauburgunder and Cabernet Sauvignon. Enjoy a relaxed meal or a simple snack with your wine.

Towards the rear of the garden is the entrance to a newly opened museum, the little house where Beethoven lived and worked in 1817 and where he created his Symphony No. 9. For details of the heuriger and of the Beethoven Museum visit: www. 


Dresden, Lusting for Gold Discovering Porcelain


Well over 300 years ago, the Saxon Elector Augustus the Strong developed what he called his “porcelain disease”. Obsessed, he squandered immense sums on importing pieces from China and Japan, at that time the only countries in the world with the secret of the manufacture of “white gold”. In 1701,Augustus learned that a 19-year-old apothecary, Johann Friedrich Böttger, claimed to be able to turn lead into gold.Augustus, badly in need of gold to underwrite his extravagant purchases of china, ordered the young man brought to Dresden to demonstrate.Not surprisingly, Böttger’s attempt failed.

 Augustus promptly imprisoned him in the Virgin’s Bastion – underneath today’s Bruhl Terrace.Not content to let Böttger lay idle, Augustus set up a laboratory in the depths of the bastion and instructed Böttger to discover the formula for producing porcelain. Six tormented years later, in December 1707, Böttger showed Augustus the results of the first successful firing of white porcelain. He gradually perfected his technique and in 1709, officially presented his invention.

The next year,Augustus founded a porcelain factory in Dresden.To protect the secret of its production from industrial espionage, the factory and the dwellings of the employees were eventually established at Albrechtsburg Castle in nearby Meissen.The Meissen Porcelain Manufactory is still there and makes a good day trip from Dresden.

For the full, fascinating story of the invention of European porcelain, read Janet Gleeson’s book,  The Arcanum.


Day out from Berlin

In one hour by train from Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof, you reach the village of Lubbenau in the Spreewald, a unique area of streams and rivers coursing around tiny island settlements. A cruise from Lubbenau in a flat- bottomed open boat poled by an oarsman is a popular outing for Germans from the East. Unless you speak German you won’t understand a word but it’s such a good-natured, jolly procedure you’ll be included in the collective bonhomie anyway. Boat rides come in 2, 3 and 8-hour versions.

The Spreewald is the cultural home of the Sorbs and Wends, a Slavic minority with distinctive language and customs. The picturesque open-air museum at Lehde, made up of three 18th-century farmsteads, displays their traditional costumes, pottery and furnishings. Medicinal plants and herbs are grown in the museum garden. On the 3-hour boat ride there’s time to disembark for a short visit. The museum is open from April through October, daily.

More information on the area:

Getting there:

From Lubbenau train station, it’s a short walk to the harbour from which the boats go out every day in any weather, March to October, from 9 am until dark.

Staying there:

Schloss Lubbenau, a castle in its own parkland near the harbour, is an elegant small hotel, restaurant and spa- with a history.  The castle had belonged to the Counts of Lynar for 300 years when, in 1944, the family were dispossessed by the state. The expropriation followed the failed attempt on Hitler’s life in which Count Wilhelm Friedrich zu Lynar took part and for which he was executed. Some of the property was returned to his children in 1992; the castle was exquisitely restored and opened as a hotel.  . Book online at or email