Retz, Lower Austria:
Dine & Wine in the North
The walled city of Retz can be found in the very North of Lower Austria, not far from the border to the Czech Republic. It is a tranquil place, but full of nice lanes and things to see. Retz has a reputation as an important centre of wine manufacturing, and an annual wine festival on the last weekend of September underlines this - alongside with one of the biggest wine cellars of Europe, the "Retzer Erlebniskeller".
Another festival of Retz that is associated with wine are the "Weintage", which lasts for 10 days after Fronleichnam (Corpus Christi). Between 2004 and 2007, Retz was always the driest town of Austria - a feature that actually increased the quality of the local wines even further.
Sightseeing attractions include an old Dominican Monastery, the city walls, the Hauptplatz main square with lots of 16th century burgher houses, the Retzer Erlebniskeller, the castle of Schloss Gatterburg with a "Bicycle Museum", a Kalvarienberg (Calvary Mount), the town museum and - in the category of phallic sights - an old windmill, the strange tower of the city hall, as well as a Plague Column. Now a few words on how Retz became Retz:
History of Retz in Lower Austria
A settlement at today′s Retz was first mentioned in 1180; later, Duke Rudolf of Habsburg gave nearby Hardegg including the surrounding lands to the Count Berthold of Rabenswalde in the late 13th century. In Retz, Count of Rabenswalde founded the Dominican monastery, its first church was opened in 1295. Retz in the strict sense of the word was founded by the count in 1300.
43 years later, Franz von Retz was born, who later became a monk at the local Dominican monastery, a scholar and an important reformist of the Dominican order. For five times, he was chair of Vienna University and represented the university at the Council of Pisa.
For Retz, the early 15th century was dominated by the Hussite wars: In 1425 and 1431, the city was looted and many people were killed especially in the former raid. 6,000 from Retz and surroundings were taken to Prague as hostages, including the local landlord; 8,000 men were killed, 30 Catholic churches destroyed. In 1486, Retz was conquered by the local warlord Mathias Corvinus, who ruled over Retz until 1492 and granted the city certain privileges in wine production - the origin of Retz′ rise to a wine-capital and the construction of the central wine cellars with several floors.
Renaissance & Recent History of Retz
With the economic rise of Retz, the city got lots of Renaissance burgher houses - especially on the main square (Hauptplatz). In 1568, a former church gained a floor and was made the city hall - which it still is, thus the funny tower (see above). In 1576, the "Sgraffitohaus" was built - since its "rediscovery" and renovation in 1929 another key-attraction of the Hauptplatz, alongside with the Verderberhaus from 1583.
In the 30-Years-War, Retz was occupied by Swedish troops, who caused severe damages. Between 1660 and 1670, a local palace (or rather manor) was built for the Counts of Suttner-Gatterburg. The palace contains a Bicycle Museum today and is open to the public. In 1680, a plague epidemic killed many people in Retz - later commemorated by the previously mentioned plague or Trinity column. In 1696, when a new legislation permitted houses that were higher than the city walls, the Dominican monastery gained a third floor. In the early 18th century, the city′s main parish church was "Baroquinised" and extended. The Calvary Mount was built, too.
In 1772, the first - wooden - windmill was built in Retz. A little bit later, another one was made of stone, which is now used as a residential house. The wooden one was demolished in 1831 and replaced with a proper windmill, the one that tourists can still see today. In 1871, Retz got a link to the Austrian railway network. Attractions nearby Retz include the Castle of Hardegg; the Monastery of Geras; the National Park Thayatal and the town of Drosendorf.