Rust: Wine on the edge of the Hungarian Plain
Most international tourists go to the Burgenland in the quest of nature: Birdwatching is hip in the very north of the province, the National Park around Lake Neusiedlersee. Wine-trips, often in combination with a stay in a spa or a visit to one of the many local castles are popular, too. However, few come for the sake of "classic" sightseeing in cities. This is mostly because the Burgenland with its predominantly rural structure lacks big cities or even small towns. One notable exception is Rust by the Western shore of Lake Neusiedl, only some 13 kilometres east of Burgenland′s "capital" Eisenstadt.
The typical arrangement of a Burgenland town is as such: a single street with terraced houses on both sides, sometimes secured with gates on both ends. If trouble was coming along (usually plundering Turks), one could easily close the gates and the entire city formed something like a fortification. This arrangement is called "Angerdorf" and somewhat fragmented in Rust.
The city has a proper market square that adds more of a heart to the place than villages usually have in this region. The most notable building of Rust is probably the Rathaus or town hall on the cobbled main square. Otherwise, there are two churches, the Catholic Fischerkirche and a Baroque protestant church (I know, Baroque and protestant doesn′t really work, but in Austria things are different).
Storks, wine & history
Rust′s ancient prosperity is derived from its longstanding status as a "Freistadt" (which is also the name of a town in Upper Austria with a similar story) or "free town": As a city, it had an independent legislative and was to obey only the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (who lived most of the time somewhat next-door in Vienna). The price to pay for such a high degree of freedom was heavy taxes to the crown. Only places with a reliable source of income could afford that, and in Rust, this source was the extensive vineyards surrounding the town.
Wine is still big in Rust, making it a good starting point to explore the wine districts of "Neusiedlersee" (north and east of Lake Neusiedlersee) and "Neusiedlersee-Hügelland". They are mostly famous for white dessert wine (Spätlese, Eiswein) and Traminas. Back to Rust itself: The city offers plenty of Buschenschanken to try the local wines as well as reasonably priced local food. However, you should also keep your eyes up for the storks that famously nest and breed on the many chimneys of Rust′s town centre.
Slightly pompously called the "Stork City", the intensive agriculture in the Burgenland and Hungary has steadily decreased the number of storks in the region after WWII. However, there are still several chimneys occupied in Rust every season and there are few places where you can get closer to storks than here.
Just outside of Rust, you can find the
quarry of St. Margarethen. The limestone from this place is used since Roman times. The town of
Carnuntum was built from St. Margarethen′s stone, and so was the
Stephansdom Cathedral in Vienna. Today, the quarry also serves as a sculpture park and as an open-air stage for a variety of
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