Dec 18, 2018
Over breakfast, I speculated about Linz. If I remembered correctly, there was a large town square surrounded by many architecturally different buildings from the middle ages and a main street with a tram running down the middle and lined with modern buildings largely retail fashion and the remains of a Roman wall. I didn’t remember correctly, we’ve never been here before.
Then again, this could be an accurate description of Linz. The reason for the speculation was that we had options. We could take a long town walk or short town walk and visit a cider farm on the outskirts of town. Based on my poor memory, I opted for the second option and Ches the first. I’m kicking myself I didn’t talk Ches into joining me.
Linz is the home of the Linzer Tort. Isn’t every Austrian and German town famous for a pastry or sausage? Apparently the Linzer gets better with age. We’ve bought one to share with Drew and Keith on Drew’s birthday at the end of January.
So, the biggest cathedral in Austria is in the third biggest city with a population on just around 200,000 people. It doesn’t have the tallest steeple and will allow Vienna the claim to that, but they insist, theirs is the biggest. It looks hundreds of years old but was only built in the early 1900’s. A new bishop was disappointed in the small church that didn’t befit his status, so insisted on a cathedral which could house the entire population of 23,000 people at that time. Short of granting naming rights, he sold local businesses and gentry on footing the bill with the local bank being the largest contributor. That entitled them to a stained glass window depicting the bank building. Actually. They have amazing stained glass with many depicting famous identities from Linz such as composers and astronomers. Also many that are more like modern art with colours not seen anywhere else.
Since 2009 when the city was named as the European city of culture, the city has flourished as a tourist destination. They’ve spent the money well and established a new university, the Bruckner University (music and performing arts). One of the “gimmicks” they came up with for 2009 was to offer weekly tenancy of a single person “cell” at the top of the cathedral spire. Call the Tower Hermit: 395 Steps to Solitude. They were fully booked for the year and continued it on to the present and there is a waiting list. For 600E you spend a week in the cell, are brought meals and there is a toilet, however you have to walk down to the ground level and back up once a day for the exercise. You can take a book, but no digital devices. You are expected to keep a diary of your reflection and articulation and pass it on to the next hermit. Oh! And the church bells a rung every 15 minutes, so they provide ear plugs.
The old medieval center of town was derelict up till 2009. It was where all the young people (including our guide) used to hang out. In the run up to 2009, the owners didn’t want to have the ugliest house in the street and renovated in a competition not to be outdone by neighbors. The result is now that it’s the most expensive street in town.
When Martin Luther’s teachings reached Linz and the monks were given the option of marrying, they abandoned the monastery and it became the town hall and the moat around it filled in. As part of the beautification programme in 2009, they discovered that the original bridge across the moat had just been buried, so they excavated it and its now a feature of the entrance to the town hall.
So, lots to see and interesting history, however now it was time to visit the Cider farm. This could prove to be the most inspirational story of our trip. Around 20 years ago, Klauss and his wife were nurses. They decided that they wanted to be farmers, however the cost of farms was so prohibitive that they wouldn’t be able to buy one. It was in the lead up to the referendum on joining the EU, and of the 40% of Austrians that voted “no”, the majority were farmers. Farming in Austria is small scale and they feared they would be at an economic disadvantage to the larger German farms. Many decided to re-model their farms, converting farm buildings into residences and renting or selling them off.
Klauss and his wife went In search of an elderly couple with no children and therefore no one in line to inherit their farm. They found a couple and proposed that they immediately join them on their farm and pay them a weekly pension, and in return that they would inherit the farm when they died.
They immediately decided on a new business model. The opened a restaurant that only operated on Thursday and Friday evenings and all day Saturday. They began producing all their own meat. Beef, pork, lamb, chickens and geese. They also taught themselves how to make pear and apple cider.
Klauss tells that the old farmers had always feared that farming would fail and were delighted that Klauss and his wife had actually turned it into a profitable one. In describing his farm, he talked about all of his stock in terms of Kilos and meal portions. Totally self sufficient, he knows exactly how many breading pairs of geese he needs each year to produce enough geese to fill his annual orders in November. November 11 is the saints day in Austria and goose is the meal to celebrate. The equivalent of turkey on thanksgiving day in the States. Austrians however eat goose right through November. He already has a full order book for next November and knows exactly how many breading pairs he need to produce the required quantity.
It was always about life style as well, so they take a family holiday every 8 weeks and have staff to look after the stock on those occasions. They have three sons, the eldest 21, and expect them to make their own careers. If any of them find a partner who is also committed to the lifestyle and they decide to return to the farm, he insists that they have to develop their own plan for the farm and not necessarily follow his.
We began in the courtyard of the farmhouse. Three of the sides are residential and the fourth is for stables. He has other stock buildings, including a cedar clad house for his pigs. A roost for his flock of Brest chickens (eggs and meat). Brest chickens have a red c*** comb, white body and blue legs. Trust the French, tricolor chickens.
We were served a mulled cider and fruit bread while he told us about the farm. He then went into the barn and brought out a 1 hour old lamb. That’s right 1 hour. You’ve never seen a more bewildered look on any creatures face.
We then went into the restaurant where they served snacks and different ciders. More like apple and pear wines that were more flinty than sweet. Outside the mist lifted and the views across the snowy countryside was stunning. Small farms surrounded by snow with the mist from the Danube River rising behind. I almost wore out my camera. The major disappointment was that Ches had decided that she wouldn’t come and had missed out on a great experience.
It was then back to the boat for lunch and our departure up river for Passau. After all the cider and a beer with lunch, a nap was in order. Late afternoon there was a Waltz class. A trio played waltzes while two dancers instructed around 4 couples in how to do a Strauss Walz. We had a cocktail while watching. I decided on “Satan’s Whiskers” I had to give the bar instructions. Equal parts Gin, Grand Marnier, Sweet Vermouth, Dry Vermouth and orange Juice and a dash of Orange Bitters. The way she always mixes cocktails, I had about half a snifter and was ready for the captain’s Heritage Members Cocktail Party. This is only for those who have cruised with Uniworld previously. At the cocktail party a B&B, Equal parts Cognac and Benedictine. Again, half a snifter, so I sipped steadily and returned half to our stateroom to have as a bedtime tipple.