Chestnut tree conviviality

In the last two weeks in Austria, I noticed that every time I was truly struck by the conviviality of a place, I’d look up and see chestnut leaves.

An old-time vested waiter brings me a tall apfelschorle (apple juice with soda water…standard hot summer drink here for me) as I ponder the finest view in Vienna. Framed under chestnut trees in one direction, the majestic city of Vienna sits solidly on a grand bend in the Danube. And in the other…forested hills which kick off a mighty range of mountains that don’t stop until they tumble into the sea at Marseille in France…the Alps are born.

Days later, I’m in my favorite Austrian alpine village, enjoying a second helping of the sweetest saurkraut you can imagine (you can get loopy for good kraut over here…many do) at the lake-side restaurant in Hallstatt. (It’s forever etched in my mind for the wonderful evening Anne, Andy, Jackie and I enjoyed here a few years ago when we took our annual family Christmas photo–which I still see on the office and breakfast room walls of my favorite little B&Bs around Europe.) Swans, imported in the 19th century to please the Kaiser and his Empress, glide by for a little genteel begging. Rustic tables line up as if to provide a dinner concert of scenery…a peaceful lake interrupting the power of the alps. And all the action is under one massive chestnut tree.

The next day, in Salzburg we parked our bikes at the Augustinian monastery where, once upon a time, the monks (must have been the most popular monks in town) brewed a heavenly beer. Stepping into their beer garden, it seemed half of Salzburg had gathered (all generations, enjoying fish grilled on sticks, radishes artfully sliced into long delicate spirals–with salt they make the beer taste even better–and tall grey porcelain mugs drawn from old time wooden kegs)…under a chestnut tree orchard of conviviality.

There’s a unique Austrian word for that “under the chestnut tree ambiance”…gemutlikeit. A cozy conviviality that can make you dream in lederhosen and dirndls.


8 Replies to “Chestnut tree conviviality”

  1. I am really enjoying your blog. You have a very warm style of writing that I appreciate. The info’s not too shabby either!
    Keep up the good work

  2. My older sister and I saw you in Vienna outside the Imperial Apartments while listening to the traditional musicians in the courtyard. We look foward to seeing the episode on tv!

  3. RIck-You are so right about Hallstatt. Absolutely serene. A wonderful village to take a “vacation from your vacation”-to relax and absorb the beauty that surrounds the village.

  4. Rick. Last year on our second visit to Hallstatt we had two dinners at that lakeside restaurant under that tree. We enjoyed the peacefull time in Hallstatt once the day tourists leave.

  5. Ah, the apple juice and soda, at least the didn’t serve you Grappa, which is a liquor made from apple skins and tastes terrible (at least I think so!)
    I wondered if you were ever interrupted whist having your little picnics outside after shopping the marketplaces?
    I like your blog. You make me smile.

  6. Am curious if you also tasted any “chestnut finished” pork? Seems that is a real delicacy in some parts of Europe. I love the “gemutlikeit” idea.

  7. I love the Augustiner Brauerei. The trees there are amazing; they create a roof of leaves that block everything out. And there is a great Gemuetlichkeit there. I just got back from three weeks of German class in Salzburg. It would have been so cool to have met you, since we were both there at the same time.

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