Friday, November 28, 2014

Hungarian Apache in a Budapest Wurtsel: Dorothy Thompson Talks to Ferenc Molnár about Liliom and Life

In late 1921, Dorothy Thompson, a fledgling reporter for the Philadelphia Public Ledger, visited Ferenc (Franz) Molnár, the famous Hungarian playwright, at his Budapest apartment. She went there with her good friend Josef Bard (whom she married in 1923 and from whom she was divorced in 1927), a Hungarian intellectual who knew Molnár. Because Molnár did not speak English and Thompson did not speak Hungarian, Bard translated the conversation.
Page 1 of Thompson's manuscript

Her story about the interview was published in the Ledger, illustrated by Viennese artist Alfred Gerstenbrand. Although I have not seen the published article, I have read a carbon copy of the typed manuscript, dated December 6, 1921, that she submitted to her newspaper.[1] Its title is “A LITTLE FLAT – A STRONG COGNAC – A GOOD BLACK COFFEE.” The subtitle is “Franz Molnar, Author of the New York Success, “Liliom”, Explains Why He Prefers to Remain in Budapest, and Talks About Life, Art, and His Desires.”

Reading the manuscript, I was both puzzled and intrigued by this early paragraph that described the play that had brought Molnár renown the previous year in New York City:

[Molnár] took a Budapest apache for his hero, and the Budapest Coney-Island for his scene, and from such stuff as these fashioned “Liliom,” a play which charmed and provoked New York last year as no play presented in many seasons has done, and which was the most brilliant success in the New York Theater Guild’s career of successes. “Liliom” is Budapest in the old days before the war; “Liliom” is the wurtsel at the height of its shrieking glory.

This paragraph made me curious not only about the play, Liliom, but also what a “wurtsel” and a “Budapest apache” were.  In addition, after reading Thompson’s description of her talk with Molnár, I wanted to know more about him and his life.

A Wurtsel?

First, what the heck is a “wurtsel”?  As far as I can tell, the word does not exist in formal German or Hungarian or English. I thought that perhaps Thompson meant to use the word “würstel,” which means frankfurter in Italian and sausage in Austria (e.g. bratwurst, currywurst, blutwurst) or the German word “wurzel,” which means root (the pronunciation of “z” and “ts” are similar).  However, she clearly did not mean “sausage” or “root” in the context of the word’s use. 
Re-reading her article, I noted that she began it by describing, lyrically, a walk through a rather desolate amusement park (the setting for much of Liliom) on her way to meet Molnár:

The Budapest amusement park has fallen upon evil days. Scenic railways, roller coasters, and ferris wheels, shrouded in canvass, look like the distorted ghosts of dead Hilarity. The cheerful roar of the wheels and the wheedling cries of the Barkers are almost stilled. Here and there a weary spieler drones out the merits of his attractions to a thin sprinkling of sausage-eating servant girls and loud-laughed factory hands. But the amusement park has followed the decline of the city….

Then she wrote, “...the Budapest wurtsel is silent and the voice of the spieler is no longer heard in the land….” In this context, it became clear that she used “wurtsel” as slang for “amusement park.” I can find no other uses of the word with this meaning through a google search or a search of the assorted English language newspapers in the data base. So either the use of this slang word was rare or was limited to Europe.  Perhaps she made it up.

Budapest Apache

The meaning of “Budapest apache” was easier to discover. Obviously the word “apache” did not refer to a member of the Native American Apache tribe. Instead the word was borrowed from the French who used it to refer to members of criminal street gangs in Paris beginning in the 1890s. Thompson was likely acquainted with the word because she lived in Paris for a few months in 1920 when some remnants of the gangs were still around. 
More about the French apaches can be found in a 2014 book, The Golden Moments in Paris: A Guide to the Paris of the 1920s, by John Baxter.  This engaging book contains a chapter titled “Wild in the Streets, Les Apaches.”  According to Baxter, “For the last decades of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th , gangs of young apaches (pronounced “arpash”) terrorized working-class Paris, particularly the districts of Montmartre and Belleville….Apaches combined in gangs with flamboyant names, each advertising its mastery of a particular of turf: the Tattooed of Ivry or the Beauty Marks of St. Ouen.”

He continued, “Their specialty was street robbery, for which they split into small groups. While two kept watch, one would throttle the victim from behind and another rifled his pockets.”

Describing the apaches, he wrote:

The uniform of the Parisian apaches featured [a] …tight jacket, trousers, and loose cloth cap … [with] a horizontally striped sailor’s jersey and a gold-fringed crimson sash, which could be wrapped around the hand in a knife fight or tied on the face as a mask. Tight shoes of yellow leather completed the outfit—not forgetting the important accessory, a short wooden-handled knife. …

Apache women, known as lamfe’, wore gaudy blouses brightly colored aprons over their dresses, and a black velvet ribbon around their throats. They took great trouble with their hair, but wore no hats. At a time when respectable women never went outdoors bareheaded, this omission flagrantly announced their renegade status.[2]

After these descriptions, Baxter wryly observed, “Apache gangs would have been more dangerous had they not wasted so much time and effort on their wardrobes and on fighting bloody turf wars.”

From Baxter’s chapter, a vivid picture of an “apache” emerges and clearly Thompson is labeling Liliom, the lead male character in Molnár’s play named after him as an Apache, a charming, womanizing, petty criminal. When the play begins Liliom is a barker in a Budapest wurtsel and, in most productions of the play, is dressed in attire resembling a Paris Apache.

Molnár’s Liliom

Liliom followed Molnár’s 1907 play, The Devil, which was a big hit in Budapest and by 1908 it was popular in New York city where four theater companies were simultaneously performing the play, two in English, one in German, and one in Yiddish.[3]  He wrote Liliom in three weeks, sitting in Budapest’s New York Café, where he was a regular. He was dismayed when in 1909 Liliom was a critical and commercial failure in Hungary.   

As explained by the New Yorker:

The playgoers came expecting to laugh. In the same theatre Molnar had diverted them with farces like The Lawyer, his first play and with sex comedies like The Devil, which had been a resounding international success, Liliom permitted them to laugh only occasionally and wryly. Moreover, the hero had the effrontery to die in the fifth scene and saunter up to Heaven. To kill off an actor might be all right in the Burgtheater in Vienna, where acute morality was a staple; in a place like the Gaiety [Theater], it was bad form.[4] 
Movie Poster for Fritz Lang
version of Liliom, 1934
The play is a strange one and was a departure from his previous witty, ironic, and often cynical stories that were so popular. Its plot is summarized in Wikipedia as follows:

The play takes place partly in Budapest, Hungary, and partly in a waiting area just outside Heaven. The story concerns Liliom, a tough, cocky carousel barker who falls in love with Julie, a young woman who works as a maid. When both lose their jobs, Liliom begins mistreating Julie out of bitterness — even slapping her once — although he loves her. When she discovers she is pregnant, he is deliriously happy, but, unbeknownst to Julie, he agrees to participate with his friend Ficsúr, a criminal, in a hold-up to obtain money to provide for the child. Liliom is unwilling to leave Julie and return to his jealous former employer, the carousel owner Mrs. Muskat, and feels that the robbery is his only way left to obtain financial security. The hold-up is a disaster, but Ficsúr escapes, and Liliom kills himself to avoid capture. He is sent to a fiery place, presumably Purgatory. Sixteen years later, he is allowed to return to Earth for one day to do a good deed for his now teenage daughter, Louise, whom he has never met. If he succeeds, he will be allowed to enter Heaven. He fails in the attempt, and is presumably sent to Hell. The ending, though, focuses on Julie, who obviously remembers Liliom fondly.[5]

Liliom, the “Budapest apache,” is a smooth talking, seducing tough guy with little refinement. He is largely an unsavory person, though he has some good characteristics beneath his rough exterior. With his personality and background, it is not too much of a surprise when he decides to take part in a robbery.
Scene from a Budapest Production of Liliom

Despite its failure in 1909, Liliom was, in English translation, a major success on Broadway in 1921. In the following years, it became enormously popular and could frequently be seen in stage productions in the major capitals and small regional theaters of the world. It still can be viewed today. In February 2014, Liliom was produced by the Beautiful Soup Theater in Broadway in New York City (see ) and when I was in Vienna in September, the city’s premier theater, the Burgtheater, was performing the play. In January 2015, the Hamburg Ballet will be staging a ballet version of Liliom that it premiered in 2013 (see .
The stage play was the basis for several movie versions of the story. Probably the most successful was produced by Fritz Lang in 1934 in France, starring Charles Boyer.

Although both Puccini and Gershwin wanted to use the play as the libretto for an operetta, Molnár refused both permission to do so.  Later, however, he allowed Rogers and Hammerstein to adapt his play as the basis for a new musical, Carousel.  This 1945 hit play was later made into a movie. Both the Liliom and Carousel are theater and movie classics.

The Devils, The Guardsman, The Swan, and Liliom were four of Molnár’s most successful plays; his forty or so other plays had different degrees of success. The New Yorker noted in 1946 that 18 of his plays had been performed on Broadway, and it compared him to playwrights George Bernard Shaw, Somerset Maugham, and Eugene O’Neill.[6]  A 1931 study by the New York Public Library showed that he “is the most popular of present-day European dramatists."[7]  To get a taste of Molnár’s wit and style, read his one-act play, A Matter of Husbands, here:

Thompson Talks to Molnár

When Dorothy Thompson (1893-1961] interviewed Molnár (1878 – 1952), she was 28 years old and he was 43. While she was still in the first year of her first full-time job as a journalist, he had been famous in Central Europe for a couple of decades as a reporter, newspaper essayist, war correspondent, author, and playwright. He was a highly visible celebrity in Budapest, famed for heading “Molnár’s Gang,” also known as the “New York Crowd,” a group of a dozen or more prominent composers, painters, and writers, who met nightly at the New York Café where Molnár exercised his coffee house wit. They usually departed for home only when the sun came up.[8]
Dorothy Thompson in 1920
According to Thompson’s article, Molnár lived in a “dilapidated old apartment building" on a rough street in Budapest.  As Thompson and Bard climbed the dark stairs and walked the corridors, they passed “unkempt inhabitants” of the building who had parcels of food under their arms. Also, they sniffed the scent of gulyas. As they neared the top floor, Dorothy grumbled to Josef: “if Molnar must live in this God-forsaken town, why in a tenement?”

(The answer was simple. Molnár had selected this out-of-the-way apartment for the purpose of having a place where he could bring a young actress he was pursuing without attracting attention:

In his overoptimistic youth, Molnár had fallen wildly in love with a well-known actress. Without being unduly encouraged, he confidently set about finding a rendezvous, so that, when the moment came, he would be prepared. He went to Buda (Budapest’s “old town”) and there, on a dark alley, he found that appeared to be the ideal place. It was a noisy, dingy two-room flat, but since it was on the dark alley, one could get in or out of it without being seen. Molnár engaged this flat at once. The rendezvous never materialized, but he lived in the flat for twenty-two years.[9]

Even if Thompson had known this, and perhaps she was told by her Budapest friend, she likely would not have reported it.)
In her article, Thompson introduced Molnár to readers in America as an apparently quaint and eccentric man. Dorothy described Molnár as short and compact, “as if his body had been pushed together.” He had a “fattish smooth face” and “evenly grayed hair and snub nose” that gave the face a “blond and babyish look, in spite of the black eyes under heavy brows.” As was his habit, he wore a monocle and was “impeccably dressed.”  In him was the hint of the dandy.

Having heard that Molnár very rarely left Budapest, Thompson asked him why and whether the city gave him all he wanted from life. His reply was eloquent:

Because I love Budapest... and I ask very little of life. What I like is a small flat ... a little tavern ... a good pen ... a nice stove ... a good black coffee, and a strong cognac... a good light lamp ... and the stillness of the night ... and I like to direct the rehearsals of my plays. The last I like best of all.

The conversation concluded with Molnár telling Thompson that he wanted always to stay in Budapest where he was born “to rehearse my plays in the theater which I have come to feel as my own; constantly to create new roles for the actor and actresses whom I understand and love – roles which will discover for them new powers and clothe them in new brilliancies.”  In the last sentence of her article, Thompson predicted that Molnár would never visit the United States.

Someone reading Thompson’s article likely would find Molnár to be an apparently lovable Central European, perhaps a little stuffy, an intellectual with some strange habits. Such a picture was seriously incomplete. Another Molnár was revealed to American readers in the next few years when he became an infamous celebrity whose personal life was tainted with scandal.

Molnar the Apache

Molnár, the eccentric genius, shared some of Liliom’s characteristics. He was a charming, egocentric, larger-than-life man, a bit of a hustler and faithless, but also apparently loveable. Just as he shared some of Lilion’s characteristics, he had a sin in common with him: No long after he married Margit Veszi, his first wife, in 1907, he hit her while she was pregnant.  

According to different observers, and many of his friends, Liliom was for Molnár “at once his confession, his defence and his justification” for what he did to his first wife.[10]. According to the New Yorker, Molnár’s friends said that Liliom is Molnár.[11]
Margit Vesci

Certainly his courting of three women who became his wives and his three marriages were unusual. All three were distinguished women. He pursued the first, Veszi (1885-1961), for seven years. When her father did not give permission for her to marry Molnár in 1900, she moved to Paris and he soon followed. She was, by all accounts, an extraordinary young woman. Vanity Fair described her as “miraculously gifted …[with] subtle intelligence, erudition unique among women, great charm of manner, and a rare, fragile beauty.”[12] A 1925 newspaper article wrote about her gifts as journalist and poet, noting “She was the center of Budapest intelligentsia.”[13]  

After finally marrying her, they stayed together only a few weeks before he hit her and she sued for divorce. When their daughter was born, they remarried for a while, but again divorced.

His second wife, Sari Fedak (1879-1955), was “the most celebrated operetta diva in Budapest.”[14] They had known each other as children, then had been a couple for almost eight years when they married in October 1922, within a year after his interview with Thompson.
Sari Fedak

The following year, he fell for a young actress, Lili Darvas (1902-1974), who was half his age. The author of a 1925 article published in an Ohio newspaper, wrote “she is a thousand times more beautiful than Sari Fedak; she is one of the most beautiful creatures imaginable.”[15]  In another article, she was called “an angel-faced actress, considered by many the most beautiful woman in Hungary.”[16] She was an actress in one of Molnár’s plays when “after a half hours tempestuous wooing [Molnár] convinced [her] to forget her promise to her sweetheart and marry [him] as soon as he divorced his wife."[17]   

A messy divorce followed as Molnár tried to stop his wife from getting a large divorce settlement; she wanted $30,000, he offered $15,000. After sensational charges in his lawsuit against her (he accused her of having had 42 lovers while they were together), she responded menacingly and loudly. Molnár avoided a nasty trial (more than 300 witness had been scheduled) by agreeing to pay $30,000.

The divorce was a sensation in Hungary and of great interest in the rest of Europe. It also was covered by many newspapers in the United States.
The marriage to Darvas lasted, though most of the time was spent living apart. After leaving Europe in the 1930s, she became a successful stage and scene actress in the United States. Perhaps he was lucky to rid himself of Fedak who became a strong Nazi supporter.  

During the 1920s, Molnár’s notoriety was spread in the United States in articles with headlines worthy of an Apache:  “Playwright’s Plots Outdone by Their Real Romances:…Franz Molnár Wins in Just Thirty Minutes a Substitute for the Love Mate He Was So Happy With – Until They Married,” "Victim of his Own Love Plot,” and “Merry Mr. Molnar’s Newest Rows With the Ladies: Mystery of the Backstage Slaps, the Insulted Beauty, and the Chubby Playwright’s Stormy Romances and Angry Wives.[18]
Portsmouth Daily Times, Oct. 3, 1925

The Rest of the Story

Molnár had his celebrity, but got caught up like everyone else in the sweep of history in the 30s. As a Jew, he had to leave Hungary in 1937 because of the fascist tide there. After spending time in Venice and Zurich, he realized that he needed to leave Europe and moved to New York City, arriving in January 1940, where he was given refuge. His wife, with whom he did not live, had moved to the U.S. before he did.   
Molnar with Ingrid Bergman who was starring in the 1940 Broadway rival of Liliom
New York Times, January 23, 2009, p. C1
Fortunately for Molnár, fame and royalties from Liliom and his many other successful plays made him rich. He could afford to live in the New York City Plaza Hotel the rest of his life, spending his summers in a “modest lodge” in Montauk Point. He ate most of his meals at a small delicatessen at Fifty-eighth Street and Sixth Avenue, and there he met often with members of the Hungarian émigré community, many of whom had been part of his “New York Crowd” in Budapest. A 1946 profile of Molnár noted that he rarely went more than a few blocks from his hotel.[19] 

In 1946, when the three-part New Yorker profile of him was published, Molnár’s first wife was in living in Hollywood where she was “a successful film writer.” His third wife, to whom he was still amiably married but with whom he did not live, was a theater actress who that year was playing the Queen in “Maurice Evan’s production of Hamlet." His second wife, the former Hungarian stage star with great legs, was a prisoner in Hungary for Nazi propaganda broadcasts she made from Vienna.[20]

Dorothy Thompson left Vienna in 1925 to head the Philadelphia Public Ledger’s bureau in Berlin; in 1927 she quit her job to marry famed writer Sinclair Lewis and in the late 1930s she became a famous nationally syndicated columnist read three times a week by millions of Americans. Although Molnár lived in New York City from 1940 to 1952 and Dorothy Thompson spent several months there every year during this time, there is no evidence in her archives that she again met Molnár or communicated with him.


[1] The manuscript is in the Dorothy Thompson Papers. Special Collections Research Center. Syracuse University.

[2] John Baxter. 2014. The Golden Moments in Paris: A Guide to the Paris of the 1920s, Museyon Inc. (pp. 21-22)

[3] S.N. Behrman. 1946. Profiles. Ferenc Molnar. I - Ah, Budapesti. The New Yorker. May 25, p 28

[4] S.N. Behrman. 1946. Profiles. Ferenc Molnar. II -  The Red Wig. The New Yorker. June 1, 1946 p 32

[6] The New Yorker, May 25, 1946, p. 28. See note 3.   

[7] Looking into the reasons for Molnar’s American popularity. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Nov. 22, 1931, p. 57. (accessed on

[8] The New Yorker, May 25, 1946, p. 30-31. See note 3. Also seen The New Yorker, June 8, 1946, p. 34..

[9] S.N. Behrman. 1946. Profiles. Ferenc Molnar. III - Scene: A Room at the Plaza. The New Yorker, June 8, p. 36 

[10] Joseph Szebenyei. 1923. Franz Molnar: A Personal Study. Vanity Fair. January, Vol. 19, p.38

[11] The New Yorker, June 1, 1946, p. 32. See note 4.  

[12] Vanity Fair, 1923. See note 10.

[13] Victim of his own Love Plot. Zanesville Times Signal Sun, Nov 8, 1925. (Accessed on

[14] Zanesville Times Signal Sun. See note 13.  According to Vanity Fair (see note 10), she was “The most celebrated and popular operetta singer of the land”. A 1930 newspaper article described her as still Hungary’s “most popular music star” though “like the French Mistinguitt, she is over fifty.” See Merry Mr. Molnar’s Newest Rows with the Ladies. Hamilton Evening Journal, November 29, 1930.

[15] Zanesville Times Signal Sun. See note 13.

[16] Mix-up of the Married Molnars and Lovely “Angel Face”. Zanesville Times Signal Sun, August 23, 1925, p. 28. (Accessed on

[17] Playwrights Plots Outdone by their Real Romances. The Ogden Standard-Examiner, September 28, 1924. (Accessed on

[18] The Ogden Standard-Examiner (see Note 17), Zanesville Times Signal Sun (see note 13) and Hamilton [Ohio] Evening Journal (see note 14).

[19] The New Yorker, June 8, 1946, p. 32. See note 9.

[20] The New Yorker, June 8, 1946, p. 46. See note 9.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Golwhoppin Ozark Shivaree

Not long ago I was reading a book by one of my favorite Southern authors, Tennessee Ernie Ford (1919 - 1991), the famous coal miner, when I ran across a passage that brought back memories from my childhood. The passage in This is my Story, This is my Song (1963) was about shivarees that took place in his neck of the Tennessee woods. A shivaree (also spelled charivari and chivaree) was an old-time rural custom –- nearly faded to oblivion by the early 1950s –- of throwing a noisy surprise party for newlyweds, either on their wedding night or soon after they returned from their honeymoon..  

He wrote:
Shivarees meant different things to different people. To the kids it meant running around the house beating on pots and buckets and dishpans, having a wonderful time making the biggest and worst racket possible. To the women it meant preparing and toting a mountain of food and doing a lot of gabbing and staying busy in the kitchen. To the young man getting married, well, the shivaree was something to be real glad when it was over.
[In Tennessee they made the bridegroom ride around on a rail.] “When I was just a kid I thought it was fun, watching the poor guy bouncing around on that rail, with all his pals whooping it up. But when I got a little older I began to feel for the victim.

The Ozark Shivaree

Reading this, I was reminded of the shivaree in which I took part in 1952 or 53, when I was 5 or 6 years old. That event is one of the memories I can dredge up from a young age, and I am sure it stuck in my memory because –- as Professor Ford described –- I got to creep around in the dark and make an awesome noise to scare some adults. Now, more than 60 years later, it is a bit painful to think that I am probably among the few people still breathing who took part in a genuine shivaree.

The shivaree was for my mother’s youngest sister, my aunt Charlene, who had a few days earlier married Harold. They were living in a country farm house with no nearby neighbors. I recall the old place, located in the community of Harmon, west of Springdale, east of Siloam Springs, in the northwest corner of Arkansas. It had a pond, and, I think, tomato fields nearby. Also, as I remember it, the house had a dusty front yard with little grass.

The shivaree began when many of the couple’s friends and relatives assembled quietly after dark on a dirt road near the house where they were staying. The conspirators were equipped, as Tennessee Ernie described, with pots and pans, cow bells, and other metal things that made a noise when hit with a large spoon or a hand. In the dark we crept quietly to the windows of the house, noting the dim lights inside, and, on some signal, everyone started yelling, ringing the bells, and pounding on the pots and pans and other metal objects, making a loud and inharmonious noise. It was quite a din and I’m sure I -- with a big smile on my face -- did more than my part to make it as loud as possible. 

If the newlyweds had been sitting innocently in the house, no doubt the noise would have scared the bejebbers out of them. However they had been warned or somehow figured out what was coming and had climbed out a window as the conspirators were approaching the house. According to my aunt Charlene, the escape did not work out too well because she and her new husband, running the dark, fell into a ditch as they tried to get away.

I do not remember much about what happened after the noise ended. I am sure no one rode a rail, but do not know what harassment, if any, the couple received. Likely it was not much more than good-natured kidding.

After the excitement died down, the women in the group probably went back to the cars and trucks to get food they had prepared; no doubt a small feast followed. It is also possible that the friends and relatives of the newlyweds brought gifts to the couple. My cousin Barbara, whose mother, Helen, was a sister of my mother and Charlene, recalls that her mother told her that the event was a pounding, which was a different custom than a shivaree; at a pounding, friends and relatives brought gifts to newlyweds to help them make a start. The pounding custom was borrowed from the Quakers. Its name came from the tradition of giving gifts to the newlywed such as a pound of butter, rice, corn, coffee, sugar, flour, etc. to stock their kitchen. [1] 

Perhaps the night was served as both a shivaree and a pounding –- both noises and gifts.

“It requires backbone to get married out this way”

A Groom Riding a Rail from Ford,
This is My Story, This is my Song
Although the Ozark shivaree was tame, many were not. Tennessee Ernie made clear his uneasy feelings about Tennessee shivarees before World War II. Apparently they could result in “rough treatment” (a euphemism for torture) of the groom, especially if he had been an over-exuberant participant in shivarees that came before his. 

He wrote, “[The celebrants] would eventually simmer down and just start teasing the boy with talk. Man, they’d give him a rough time. But somehow he’d survive. Somehow they always did.”  He said he was glad that he gotten married in California, “so I didn’t have to spend the night before my wedding getting ridden around on a rail.”

Checking out old newspaper and magazine stories about shivarees, it is evident that the custom varied at different times and from location to location. In some times and places, it was a punitive, even vicious, custom; in others, it was a friendly get together. In the early days, it was usual that only men participated in shivarees; later, celebrants of both genders usually took part. In some places, the shivaree took place on the wedding eve or night; in others they were held a day or more after the wedding. In some places, the newlyweds were supposed to provide refreshments for or bribes to the shivaree party; in others the participants tried to surprise them, bringing their own food. 

On the nice end of the spectrum, here is an account of a pre-World War II shivaree held in a rural Missouri community:
A few days after the couple got settled, the community held a shivaree. The shivaree was a post-wedding noisy party for the community where the newlyweds were pressed into service as hosts. In short, the shivaree was a mock serenade and a roast of the newlyweds. People brought all sorts of noisemakers and pots and pans to bang on, and they sang songs and enjoyed refreshments, compliments of the newlyweds. Adding to the atmosphere of friendly ribbing and polite mockery, nobody bothered to dress up…. Newlyweds looked forward to the noisy event as well, and they would have been insulted at not being forced to host the shivaree. [2]
At the torture end of the spectrum, here is what a couple suffered through in a farm house south of Perryton, Texas in 1951, as remembered by the groom:
Just after dark the abuse began with the largest crowd ever gathered at a shivaree in our community. This was probably because I had been a very active participant in many previous community shivarees. One cousin drove 200 miles to exact his revenge after waiting years for the opportunity. 
I hoped for the best, but as my glasses and billfold were removed, I knew it was going to be bad. The small house filled to capacity as the shenanigans began. All labels were removed from kitchen foods, cans and supplies. Toilet paper was dunked, food canisters switched, rice and crackers dumped into the short-sheeted bed. Bed slats were fixed to fall out and cans of rocks were tied to the bedsprings. Shoelaces and socks were tied into hard knots and all underwear placed in a pillowcase and tossed up on the rooftop.
During the evening I washed my wife’s feet, reenacted my proposal of marriage and pushed her up and down the driveway in a wheelbarrow with everyone singing “There’ll be a hot time in the old house tonight.” As I passed my car, I could hear air hissing as the valve cores had been removed and tossed into the weeds. My work pickup had been mired axle-deep in a nearby mud hole.

The women gathered our keys, money and extra light fuses, then dropped them into a gallon jar of honey we had received as a wedding present. When my city-raised bride began to cry, they let up on her but increased their efforts on me without mercy....
Finally, only one car was left as the cousin from afar unscrewed the light fuses from our fuse box and tossed them as far as he could into the darkness. I consoled my poor bride, lying in cracker crumbs in our bed, and apologized to her for having to share in my punishment. My shivaree was now over and, I might add, I have not been to another since. [3]
Apparently during frontier times, shivarees had often been, like this Texas shivaree, pretty rough. Here is a description of shivarees in frontier Kansas.
[W]eddings were made most memorable by the "charivari," or "shivaree," that neighbors exacted on the newlyweds on their wedding night. The closest modern equivalent of the shivaree would be a combination of trick-or-treating, fraternity hazing, and Christmas caroling. 
Shivaree participants would gather at a neighbors' home to "warm-up" and sometimes have a few drinks. As darkness descended, the shivaree party would converge on the home of the newly wed couple, hoping to catch them shortly after they got into bed. Shortly after arrival, the shivaree party would begin banging pots and pans, singing, and yelling to get the attention of the couple. If the couple refused to come out, the shivaree leader would bang on the door, demanding admittance, so that the party could come inside and to celebrate the wedding and toast the bride and groom's good health.
If the groom appeared at the door and gave the party some money or another treat, the party might be convinced to go and celebrate elsewhere. If the party's noisemaking was ignored, it was not uncommon for them to break into the house, abduct the groom, and carry him miles away on horseback, leaving him -- in varying stages of undress -- to find his way home in the dark. One Kansas newspaper provides the following description of a shivaree party: "They performed such tricks as shooting bullets through the windows, breaking down the door, dragging the couple out of bed and tumbling them about on the floor, and indulging in other equally innocent tricks." The editor added, "It requires backbone to get married out this way." [4]  

"An Idiotic Survival of Semicivilized Times" or "Just Plain Fun"?

According to several newspaper accounts of shivarees before WWII, celebrants not only made noise by banging pots and using noise makers, but also by firing their guns and rifles. The combination of unholy noise, weapons, booze, and reluctant newlyweds sometimes yielded regrettable results. For example, during an Ohio “Shivaree” in 1882, a team of horses belonging to T. Wichershim in Hicksville, Ohio, that been hitched in front of the Blacksmith shop, “became frightened and broke loose, wrecked a nice new carriage and went towards home at break neck speed.” [5] 

And even worse happened. For example, in 1883, two members of a shivaree party in Kansas got into a fight and one man killed another. [6]  In 1896, the father of a bride in Utica, Ohio, got mad when the shivaree party would not leave after he told them to: he shot into the group and killed James Arrington. [7]  In 1924, a man was convicted for negligent homicide when he killed Alta Richardson at a shivaree party. He admitted firing shots from a pistol, but not in Richardson’s direction.[8]   A North Carolina newspaper reported this tragedy that occurred in New Jersy in 1911:
A party of farm folks gathered early this morning under the windows of J. Walter Force, a young bridegroom in Livingston, to give the bridal couple “Shivaree” were welcomed with loads of buck-shot. Walter Livingith, a serenader, fell mortally wounded. Hugh Porter is seriously hurt.  [9]
It seems that the wounding and killing people with guns at shivarees was common enough that a notice was published in a 1906 newspaper that the organizer of a shivaree was not shot:
Friends of Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas Longworth who …were married last week gave them a “shivaree” at 2.a.m. We regret to report that Mr. Leiter, who organized it, was not shot in the leg.” [10] 
Many people came to view shivarees as disreputable. Thus a Shawnee (KS) county debating society concluded in 1893 that “no person of culture will attend a shivaree.” [11]  That year, the Osage City (KS) Free Press called the shivaree “a disgraceful performance.” The article described the custom in stark terms:
It consists in gathering a crowd of country free loaders and toughs before a house occupied by a new married couple and making night hideous with tin pans, cow bells, “horse fiddles,” shotguns and other noise-producing instruction. The object is to compel the bridegroom to donate money wherewith the loaders and toughs may buy whisky…. It is to be hoped that the hoodlums who get up “shivarees” may continue killing one another until the tribe is extinct.” [12]
The Gazette Globe (Kansas City, KS) in 1911 described shivaree as “a crude social condition”.[13]  The Corvallis (OR) Gazette-Times in 1929 said shivarees are the “most asinine of our American traits, the indulgence of in which ought to be sufficient evidence that the culprits are fit for the insane asylum instead of the penitentiary. Shivarees come under the head of disorderly conduct and unnecessary nuisances.” [14]

With such negative sentiment directed at shivarees, it is not surprising that over the years,the demise of the custom was often predicted. For example, in 1899 an article in the Arkansas City (KS) Daily Traveler had these headlines:

The Barbarous Charivari a Thing of the Past
Order-Loving Communities Are Doing Away with This Idiotic Survival of Semicivilized Times
This article told the story of a shivaree in Watonga, OK. As the shivaree participants were making the usual loud noises, the newlyweds came to the porch and asked everyone to leave. One of the party fired a shotgun at them, killing the bride and badly wounding the groom. The paper wrote, “This outrage should go far to put an end forever to a custom that long ago should have become obsolete.” [15]

The fact that the shivaree survived all of the mishaps and condemnation is likely attributable, in part, to the fact that in many places it was viewed as honoring the bride and groom. In its good-natured form, it welcomed the couple into the community, and they took pride in being honored. As noted above in the description of the benevolent Missouri shavaree, newlyweds in that community looked forward to the event.

In some cases, families were proud of the magnitude of the event. Take, for example, this 1893 newspaper story, probably apocryphal, in the Denver Tribune.  It tells how one day an angry man stomped into a newspaper office and demanded to speak to the editor.  He told him:
You said the wedin passed off quietly. Who told you it passed off quietly?...I’m the gal’s father! I’m Peter Crumpet! The weddin passed off, sir, with the golwhoppinest shivaree ever got up in our neighborhood, and if you don’t put it that way next week an do the gal justice I’ll come back and break every darned bone in yer body!” [16]
Marilyn Wright described the good aspects on shivarees in an article in the Encyclopedia of North Carolina:
The merits of a shivaree were numerous. Everyone in the community participated -- young and old, male and female. The newlyweds certainly met their neighbors in a friendly if raucous manner and were, in turn, properly initiated into the community. Another important feature of the custom was the collective good cheer and feeling of community everyone shared. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, shivarees were an old-fashioned diversion that was just plain fun. [17]  

The End of Shivarees

In writing about shivarees, Prof. Tennesee Ernie concluded with this observation:
Actually this whole shivaree business was just another way that poor country folks managed to have themselves a good time. Entertainment wasn’t an easy thing to come by in those days. There wasn’t any television to stay home and watch. So whenever there was an excuse for some doings everyone jumped right in.
His observation helps explain the demise of the custom after World War II. By the early 1950s, few shivarees were held and by the middle of the 1950s they were rare. Not only were they done in by their early excesses and shaky reputation, but also by demographics and technology. The frontier had largely disappeared, and more people moved to cities where shivarees do not work well:  the noise not only scares the newlyweds, but also is likely to provoke startled neighbors to call the police. Also, so many couples were getting married after the war that it would have been quite time consuming to have shivarees for all of them.

Then, of course, the development of television and other types of home entertainment decreased the need for the remaining “poor country folks” to entertain themselves. Other marriage traditions, such as showers and bachelor parties, thrived, but increasingly fewer people thought that it was a good idea to go ring cow bells and bang on pans in the dark in front of the houses of newlywed couples.

I am glad that Shivarees had not died completely that year when I had a chance to take part in the old frontier custom. It might not have been the galwhoppinest shivaree ever held, but there is no doubt in my mind that one galwhoppin shivaree took place that night in Harmon many years ago.


[5] Hicksville (Ohio) News, Feb. 2, 1882, p. 4

[6] The Osage City (KS) Free Press, Nov. 2, 1893, p. 2

[7] The Times (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), June 26, 1896 p. 1

[8] Vernon (TX) Record, Jan. 15, 1924.

[9] The Causasian (Clinton, N.C.), June 22, 1911, p1)

[10]  The Minneapolis Journal, Feb. 19, 1906 p. 4

[11] Ottawa (KS) Daily Republic, December 2, 1893

[12] The Osage City (KS) Free Press, Nov. 2, 1893, p. 2

[13] The Gazette Globe (Kansas City KS), Jan 11, 1917, p. 4

[14]  Corvallis Gazette-Times quoted in The Oregon Statesman, Aug 1, 1929, p. 4

[15] Arkansas City [KS] Daily Traveler, August 1, 1899, p. 7

[16] From Denver Tribune, posted in The Newark (Ohio) Advocate, Nov. 12, 1893, p. 5


Note: all newspaper articles were accessed through

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Visiting Vienna: The Nussdorf Option

This year I discovered that among the best apartments I could rent for two weeks in Vienna during September was one in Nussdorf, an area in the 19th district on the outer edge of the city. Its borders include the Danube River and vineyards rising up the hills of Nussberg and Leopoldsberg. I was hesitant to rent this apartment because I have never stayed so far away from the city center. However, I like Nussdorf, which I have visited many times during the last couple of decades to access walking trails and try the local heuriger (establishments serving “new wine”). I decided to give it a try.

Hearty Welcome to Nussdorf
The idea of living in Nussdorf for a couple of weeks in September appealed to me mainly because it would be harvest time in the vineyards, the weather would be great for walks, and many outdoor heuriger would be open. On the down side, I knew that it takes 25 to 30 minutes to get into the center of the city by public transportation, and the travel time would deter me from going there. I decided this time I would trade the cultural attractions of the city for the pleasures of village life, fresh air and local wine establishments. 

I was not disappointed with my decision. The last half of September was a great time to be in Nussdorf.

In and Around Nussdorf

For most of Vienna’s existence, Nussdorf – like the neighboring villages of Heilingenstadt and Grinzing – was a long carriage ride on dodgy roads from the center of Vienna. The existence of “Nut village”(the English translation of its name) dates back many centuries, and until buses and trams connected it with the Vienna downtown, the village was an isolated spot to which Viennese made day trips or in which they rented rooms to escape from the big city and to enjoy walks in the Vienna Woods. Also, many imbibed at the local wine taverns. 

"Nussdorf City Hall, 16th Century" at Kahlenberger Strasse 8
The appearance of the old village can be glimpsed in the buildings along Kahlenberger Strasse, a street that starts in the center of the Nussdorf and goes (partly by road, the rest of the distance by walking trail) up to the top Kahlenberg, one of two famous mountain peaks to the north of Nussdorf. Many of the old buildings along the first blocks of Kahlenberger Strasse have their age noted on their facades. For example, as shown in the picture above, one building was the Nussdorf city hall in the 16th century. 

Sign Marking a House where Beethoven Lived in Summer 1817
Perhaps inevitably, because Beethoven moved frequently and loved solitary walks, one house on Kahlenberger Strasse has a sign commemorating his stay there in the summer of 1817. His extended visits in the village and nearby Heiligenstadt likely inspired giving the name Eroicagasse to a street that connects the two villages.

My Nussdorf apartment was on Zahnradbahn Strasse, a half block from the D Strassenbahn end station. The track at the end station circles a building that looks like a train station, which it once was. It was the terminal for the cog wheel train (Zahnradbahn) – hence the name of the street --  that from 1874 to 1919 took people to the top of Kahlenberg via Grinzing and Krapfenberg. No doubt this train was crammed on sunny days in spring and fall as people traveled up the mountain to look out over the city and to walk down to Grinzing, Heiligengstadt, or Nussdorf through the Vienna Woods and the vineyards. 

Cog Wheel Train with Kahlenberg in the Background
The old open train car used for the trips up the mountain is now exhibited on the top of Kahlenberg, which can be easily reached by Bus 38a, that runs from the Heiligenstadt U-Bahn (subway) station through Nussdorf, Heilgenstadt, and Grinzing before ascending the steep roads up to the top of the mountain. At the top of the mountain is an old church with a memorial commemorating the 1683 battle in which the Polish King Sobiesky marched over Kahlenberg to turn the precarious fight against the invading Turkish army into a victory. See  

Guest House at the Cog Wheel Train, Nussdorf
The former Zahnradbahn train station in Nussdorf now houses a restaurant. Sitting close to it is an open carriage modeled after the one that was hauled up Kahlenberg by the old cog wheel train. That carriage is now pulled by a tractor dressed up like a locomotive to take visitors on a tour of the various heuriger in the area. It is called the Heurigen Express, and it operated on weekends while I was there (see

The street car trip to and from downtown Vienna begins and ends at the Nussdorf station. Going into the city, the D heads in the direction of the Hauptbahnhof, the other end station. It goes down Heiligenstädter Strasse (passing the massive Karl Marx Hof) to the Gürtel, then weaves its way toward the ring going by a huge university complex and the Franz Josef Bahnhof. Its first stop on the Ring is Schottentor, located by the University of Vienna. It goes around the Ring with stops in front of the gothic Rathaus (city hall) and the Burgtheater; near the Parliament building; across the street from the entrance to the Heldenplatz; and in front of the Opera. It then turns off the Ring and heads up Prinz Eugen Strasse, with a stop by the Belvedere Palace. The trip on the “D” used to terminate at the South Train Station, which has been demolished. Now, its last stop is the new Hauptbahnhof (Main Train Station) that is being developed as the city’s central transportation hub.

D Street Car Headed Out of Nussdorf
The pokey, but comfortable, street cars are not the only way to travel from Nussdorf to other spots in and around Vienna.  For example, if traveling to the West Train Station, you can take the D to the Spittalau stop, which has a subway connection (U-6) that take you to the West Train Station via other places along the Gürtel, including the Volksoper.  If you want to go to Schwedenplatz (which has a terminal for an airport bus) or to the Landestrasse/Wien Mitte station to catch a train to the city’s airport, you can take the D to the Heilgenstadt stop (in front of the center of Marx Hof) and there change to a U-4 subway. This subway also goes also to Karlsplatz and Schönbrunn.

In short, it is easy to get from Nussdorf to most places in Vienna by public transportation, but the travel times are not short. Fortunately, there is enough to do in Nussdorf and vicinity that frequent trips to the center of the city are not needed.

What to do in Nussdorf

Nussdorf is a great location for walks and wine. One of the first things to do in the village is walk around it to get a better feel for its layout and attractions. Start at the beginning of Kahlenberger Strasse (near the intersection of Greinergasse and Zahlradbahn Strasse, just up from Nussdorfer Platz). Walk several blocks on this narrow street to enjoy both the old and new architecture that you see along the way. When you reach the flat, yellow Restaurant Schiefer, turn right off of Kahlenberger Strasse onto Eroicagasse, heading toward the hills to to enjoy more of the village style buildings plus some very expensive suburban houses. At the end of Eroicagasse, you will reach the entrance to the Nussdorfer cemetery and paths up to the vineyards. Turn right onto Nussberggasse and walk to the end of the street, turning right on Hackhofergasse, a part of the the village with newer and less interesting buildings. Go down Hackhofergasse and you will reach Nussdorfer Platz. Turn right and walk a couple of blocks, and you are back to where you started the hike.

Near the beginning of Kalhenberger Strasse, Nussdorf

More of Kahlenberger Strasse
After you have scouted around the village, go drink some new wine at Kierlinger or Schübel-Auer Heuriger. They are located side by side, with entrances on Zahnradbahngasse, across from the D end station and on Kahlenberger Strasse (numbers 20 and 22). Check out their websites here: and

After that introduction to the city, here are some other things you should do.

Walk along the Danube, visiting Kahlenbergerdorf and climbing on the trail to Leopoldsberg

Nussdorf is located by the spot where the Danube canal splits off from the main river. Although you cannot see the Danube from most places in Nussdorf (it is hidden by the train station and an elevated highway), you can get quickly to the banks of the river. Head to the train station, which is located across the street from Nussdorfer Platz along the busy Heiligenstädter Strasse, and go through the tunnel underneath the station: there is the river and wide paths for walking and bicycling. 

Sitting by the Beginning of the Danube Canal
As you exit the tunnel, you see the start of the Danube canal and shortly downstream is a bridge (guarded by lions) with a river flow regulation system underneath it. The walk toward the city is comparatively under-developed, so the best choice is to walk upstream along the river, away from the city.  Fortunately, the pedestrian trail is separated from a paved path for bicycles.

The beginning part of the trail lies under an elevated highway built to get people heading north quickly out of the city.  After that, the walking path is lined with trees and shrubs, with great views of dachas built on the side of the mountains and the famous river. 

Passenger Ship for the Danube, Moored near Nussdorf
About a quarter of a mile up the trail from Nussdorf are moorings for passenger ships that sail the Danube. This form of tourism – traveling the Danube by ship – has apparently become quite popular, and every time I walked this path two to four boats were docked there. 
About 20 minutes up this walking trail from Nussdorf is another village, this one surrounded by woods, hills, and vineyards. Its name is Kahlenbergerdorf, and it is an old village worth exploring. I know something about Kahlenbergerdorf because I was there many times in 1971-72, one of my academic years in Vienna, to walk with my housemate Joerg Wollman up a steep and winding path to the top of Leopoldsberg. The path (Waldbachsteig) is still there and as popular as ever. However, I am not sure I could still make it to the top. If you are up to it, you will enjoy the climb and the views at the top.

Church in Kahlenbergerdorf
Another View of the Kahlenbergerdorf Church

At the Entrance of Waldbachsteig, a Path to the Top of Leopoldsberg

Kahlenbergerdorf lies on the other side of Heiligenstädter Strasse from the walking trail along the Danube, and it is accessed by a tunnel under the highway. Once you take a look at the village, it is possible to walk back to Nussdorf without returning to the Danube trail. Another trail along the side of the Nussberg mountain links the two villages. Most of the trail is for pedestrians, but a portion of it goes to a sidewalk along the heavily traveled road. Then it ascends again to walking path that ultimately takes you back to the center of Nussdorf.

Concerned Dog along Trail from Kahlenbergerdorf to Nussdorf

Walk to Heiligenstadt, Grinzing, and the Vineyards above Them

The Beginning of Armburstergrasse, which Links Nussdorf
with Heiligenstadt
Part of a walking agenda should include visits to Heligenstadt and Grinzing. Heilgenstadt can be reached via Grinzing Strasse or by walking up Kalhlenberger Strasse to Eroicagasse or Armbrustergasse, then walking down one of those streets (in the direction of downtown Vienna) to Probusgasse. At the intersection of Eroicagasse and Probusgasse is the Pfarrplatz, which has an old church and a house where Beethoven lived.  Beethoven first came to Heiligenstadt in 1802 to escape the city and seek treatment for his growing deafness. He returned many times to the village during the remainder of his life.

This small square has an old heuriger, Mayer on Pfarrplatz, that claims roots going back to the 17th century. It is a bit of history that merits a visit  Two other heuriger are open for business along Probusgasse between Eroicagasse and Armburstergasse (discussed later). This area also some attractive restaurants to explore in this area. 

Directions to Beethovengang at the "D" end station
To get to Grinzing, walk along Beethovengang, which begins at the D end station in Nussdorf. Keep going straight when it crosses Kahlenberger Strasse and soon you will be on Wildgrubgasse. Keep going along this paved trail and you pass a large cemetery. Just past the entrance to this cemetery, you will see to the left a small path crossing a stream and heading up a hill. This path is the Grinzinger Steig (steps) and if you follow it, you will reach the center of Grinzing, another ancient village with character that is worth some your time. Grinzing is famous for its many heuriger. Its main drawback is that its fame attracts too many tourists and way too many tour buses. (From Gringing, it is easy to return to Nussdorf by taking the 38a bus toward the Heiligstadt station and exiting at the Heiligenstaeder Strasse stop.)

Walking up Weingrubergasse, if you decide that you do not want to go to Grinzing, the trail heads up the mountain toward Kahlenberg. Going up, there are many smaller trails to take among the vineyards and woods. All offer pleasant hikes with memorable views of the city and the river. 

Austrian Vineyard Laborer with a View of the Church
on Leopoldsberg in the Background
Another, and faster, way to get to trails in the vineyards above Nussdorf is to walk up Eroicasgasse in Nussdorf. At the end of that street, turn left on Dennweg and you will see many trails, both paved and unpaved among the vineyards. Alternatively, and more strenuously, you can walk up Kahlenberger Strasse all the way to Eichelhofweg which cuts across the vineyards and offers glorious views. 

Another good, and easier, way to walk in the Vienna woods and among the vineyards is to take the 38a bus (catch it at the corner of Heiligenstaedter Strasse and Grinzinger Strasse) to the top of either Kahlenberg or Leopoldsberg, then walk down a trail from there. If you are like me, you will get lost, but ultimately will find yourself in one of the three villages at the bottom of the mountains.

View of the Church atop Kahlenberg

Visiting the Heuriger, The Taverns Selling “New Wine”

The heuriger are establishments (wine taverns, wineries, guest houses) that sell new wine (heurige = new wine) made from grapes grown in their own vineyards, which are often located a short walk up the mountain from where you drink the wine. New wine –wine made from recently harvested grapes -- is tart, sometimes sour. I like the white heurige; you may not. If you don’t, you can choose many of other types of wine that the vintner has bottled. You may like the gruener veltliner, a dry white wine that is an Austrian specialty. If you prefer red wine, an excellent local red wine is zweigelt, also an Austrian specialty. (Bottles of these wines can be amazingly inexpensive when purchased in Austria.) 

Typically, if you want to order a heurige, you ask for a viertel (1/4 of a liter), and it is served in a mug-glass with a handle. If you want a regular wine, the basic serving is an achtel (1/8 of a liter), and it is served in a wine glass. The price of a viertal heurige is between 2.5 to 3 euros.

Heurige is served in restaurant- and tavern-type settings, most featuring wooden tables and rustic artifacts; these are scattered throughout Nussdorf, Heiligenstadt, and Grinzing villages. During warmer months, heurige is available in more primitive settings, mainly outdoor areas up the mountains amid the vineyards. The locations of many, but not all, heuriger in the vicinity of Nussdorf and Heilgenstadt are shown on a map posted at the beginning of Kahlenberger Strasse.   

Map of Heuriger, Posted at the beginning of Kahlenberger Strasse
The heuriger has a long history. In 1784, Emperor Joseph II issued an edict allowing people making wine to sell their own wine without needing a restaurant license, which could be expensive or hard to get. However, their right to sell their own wine came with restrictions: the places where they sold their wine could be open only a limited number of days and they were not allowed to serve hot food at their establishments. 

After this edict, numerous small, sometimes crude, wine-taverns opened in the villages on the edge of the city and others opened in vineyards by trails up to Kahlenberg and Leopoldsberg. As late as the 1960s and early 1970s, many small wine-taverns were selling selling their own wine and serving cold ham, cheese, and salads. I recall in 1971 hiking out with some friends to a heuriger with no electricity in the middle of some vineyards near Kahlenberg.

A few of the old-style heuriger still exist, but most now resemble restaurants, serving hot food with their wine. Many are open year round. Nevertheless, whether they are open all the time or only seasonally, most heuriger still hang small boughs of fir or pine trees by their front doors to let people know when they are open and serving new wine. When the small pine or fir branches are hanging, the heuriger is said to be “ausg’steckt.” It is open for business.  

During this trip, I, along with my friend Natalia, sampled several of the heurigen; we had visited some of these, and others, on previous visits. Here are some observations about them.

We found the best tasting heurige was served at Feuerwehr Wagner located on Grinzinger Strasse (#1 on the map).  (Feuerwehr means fire brigade; in 1900, the owner of the winery was chief of the Heiligenstadt volunteer fire department.) According to the winery's website, the Wagner family has operated a winery for 350 years. 

Feuerwehr Wagner's Vineyard above Nussdorf
In addition to excellent wine, Feuerwehr Wagner also has excellent food (like most heuriger, you do not order it restaurant style, but go to a counter, order it, and carry it yourself back to the table). The service was not so good this visit, but it was fine when we were there previously. Check out the Feuerwehr Wagner's website here:

Buschenschank Ing. Andreas Wagner on Wildgrubergasse;
Note that the Fir Bough in Front shows it is "Ausg'steckt
Another heuriger that we greatly enjoyed this visit, and previously, is Buschenschank Ing. Andreas Wagner at Wildgrubergasse 48. It offers outdoor seating surrounded by vineyards, and is a relaxing place to sample heurige on warm, sunny days. 

We walked all the way from Nussdorf to sit outside at tables on a sloping hill, many are shaded by trees. While we loved the setting, we found the heurige a bit sour, though still refreshing. We bought a bottle of Andreas Wagner’s gruener veltliner to take with us, and liked it very much. See

Just up from my apartment on Zahnradbahn Strasse, across from the D end station, are the entrances to two large Nussdorfer heuriger. (As noted earlier, both also have entrances on Kahlenberger Strasse.) Both Kierlinger and Schübel-Auer Heuriger have peaceful gardens for drinking heurige outdoors during warms days, plus classic wooden tables inside. Both have the feel of the old time heuriger, plus very good heurige. Both are recommended. See their websites here: and

Enjoying Wine Outdoors  at Ing. Andreas Wagner Heuriger

Nussdorf  Heuriger #1

Nussdorf Heuriger #2

We walked to Probusgasse in Heligenstadt and had heurige and a hot meal at Muth Weingut. This tavern/restaurant, located at Probusgasse 10, serves decent heurige, but it came in a stemmed glass rather than a mug. The place seemed to operate more like a restaurant than did the other heuriger we visited. Its food was tasty. See

Next door to Heuriger Muth was Heuriger Ing. Werner Welser (Probusgasse 12). We did not have time to try this heurige during our visit (so much wine, so little time), but we will go there next time. See its website at

Entrance to Zum Martin Sepp in Grinzing
Unfortunately, two heuriger that we would have liked to sample were not open when we walked up to see them. They are located halfway up a mountain (a long walk uphill, not served by public transportation!) where Kahlenberger Strasse intersects with Eichelweg. The two open air establishments are Sirbu Hans (for some great pictures of it, go to ) and Mayer am Nussberg (see ). 

Both places have tables in open fields surrounded by vineyards, with views of the mountaintops and the city. Both are on our list of places to visit the next time we are in Vienna. 

This year we did not visit heuriger in Grinzing, but when we were in Vienna last December, we had a tasty wiener schnitzel and some heurige at Zum Martin Sepp. This place seems to be a very good restaurant that serves its own heuriger and sells other wine from its winery. We recommend it. See 

One of the most interesting heuriger I visited I found accidentally on the mountain above Nussdorf. Hiking on a trail just above the village, I noticed an unusual “ausg'steckt” sign: it was a wine bottle hanging from a piece of wood that had "ausg'steckt" written on it. It seemed to point up the hill.

Strange sign on a Nussberg Trail Pointing to a Mountain Heuriger
I could not resist and walked up a steep grade between two rows of grapevines (I admit I sampled the small green grapes along the way and found them sweeter than any other grapes I have ever eaten). After huffing and puffing for ten minutes, I found a small heuriger and two or three dozen people sitting around drinking its wine.  The setting and the heurige were memorable.

Walking Up a Path to the Mountain Heuriger

Reaching the Mountain Heuriger

People in Line for the Heurige

Enjoying the Heurige and the Setting Amid the Vineyards

Conclusion: the Nussdorf Option is Great for a Late Spring, Early Summer, or Fall Visit to Vienna

At the end of the two weeks in Nussdorf, I was very glad that I opted for the Nussdorf option when making this September visit to Vienna. While I doubt that I would want to be here in middle of the summer or in winter when walking would be less attractive because of the weather, late summer, early fall, and likely late spring seem to be perfect times to enjoy what the village has to offer. If you are ready for more wine with fresh air and less culture on your next visit to Vienna, find a place to stay in Nussdorf.