Kürbisfest for the fourth time

It is our longest running tradition here in Vienna, and we look forward to it every year.  The annual pumpkin festival is one of the few nearly Halloween-like celebrations here, and it reminds me so much of the decades of pumpkin picking and carving I’ve done back in the US.


545Over the years, we’ve gotten better at the whole thing.  The first few times, it took us hours longer to get ready and get ourselves there than it should have, and we always ended up out there either very much over or under dressed.  But now, we’re getting it.  We know how to get there, we come prepared with warm clothes and big bags with which to carry home our pumpkins.  We made it out there in the foggy morning (with the help of B, who acted as our navigator since he was learning about maps at school).  We had faces painted, enjoyed our favorite Lángos and pumpkin soup, chose and carved our pumpkins, and played on the recently renovated playground (still daring, even by Austrian standards).  And this year, we brought friends.




Elaine and Phil had been here nearly two years at the time (more than 2 years now), but this was their first pumpkin festival.  They were amazingly good sports in enduring the speed (or lack thereof) and attention spans (or lack thereof) of the kids while we shopped, enjoyed and explored.  We introduced them to Lángos, shopped together for pumpkin seed pesto and chose pumpkins.  Then we all sat down to carve them together — it was Elaine’s first time!  We finished out the day with some playground time (for us) and a warm drink around the fire (for Phil and Elaine).  It was a great day.


667The Kürbisfest remains one of my favorite annual Vienna traditions.  It reminds me of home, yet is also distinctly Austrian.  It celebrates autumn and helps us prepare for Halloween.  It is a wonderful day spent in the countryside with a marvelous view of Vienna.  And, getting to introduce friends to our much-loved tradition made it even more special this year.


Kürbisfest, again

005We love Kürbisfest.  This is the third year that we went to the one just outside of Vienna at Am Himmel, which this year was held the last weekend of October.  (Our first October, we also made the trek to Retz for the Kürbisfest there, and we planned to go back last year but got rained out.  This year, we kept it simple and just went to Am Himmel.)  Each time, it’s been just lovely, and now, after having been 3 times, we feel like we’re starting to master the art of attending this particular Kürbisfest.

011In German, a Kürbis is a pumpkin, so Kürbisfest is, principally, a pumpkin festival.  It’s more than that, too, though.  Besides the crates of pumpkins and gourds, the long tables set out for pumpkin carving, the pumpkin soup, pumpkin seed oil, pumpkin bread, pumpkin sausage and pumpkin seed pesto, there are all kinds of other vendors selling apples, grapes, candles, knit items, juices, ciders, wines and meats.  There are polka bands, face painting and kite-making tents.  There’s certainly a lot to do with pumpkins, but it’s really a celebration of everything autumnal from in and around Vienna.  And it’s pretty fantastic.


This year, the day started cool and foggy, so we bundled up in the morning.  By the time we got out to the hills beyond Vienna, though, the fog had started to burn off and it got really quite warm.  We walked through the festival, and took in all of our favorite parts.  024The boys chose pumpkins.  Benjamin got his face painted (he went for an orange dragon this year — Liam opted out).  We all had some of our favorite Lángos (made fresh, and covered with garlic and pumpkin seed pesto) and some pumpkin soup.  We scooped and carved the pumpkins we had bought.  We shopped for Styrian ham and pumpkin seed sausage, as well as pumpkin seed pesto (which is my absolute favorite).  We sampled some fresh apple and grape juices while listening to live polka music and finally finished up with a stop at the playground, and then dragged ourselves back to the center of the city, exhausted but very happy with our day, and feeling very seasonally appropriate.

040This year, for the first time, we started to feel like we’d figured out some important things.  We went first thing in the morning (always our goal, but this year we actually managed it).  We made the playground the last stop in our day, not the first, so the kids weren’t worn out until it was time to leave.  We brought a backpack and a shopping bag to carry our purchases, and we hollowed out our pumpkins before carrying them home.  All important lessons, learned over the years!

This year, we truly had another great time.  It was a great day, and going to the Kürbisfest has become one of my favorite Vienna traditions.

Kurbis Fest

We’re not exactly sure how they celebrate Halloween here in Austria, but it’s definitely different than back at home.  We’ve had pumpkins available to buy in the grocery stores for weeks now (just like at home) but they come pre-painted.  There are a lot of pumpkin and scarecrow decorations to be found around, but very little else — no black cats, ghosts or witches, no vampires, bats, mummies or monsters.  There aren’t bushels of trick-or-treat Halloween candy for sale at the stores.  The focus seems to be on the harvest, on pumpkins, on the season.  It isn’t a bad thing, just different.

We don’t know what to expect as we come up to Halloween.  Benjamin is old enough to look forward to it, so we’ve been trying to come up with our own way to celebrate (we’ve heard rumors that there are neighborhoods that do host trick-or-treating, but we don’t know for sure, and we also want there to be a “season” to it, not just a night of candy-induced hysteria).  It’s actually been a little hard to do — at home,  you’d be able to go pumpkin or apple picking from mid-September, go on hay rides, shop and plan for Halloween costumes.  We can’t find costumes anywhere (my mom is sending over some of mine and my brothers’ from when we were kids) and we haven’t been able to find any “Halloweeny” activities to participate in at all . . . until this weekend.

This weekend was the first of two Kurbis (Pumpkin) Festivals in Vienna.  (There may be more, but my semi-extensive internet research got me information on two.)  First thing this morning, we headed out on the Strassenbahn, and then the (very crowded) bus, up to the top of one of the hills overlooking Vienna, up to Am Himmel.  It was chilly, and we got lost on the way.  But it was FANTASTIC.

006It was everything we’d been missing about celebrating fall.  It was sunny, cool and beautiful.  Benjamin chose pumpkins for himself and Liam — we could have carved them there at the festival (they had specialized scooping and cutting tools and everything) but Benjamin wanted to wait until we got home (and honestly, they were cleaner and easier to transport whole).  Benjamin and I built and flew a kite together (with help from a VERY kind assistant who translated the German instructions for us).  We drank cider, ate pumpkin soup and fresh bread, sampled pumpkin cream liquor, selected some local ham, ate langos (a kind of fried bread with pumpkin seed pesto and a lot of garlic) and enjoyed some warm apple wine.  Benjamin played on an extensive playground, Liam practiced his walking (he’s not so good off road yet — he kept getting hay wrapped around his legs and trying to fall down).


022Enjoying all that autumn had to offer, I couldn’t help but miss my family a lot.  We all really enjoy the fall and preparing for Halloween, and I wish we could have all been together today.  (Although I did feel very connected with them all — especially my Dad while building the kite — throughout the day.)  We enjoyed the beautiful day, we played and ate and drank outside, and then, chilly and a little chapped from the wind, we walked back down the hill, climbed onto the bus and headed back home.  It was a good day.  And next week, if we want to, we can try another kurbis fest.  Hooray for fall!


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