Hartberg: Wine, Spas & a Charnel House
There are plenty of reasons to come to the small village of Hartberg in the border region between Styria and the Burgenland. The wine surely attracts most of the tourists that come; the spas in the "Thermenland" don′t harm the image of the area either. The general remoteness of the region and the access to some of Austria′s most impressive castles surely helped to promote the area as a holiday destination - although it remained something like a specialist′s secret compared to Austria′s tourism hubs.
There is one particular thing about Hartberg, though, that visitors should not miss out in their ecstasy of wine, pumpkin seed oil and local food: Hartberg′s parish church has one of Austria′s most famous Charnel Houses. These ancient buildings for both worshipping and stocking bones of dead people were once common in Lower Austria, Carinthia and Styria, but today there are only few of them left.
The one of Hartberg was built in Romanesque style, which is rather unusual in Austria. Inside, you are advised to ignore the 19th century "innovations" and concentrate on the original 13th century frescos. The masonry is exceptionally well-preserved, which is surely owed to the mild climate of Southern Styria.
Castle of Hartberg & Nearby Attractions
The bone collection of the Charnel House is historic and does not get extended anymore. Therefore, the whole building is a monument, but quite a remarkable one. Don′t forget to peek into the church, too: There you can see some very nice Baroque altars. The town has some more attractions to offer: The obligatory main square (Hauptplatz), a town museum and the local Schloss Hartberg Castle.
The latter one is a re-vamped Renaissance castle now hosting temporary art exhibitions. Explore the Stadtpark (Town Park) to find some of the ancient town walls, now in rather poor shape. Otherwise, you should just stroll around the town and enjoy its general prettiness. It is also a good place to get seriously involved with local specialities. Drink wine, eat and be merry.
There are few attractions nearby. Given that you are willing to drive for a while, Wiener Neustadt and Graz are within reach. Eisenstadt and the Seewinkel area is a bit further and so is Mariazell. Several castles of the "Road of the Castles" can be accessed from Hartberg by bicycle. However, most visitors come for the rural aspects of the town and I recommend you to do the same. Go for walks in the vineyards, bring a good book and have a chat with locals. Or try to go to one of the thermal spas of Styria and the Burgenland.
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