Am Himmel – At the sky
Harmony of City, Countryside, Culture, Nature and Man
My best friend gave me the idea to write a report about a little excursion that combines many of the qualities of Vienna and yet is not so well known. I wanted to choose a particularly charming way to get there, so I walked from the Sieveringer Straße along the Gspöttgraben gorge, up to the Sisi Chapel.
Getting off the bus 39A and heading out of town, I turn right at the fork in the road where I am greeted by a charming village atmosphere. After walking a few minutes, the Gspöttgraben gorge branches off to the right. Now I stand here looking up the impressive gorge that lies in front of me. For a moment I think about turning around, but then the will to conquer this 0.75 km hike drives me forward.
Equipped with a full water bottle and a small backpack, I begin my “ascent”. I pass by a few houses as the stream in the Gspöttgraben trickles away. The water is low now in the hot summer weather, but at other times in the year it swells considerably. After a short walk you will reach a storage area belonging to MA 28. Be sure to keep left here and continue following the gorge. Benches along the way invite you to stop for a rest as the paved path leads through the forest. About halfway up we reach the grotto of the Gspöttgraben. Fascinated, I take a look and feel the mysterious allure of the grotto. It is closed due to the danger of collapse and you can only look at it from a distance.
A clearing appears and I leave the Gspöttgraben behind me on a gravel forest road, to the right of me are houses (Caritas School), I take the path to the left. The road continues on, leading to a house in the middle of the forest. I turn right before reaching the house and heading slightly uphill I can already see the wooden sign “Zur Sisi Kapelle” (To the Sisi Chapel). I take this path and shortly thereafter, in the middle of a forest clearing, I see the chapel.
Sisi Chapel – From Beginning to Ruin
The chapel was built in 1854-1856 on the occasion of the wedding of Emperor Franz-Joseph and Elisabeth. It is the first neo-Gothic building in Vienna, built under architect Johann A. Garben
In 1881 and 1903 the married couple of Sothen are buried in the crypt of the Sisi Chapel. The Sothen family then left the chapel to the “Sisters of the Poor Child Jesus”. This order restored the chapel.
During World War II, the chapel was badly damaged and thereafter it was unfortunately left to succumb to the passage of time. In the 70s, the chapel was almost demolished. Only a decision from the Federal Monuments Office saved the chapel.
Due to a lack of money, many years would pass until the final renovation work began. In the meantime, the windows and doors were bricked up to protect against decay and vandalism.
A Monument Jewel Awakens from a Deep Slumber
Not until 2002, did the non-profit association “Wald” (Forest) acquire the land and the building. Then the most urgent renovation work was finally begun. In 2003, the couple of Sothen was put to rest again in the newly built tomb. The chapel is being reconstructed and renovated following an artistic and architectural overall concept, including a financing plan. With attention to detail, the chapel has been equipped with modern lighting. Through the glass roof, the LED lighting lends the chapel an impressive atmosphere. Today, the Sisi Chapel is not only the center of religious festivals, but an attractive venue.
Back on the forest road, I head a bit further up the hill and reach a large meadow or clearing. I suspect I have reached the “Lebensbaumkreis” or Life Tree Circle. Another path branches off to the romantic Pfaffenberg pond.
On the right I see beautiful vineyards planted on a hillside. Simply gorgeous, and this too is part of Vienna.
Life Tree Circle
Have you already found your personal life tree?
Depending on your birthday, there are 40 living trees in two interconnected circles, one of which is your personal life tree. Through a loudspeaker, the tree will tell you interesting stories about yourself and your personal character traits.
The Life Tree Circle has existed since 1997. It is a source of power, a beautiful, spacious area reminiscent of an amphitheater. On the top of the hill, you can enjoy a beautiful view of Vienna in fair weather.
Am Himmel Vineyards
Two hectares of vineyards have been cultivated again on Am Himmel since 2004. The first Grüner Veltliner was harvested in 2007 and has proven quite successful. Truly “heavenly wines” are served in the restaurant Oktogon. The newest addition is a Pinot Blanc, which thrives splendidly in the Viennese climate and the soil in the Am Himmel vineyards.
Educational Forest Playground
Not far from the Life Tree Circle you will find a playground. It is a place for children and adolescents to experience and learn about nature. The goal is to present the forest in an engaging manner with a focus on the environment. A balance beam, a forest sounds organ, as well as many crawling stations provide an opportunity to learn about trees from the inside and much more. There is something for all ages.
Access by Public Transport
From all Schick Hotels: take the U4 to Heiligenstadt, from there take the bus line 39A, towards Sievering. Get off at the final stop in Sievering and then you can follow the directions in the article above. Rest stops: At the Life Tree Circle: Restaurant Oktogon, be sure to check the opening times. On the same way back you can enjoy a stop at one of the many wine taverns in Sievering.
As an alternative, you can take the underground U4 to Heiligenstadt and then the bus line 38A to Cobenzl, from the parking lot it is approximately a 15 minute walk up the Kahlenberg to the Life Tree Circle.