The erdstall – an underground world. Fascinating and mysterious, especially at the Hutsaulberg
In 1969 it rattled and roared in the town centre of Altlichtenwarth as an excavator shovel was used to dig out an access to the local canal at Kaiser-Franz-Josef Street. The shovel broke through into a hollow space. A first inspection indicated that this was access to an erdstall (a kind of narrow tunnel, believed to date from the medieval period).
The population of the Weinviertel is well accustomed to subterranean worlds. They are normally located at the centre of town; such was the assumption at least until the summer of 1994. At that time heavy rainfall revealed an erdstall in an open field on the Hutsaulberg. This caused puzzlement since the Hutsaulberg had never been a settled area and was also located 500 metres from the fortified settlement (known as a burgwall). At the border triangle, in the gently undulating landscape that provided little protection, the burgwall offered safety. In dangerous times, subterranean erdstalls would provide better protection. According to the Weinviertel historian Richard Edl, they served as places of refuge. This would be even more significant in later times of crisis, when the area came under threat during the Thirty Years War and by the advancing Ottomans and the Kuruc army.
At the beginning of the 18th century, the aggravated locals would call out ‘Kruzitürken’ (a colloquial swear word referring to Kuruc and Turks) as a password to be able to gain access to the erdstalls. This is noted in the parochial archives of Altlichtenwarth. Today, Austria contains about 500 erdstalls.