Thursday, August 06, 2009

South of the Border: Esterhaza

On Saturday we were meeting friends at 10:00 in front of the central cemetery. We’re still not certain what the rules are when you’re sharing the road with a streetcar, but it did get dicey when we had a streetcar and an ambulance and a stoplight at the same time. If we just take a deep breath and always remember Jennifer’s advice that three rights equals a left, we do ok. We were 12 minutes late and made one wrong turn that led to an interesting detour.
We drove down to Fertod, just 4km over the Hungarian border. I had wanted to see Esterhaza, the other palace where Haydn lived, also called the Hungarian Versailles. We had a picnic lunch and then when we arrived at the palace, we had to choose between a tour starting in two hours in German, or one in two minutes in Hungarian. We went for the latter and got cheat sheets in our own language. Rob gallantly took Joss out and let him run because he was just testing the acoustics, and then Will dropped out of the tour as well.
[click to enlarge. usually I say this just because Rob tells me to, so that technologically naive people will know it's available, but this one you should really see; I should have just posted the pictures individually] So the Souceks and Maddie, Sebi and I had the grand tour. I had heard this palace described as a place mouldering into the Neusiedlersee, so I was pleasantly surprised at the condition. Tomas was dismayed at how dilapidated it was (but now he has grown up around the Hofburg and Schonbrunn which have always been kept up during our lifetimes). I actually think I see a palace more clearly when it is only partially renovated, like Potsdam . It makes you appreciate just how much work it takes to build and maintain a palace when there are faded fabrics or cracks in the windows. Sometimes your eyes just can’t receive any more sumptuousness.
The ceremonial room was one of the highlights. They have the gold three quarters finished in here, and in addition to usual gold, they have tinted it on the flowers and leaves and four flags on the ceiling. I thought it was cool. The painting on the ceiling is notable because wherever you go in the room it looks as though the horses are riding toward you. One of the kids said it was true; the other said it was bunk.
[click here to see what I'm talking about with the tinted gold; or not] I also enjoyed the tour because they allowed us to take pictures, and I expect if and when we return, we won’t be able to, and Esterhaza will be totally renovated (the Hungarians have already passed one bill through parliament to renovate the palace and improve the parking, streets, gardens and everything; they expect to pass a second one this year). I was also impressed at the artwork they had, and the connection to Maria Theresia and her favorite daughter, Maria Cristina. I learned the answer to a question we'd had with the Isaaks: Franz Stefan was the Holy Roman Emperor when Maria Theresia was Empress. So you had to be a man fof the Holy Roman Empire even after the Pragmatic Succession. Your history lesson for the day. Consider it done.
Coming out of the palace, we saw that Rob, Joss and Will had made themselves comfortable at the café in the courtyard, so we all ordered drinks and cake and had a sitdown. The total bill for our family was 7 euros, which would have been enough for two drinks at Schonbrunn.
It was like the Tiajuana of Austria!

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