Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Never Too Old to Look for Turtles

Today dawned gray and with the threat of rain. Our high-adventure children scrapped their plans for the zip line park atop Kahlenberg and stared at me over breakfast with that, "What are we doing today?" look. Easy-peasy. A quick search of the Niederösterreich Card website came up with Schloss Orth, a palace on a small island with a nature park in the Marshfeld, about 45 minutes from the house.   Have I mentioned how much I love the NÖ card? 

The former hunting schloss of a royal someone is one of the four in the  "Marchfelder Schlosserreich" along the Danube between Vienna and Bratislava. We have visited two of the others, Schloss Marchegg and Schloss Hof previously and after today, only Schloss Erkartsau remains. The island and palace are part of Austria's National Park system and even kept the two teenagers amused.

In the palace courtyard is a monument to the largest fish ever discovered in the Danube. Really. Made us hungry for a seafood lunch (which we did indeed enjoy later!)
The palace had a watchtower from where we could catch a glimpse of the Hainburg Mountains and Bratislava peeking out in the background.
 The tower was also home to a stork nest, but no one was home, to my great disappointment.
Though the children are almost 14 and 19, at every water scene it was imperative we look for turtles and snakes.  The beavers were a little harder to find, alas.
 Now this is my kind of Insect Hotel!
Rope bridges over waterways brimming with turtles, frogs, snakes, and beavers?  Anna Grace was there!
 Sitting still and calm helped us spot snakes catching an early lunch. Circle of Life right in front of us.

 This trunk washed ashore near Hainburg an der Donau and was dated to be from the 1300s. Most likely it had been used as a moor and was well preserved. Pretty cool, we thought.
Baa Baa Black Sheep and friends peacefully exist on the island with their reptilian and amphibious friends, too.  Today's outing is something that Tony and I love about our children; they prefer experiences to "stuff," though they would not turn down the "stuff" if handed to them.  How many parents have two teenagers who would say, "This was really fun. I'm glad we came out here."?
 On the route home we passed another Isrealitsche Friedhof, a small space surrounded by modernity.  This one was particularly saddening to me.
 "Last Funeral: 1938."

I Needed Paprika

Both children are home, the pantry is bursting with provisions, yet...I used the last of my Paprika for a rub I was preparing on Sunday.  Two options on an otherwise schedule-free day presented themselves: 1) add it to the next grocery list; 2) take a spontaneous half-day trip across the border to the Birthplace of Paprika, Hungary. What would you do?

Along the Austrian-Hungarian border there a few palaces and castles that we haven't yet seen, and in the time it took to reach the A4 I had mapped a route. Our first stop was Schloss Halbturn, built as a hunting lodge for Emperor Karl VI.  Now it sponsors special art exhibits and hosts weddings and other celebrations. Tucked down a lane shaded by Linden trees, it made for a lovely first stop.

 Bouquets from the previous days' wedding, charmingly at rest.
The Austrian flag is striking, I think. The design for the flag dates to the early 1200's and Leopold V, Duke of Austria's return from the battlefield. Though his battledress was soaked with blood, the area under his belt was white. There you have it.
Inside the palace was an exhibit of 1900-1930 design in Austria, everything from decorative pieces to clothing. Most enjoyable.
Pretty, pretty glass.
Along this route we whipped past a sign reading, "Isrealitische Freidhof" and made a detour. The customary signage is for a "Jüdische Freidhof." The gate was locked, though it was possible to peer over the walls. Nearly 400 Jews were deported from this town as early as 1938.
Old Jewish cemeteries around here make me sad, as it's not likely that many descendants are visiting.
 Storks!  I never tire of seeing these magnificent birds.
 Nearing the border with Hungary we found abandoned border patrol barracks, stripped to the foundation.
The House of Esterhazy was the premier landowner of the Kingdom of Hungary and they were in good, very good, standing with the Habsburgs.
France has the original Versailles. Bavaria has its version, Könighschloss Herrenchiemsee, and Hungary has Esterhazy Kastely, its "Versailles" and one of holdings of the Esterhazy Family. The palace is the loveliest shade of pink, and the gates are my favorite of all palace gates I've seen.
During WWII the Esterhazy Family scattered; after 1945 the Hungarian government confiscated the property for its use. A foundation established by the wife of the last ruling Esterhazy Prince now helps preserve the cultural heritage of the family.
Making our way home we spied Burg Forchenstein in the distance. This, too, is an (Austrian) Esterhazy holding since 1622, except for a couple of hundred years when the Habsburgs held it. 17th century home exchange, if you will.
The castle sits on a hilltop, and even has a moat!
As the afternoon was waning we did not tour the interior, but have noted its Adventmarkt for a return visit. 
Oh, and I did purchase the Paprika at a farm stand near Esterhazy Kastely, right before dropping in a local Etterem for the lunch special of deer stew. My kind of grocery run.