With autumn in the air over the weekend, naturally a road trip would follow. Not that we ever need a reason. The inspiration for this particular outing was a chestnut festival in Hungary; thinking it would be a small event, I planned for us to see a few other sights in the area, as well.

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The road leading to Burg Lockenhaus, picturesquely autumnal.

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Burg Lockenhaus, near to the Hungarian border was both a Templar Knights Palace and a former home of the bloodthirsty “Dracula” Countess Erszebét, whose other castle, in Slovakia, where she also carried out many of her 600 virgin killings and was imprisoned until her death I visited a couple of years ago. Now a portion of the castle is a hotel and a wedding destination.

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The next activity on our itinerary was to visit a grove in the little village of Liebing (pop. 234) and its 350 year old Chestnut tree, rather befitting to our outing inspiration. Despite directional signs to the, “Kastanien Baume” would you believe we never found the damned tree? At one point what had passed for a road began to look more like a cow path, so we deftly turned the wagon around and headed elsewhere.

Lunch was the next priority, and since we had visited the pretty little town of Kőszeg as its own outing previously, we knew where to find a restaurant. But first, the oh-so-Cold-War-dreary border crossings that I love.

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On to Velem, notable for having safeguarded the Holy Crown of Hungary in a prominent mansion for about six months toward the end of WWII. The road leading to the village was dotted with people selling roasted chestnuts, so we knew we were close.

With Velem’s population around 350 we were rather surprised to find police directing vehicles to park about a half-kilometer outside of the town!  Hundreds of cars, easily, stretched across the field. This was not a small festival.

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Another surprise was the entrance fee of 900Ft (~€3), and totally worth it. The festival stretched through the main only street, offering food, traditional crafts, entertainment, and yes, chestnuts from around 100 vendors!

We had only about 15.000Ft (~€50), but that was more than enough for lunch in Kőszeg; the entry ticket; a jar of chestnut honey; three generous portions of Hungarian kolbasa, potatoes and sauerkraut (for dinner at home, with enough remaining for breakfast the following morning!); and even a handmade gratin dish for me. We laughed at how a casual lunch for the two of us in Vienna the day before had cost €50, while across the border that was enough for three feasts and some shopping.

Out of Forints, and with daylight fading, it was time to point the wagon toward home. Rather curiously Austrian police were checking identification on all travelers crossing from Kőszeg. “Normally” we are waved through; this time we were asked to present identification. Then again, we thought, what is “normal” in Europe anymore?

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