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Tails From the Vienna Woods

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Hungary

Castles and Crown Jewels

Central Europe was rather warm last weekend. We could either be hot in Vienna, or be hot somewhere else. Budapest won the coin toss.

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A Castle, Kőszeg, and Kastaniens

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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Weekend in Hungarian Wine Country

After a horrible week of feeling taken advantage of by AIS parents, a getaway from the selfishness was just what I needed, and so to a friend’s restored wine press weekend house in Hungary a group of us gathered for good food, great wine, and fun at the flea markets in and around Budapest.  At dusk we were treated to bats swooping about, and even a den of fox flitting across the paths. Just what I needed.

Sopron on Sunday

Bureaucracy. Sometimes it’s a good thing. Tony had planned travel for this week, but the country issuing the invitation did not approve the necessary visa until two days after he was supposed to have arrived, and after he had made arrangements for another colleague to give his presentations. Obviously the planned travel was canceled, and so we decided to head out on Sunday for lunch. But to where?

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Tomatoes and Tri-Points

Austria was closed from Friday evening until Monday morning (National holiday on Saturday and the usual Sunday Shutdown), so the impetus to keep from going insane with boredom was strong. Thankfully our neighbors to the north and east were open, and at the ready with entertainment. 
Saturday’s outing took us to Breclav, just across the Czech border. I have mentioned on several occasions that Central Europe needs little reason to bring out the alcohol, and in Saturday’s case, the motivation was a celebration of the tomato. Tomato ketchups, tomato sauces, tomato chutneys, and tomato sandwiches tempted visitors to the small, but delicious festival.
What did I say about the alcohol? By noon the Bloody Mary table at the festival looked wasted, pun intended.
When combined with a quick visit to Tesco for a few provisions (the parking lot of which was amply filled with Austrian vehicles, I might add. Hypocrites, I might also add.), and lunch at my favorite border restaurant (the parking lot of which was also filled with Austrian vehicles), our outing was the perfect light escape from my shuttered adopted country.
On Sunday we set off for adventure, to find the geographic point where Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary meet with a side visit to one of our favorite museums, the Danubiana Meulensteen.  The plan was to approach the Tri-Point from the Hungarian or Slovakian side beforehand, as both seemed closer on the map to our museum destination.
To be on the safe side I paused at the Hungarian border for a vignette should I happen to land on a toll road and was directed to what seemed like an abandoned building. Jack asked, “Do you want me to go in with you?”
Not a completely abandoned building, thankfully, but instead occupied by someone who clearly could have been former Stasi. I wrote my license tag on a scrap paper and handed over 3.000 Hungarian Forints.  Vignette in hand, we headed off. Within moments, Hungary! That’s where the fun ended, alas, because all routes to the Tri-Point had us traversing either restricted roads or across seemingly impassable railroad tracks, and none of us knew how to shout, “Don’t shoot, we’re just crazy Americans” in Hungarian. 

Down but not out, we decided to visit the museum and plan a new re-con afterwards. Back into Slovakia we went. The Danubiana never fails to disappoint, and the combination of modern art and the warm breezes from the Danube made our spirits happy.

Lunch in a small village near the museum that we discovered on our last visit also gave us time to plan our Tri-Point mission.
How many Zander and Forelle filets have I consumed since living here? I have run out of fingers to count, many times over. Nothing beats a perfectly grilled whole fish in these parts. (And yes, Jack took the bacon strip from atop my fish.)

In short order after lunch we crossed into Austria via back roads. Obviously this crossing did not exist during the Cold War; in fact, the crossing is so unremarkable that Slovakia didn’t even bother with a sign!

Through the fields we went. Slovakia on the left; Austria on the right. (Can’t tell the difference, can you?)
Soon we reached our destination.

Thankfully this informational placard could explain some of the Druid-like constructions along the boundaries.

We have little doubt that our lame attempts at Selfies will appear on the Facebook page of the guy in the background, who arrived shortly after we on his bicycle. 

Selfies aside, the historical significance of being able to visit this little place was not lost on any of us.

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.

Budapest, Bunkers, and Borders. A Weekend Road Trip Double Header.

Across the southeastern border and into Budapest we went early Saturday morning, to cheer on the AIS Knights in the five-school Track & Field exchange hosted by AIS Budapest.

Provence has its lavender fields; Central Europe has its Rapeseed fields. Rapeseed is eaten by the Chinese in its greens form; around these parts and others it is processed into a cooking oil similar to canola.

Budapest, My Hidden Treasure Chest: All the Rest

St. Stephans, so named for the patron saint of Hungary.

Budapest, My Hidden Treasure Chest: The Markets and The Food

So, how does Budapest compare to Paris when it comes to food? Our first lunch of Gulyás was tres magnifique, as was every meal thereafter.

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