Esterházy Palace & Winery
The Esterházys were wealthy Hungarian nobility, the largest landowners during the reign of the Habsburg and Austro-Hungarian Empires, and the most influential aristocratic family in the Kingdom of Hungary. In 1626, Ferdinand II, the Holy Roman Emperor and a member of the House of Habsburg, bestowed the title Count on Nikolaus Esterházy. In 1687, the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I, grandson of Ferdinand II and grandfather of the Empress Maria Theresa, elevated Nikolaus’ son, Paul Esterházy, to Prince of Galántha (a town in current day Slovakia).
The family had several residence, including the Forchtenstein Castle in Austria and Eszterháza Palace in Hungary, but their main residence was Schloss Esterházy. Located in Eisenstadt, the capital of Burgenland, 35 miles south of Vienna and seven miles north of the present Hungarian border, the original building dates back to the late 1200s. In 1371, King Louis I of Hungary took ownership of the property and developed it into a medieval castle city. In 1626, the Emperor Ferdinand II gave the property to Count Nikolaus Esterházy, and Count Paul inherited the property in 1652 when his older brother, Count Ladislaus, died in battle.
The current baroque palace is the result of a major rebuild that took place between 1663 and 1672. One highlight of this reconstruction was the creation of an ornate three-story tall banquet room that was ultimately converted into an acoustically perfect concert hall. The hall is known as Haydnsaal in honor of the Austrian classical composer Joseph Haydn who worked for the Esterházy family as Kapellmeister, or Music Director, from 1761 to 1790. Many of his works were first played in this venue. On the front facade of the palace are eighteen sandstone busts of the Hungarian rulers from Stephen I (1000 to 1038) to Leopold I (1655 to 1705); there are additional portraits in this series in Haydnsaal.
On the ceiling of Haydnsaal are three huge frescoes that were painted by Carpoforo Tencall, a Swiss Baroque painter, in the 1670s. The three frescoes and six rectangular panels that surround them — two on each side, one in the front and one in the rear — depict scenes from the story “Cupid and Psyche” contained in Apuleius’ satirical novel Metamorphoses. The prominent center panel shows the marriage of Cupid and Psyche in the presence of the gods.
The cellar in the inner courtyard at Esterházy Palace contains the largest wine museum in Austria. Among the museum’s exhibits are several huge wine barrels, wine presses, and other wine making instruments. Wine making at Esterházy dates back to 1758 when Pinot Noir vines from Burgundy were planted in Burgenland. The superb quality of the wine even back then is reflected in the palace’s records from 1789 that show that Joseph Haydn took a portion of his salary in wine.
The modern Esterházy Winery is a short drive from the palace. This winery has 160 acres of vineyards that grow Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes as well as the Austrian varieties Grüner Veltliner, Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch and it produces 250,000 bottles annually. Located in the heart of the Neusiedlersee–Hügelland wine region and blessed with a unique terroir, Esterházy produces superb wines — classical reds; crisp, dry whites; special, reserve cask aged wines; and world-famous sweet ones. After a tour of the winery, we were able to sample a wide variety of these distinctive wines.
As impressive as Schloss Esterházy was, it paled in comparison to the Schönbrunn Palace that we visited the next day. Located in Vienna just three miles northeast of the Hofburg palace, Schönbrunn was the summer residence for the Habsburgs. This former imperial palace and its gardens occupy 435 acres that were originally acquired in 1569 by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II. Construction of the current palace was begun by Emperor Leopold I in 1696, but it was only partially completed when he died nine years later. It wasn’t until 1780 during the reign of Empress Maria Theresa that construction was completed.
The palace has 1,441 rooms and, during the Habsburg’s time, over a 1,000 people would be in residence. Currently, 40 of these rooms, including the apartments of Emperor Franz Joseph and his empress, Elizabeth (Sisi), are open to the public. Unfortunately, no pictures can be taken inside the residence.
Behind the palace is a large park, known as the Great Parterre, with numerous symmetrical gardens from the central axis of the palace. The flower gardens, which were not yet planted or in bloom, are flanked by 32 sculptures of Greek and Roman deities and historical figures. The park contains several pools, a rose garden, a Japanese garden, a hedge maze, a labyrinth, and a zoo.
At the far end of the Great Parterre along the central axis from the palace is the Neptune Fountain. Neptune stands in a shell-shaped chariot with a his trident in his left hand in the middle of this large and impressive fountain. To his right, the sea-goddess Thetis kneels imploring Neptune to look with favor upon Achilles as he battles the Trojans. At the base of the fountain are four Tritons, half-man and half-fish creatures, two of whom are riding the hippocampi (sea-horses) that draw Neptune’s chariot.
Behind the fountain, paths on both the left and the right sides zig-zag up a 200 foot hill to the Gloriette, a focal point for the garden and palace below. Built in 1775 under the direction of Maria Theresa, the Gloriette consists of a glass-enclosed triumphal arch in the center flanked on each side by arcaded wings. Atop the center arch is an imperial eagle with a gold laurel crown in its beak sitting on a golden globe and surrounded by trophies of war, e.g., shields and helmets. The Gloriette was designed to glorify Habsburg power and to honor the soldiers who had given their lives for the empire in the War of Austrian Succession (1740-1748) and the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763).
The Gloriette was designed and dedicated as a monument to the Just War, which according to St. Thomas Aquinas is one that:
- Occurs for a good and just purpose rather than for self-gain;
- Is waged by a properly instituted authority such as the state;
- Has peace as a central motive even in the midst of violence.
The Habsburgs used the Gloriette as a hall for festivals and for dining. While the Gloriette was destroyed during the Second World War, it was quickly rebuilt after the war. Visitors can enjoy refreshments in the café in the center section and ascend to observation platforms on the roof for a panoramic view of Vienna.
Over the past few weeks, trash cans have been appearing on the sidewalks of Bangkok! While this might not seem like a big deal to people in most countries, it is truly remarkable since there were never any here. As a result, people typically have discarded trash any place they could, e.g., in fountains, in planters, on window or door sills, etc. The refuse in Bangkok takes away from the beauty of the city and stands in sharp contrast to the cleanliness found in most other S.E. Asian cities, most notably Singapore and Hong Kong. According to the local newspapers, 35,000 trash containers have been placed on sidewalks throughout the city since late April. Sometimes seemingly small things really do matter.
Kop Khun Krab and Danke.
© 2013 Kurt Brown. All rights reserved.