Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Why Austria?

I'm sure some of you think we are disobedient missionaries by sometimes driving through Austria to visit branch members. Here's why. Here I am looking from Hungary past the border into Austria where our car is. Can you see the border sign? (The post with the Hungarian flag painted on it)

Here's looking the other way so you can see how the pavement stops and the mud and potholes begin.

Sandor is the caretaker of a former border guard camp in the thick forest. Even today, 20 years after the border disappeared, many of the roads connecting villages on the two sides of the border haven't been paved on the Hungarian side or even reconnected to the Austrian side.

After we gave Sandor our message, we had a big helping of palacsintas, rolled up Hungarian pancakes filled with jam or cottage cheese and raisins. Do you think the four of us can eat all of this? (In Hungary, the host usually doesn't eat with the guests.)

On the way home we decided to try out the Hungarian highway to see if that is the way we should go from now on. This is what Sandor walks down every Sunday to catch the bus to church. He says he has to get up at 5 to walk two to three miles down the muddy road to get to the first paved road where he can catch the bus. He changes his clothes after he gets to church. He usually brings flowers from his garden. If it rains on Saturday, he can't make it because the road is too swampy. As you can see, this isn't a joke.

The Hungarian route is 6 miles and at least half an hour longer. See why we take the paved Austrian route? Our car barely made it and it hadn't rained for a couple of days. This is a "dry spot" we stopped at as I didn't want both me and the car to sink into the mud when I got out to take the picture. I didn't dare stop at the swampy section I had just tobogganed through. Of course mom said, "How fun! This is like going out to feed the horses in Florida after it rains." See, there is a positive way to look at everything.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Tale of Two Families

Here is the story of two Hungarian noble families who lived nine miles from each other yet had completely different impacts on Hungarian history. The first is the Eszterházy family, the richest family in Hungary with an income that probably was larger than that of the Austrian emperor. Miklos (Nikolaus), sometimes called "the magnificent", is pictured here. The Eszterházy family had gained its riches by being favorites of the emperor and by marrying right. At one time they had over a million acres in the area around Sopron. They owned entire towns and build gigantic palaces in several cities in what is now Slovakia, Hungary, and Austria.

Miklos was determined that he could live better than the emperor and built this "hunting lodge" in Fertöd, a village not far from Sopron. It was patterned after Versailles palace in Paris and is often called the Versailles of Hungary. He loved to show off his wealth and hosted fabulous parties for the kings and queens and other nobility of Europe. Queen Maria Theresa of Austria said she had to come here if she wanted a really good party with fireworks, thousands of Chinese lanterns, and the like.

In contrast is the Széchenyi family in nearby Nagycenk. They also were wealthy and owned several estates. They made their money by reinvesting their earnings to develop their land and their businesses. István is pictured here.

This more modest palace is a clue as to how their approaches to life differed. Let's take a look at these representatives of two neighboring noble families and see why one left behind only a tourist attraction but the other is known as the father of modern Hungary and see if there are any lessons for us.

The Eszterházy Palace in Fertöd

Since the horseshoe shaped Eszterházy Palace is being restored by the Norwegian government, the inner courtyard is filled with fences and trucks. That's not very picturesque so you'll have to be satisfied with a look at the west wing. Only part of the palace is open during reconstruction. Duke Miklos Eszterházy, who built this summer cottage and hunting lodge, was determined that it would be better than anything the Austrian emperor had. We'll let you decide if he succeeded.

Here's a closer look at two of the fountains. The gardens in the back used to be filled with statues and fountains patterned after Versailles in Paris, but through the years they have been stolen by various collectors.

This is the original entrance. I'm letting the greeter borrow my hat.

The grand entry is blocked off for restoration but you can see the details in the ceiling.

Here you can see what the ceiling looks like before restoration.

I looked behind a barrier to see this room that is almost finished.

Here's a hallway being restored.

The palace was used by the Russians as a barracks until twenty years ago and the Nazis as a hospital in World War II so the walls were whitewashed, covering the original wall paintings. Here you can see how they are removing the whitewash to discover the original patterns.

Click on this original chandelier to see the heads of people around the base.

The Eszterházys loved to collect clocks.

How do you like this fish bowl for their gold fish?

They also collected porcelain.

This is the official Eszterházy pattern for their china. Each noble family designed its own pattern. This was kept on stock at the porcelain factory in Herend so replacement pieces are still available. That's why they can have this complete set today. Note how the dishes for the meal stack up. You start with the first plate and work down. Notice how the salad dish is shaped to fit around the main plate.

I'm sure you wondered how musicians in those days could see their music after dark. Now you know. Duke Miklos Eszterházy loved music and kept a concert hall and a music school at the palace filled with composers and musicians all year round. The famous Austrian composer Haydn lived and worked here for 30 years composing music for the family. Every year there are Haydn festivals here.

Do you think the head carved on this cello is Haydn?

Notice the Chinese paintings on this sitting room wall. Chinese painting was the rage at the time, even though the artists had never been to China. They just made up what they thought China looked like. There were several rooms with all four walls covered with this imagined Chinese look. Notice the ceramic heater in the corner. Servants kept it stocked with hot coals from passage ways behind the walls. That's why you can't see any openings on this side.

Here's the duke's bedroom.

The duchess slept here. Notice that people were quite a bit shorter then.

They had their own chapel. Here is the altar...

and the cupola above.

Duke Miklos was known for his extravagant ways as he tried to outdo the emperor. This was just the largest of the many palaces that he maintained. When he died, the family disbanded the music school and abandoned the palace. It stood empty for 100 years before the Eszterházys returned at the end of the 19th Center for a short time. During those hundred years the palace was used as a stable. When the family returned, they sold most of the furnishings and artwork since they could no longer afford the palace because of changes in their fortunes. Here you can see what the outside looks like where the Norwegian restoration work still needs to start.

Széchenyi estate in Nagycenk

In contrast is the Szécheny family estate 9 miles away in Nagycenk. The Széchenyis were also rich Hungarian noblemen. However, they chose to live more simply and use their money to improve the lives of Hungarians. Here's a look at their palace, more like a manor house, as seen through one of the mazes they have in front.

Here you can see the approach as seen from the second story of the house. The double row of linden trees stretches for two miles and was a riding path. Mazes and riding paths are things the family built for general enjoyment.

Notice how plain the entryway is that leads visitors to the stairs to the reception area.

Mom is showing the stairs. They were built in an atrium filled with plants. Duke István Széchenyi invested in projects to develop better agricultural techniques for Hungarian farmers. He worked to convince his fellow noblemen to free the serfs, pay taxes, and develop transportation so Hungarian agricultural products could be transported abroad. Through his efforts the arable land in Hungary increased by twenty percent.

Notice the simplicity of the walls, though the ceilings have the Hungarian angles that I love so much. Even the chandelier is simple. He believed in investing in people rather than things. He invested in making the first permanent bridge (Lánchid or Chain Bridge) over the Danube joining Buda and Pest, then separate towns. He also introduced steam ships to the Danube, building the first one himself, and started a railroad system connecting Budapest to all parts of Hungary and the world so Hungary could develop a major metropolitan area.

Compare this heater to the ones in the Eszterházy Palace. This one is fed from the front so István himself could keep it stoked.

They had musical instruments for their personal use rather than for court musicians. Again, rather than showing off with his money to amuse himself and impress others, Duke István spent his money modernizing Hungary by founding and supporting scientific societies, improving agriculture, industry and transportation, and otherwise promoting intellectual development.

Can you see why Count István Széchenyi is considered the greatest Hungarian and his statues and busts are everywhere in Hungary? Everywhere there are streets, plazas, buildings, and parks named after him. There are no statues for Count Miklós Eszterházy in Hungary. He may have had the title "the magnificent" but he and his descendants turned their backs on Hungary when reform threatened their wealth and extravagant lifestyle. The Eszterházys were among the conservatives who opposed the liberal efforts of István and other reformers of the time. The Hungarian reformers were all put to death in 1848 for challenging the old way. István survived at the time but had a nervous breakdown when his fellow reformers were all executed. Later he committed suicide later rather than face execution when the Austrian emperor came after him for the good he had done for Hungary. His life example underlies why I am proudly a liberal rather than a conservative. Invest in people, not things.

Happy as a hound dog!

Of course you know what makes Mom happier than a hound dog---HORSES!! On the way back from inspecting missionary apartments in Györ we passed our first horse!! Of course we had to pull off the road and get a picture.

When we stopped at the Széchenyi Castle outside Sopron, I told Caroly--"I smell horses!" She said she had smelled them already and was ready to use our blood hound noses to find out where they were.

This archway was the entrance to a patio surrounded by stables like a horse minimall. Click on the picture below to see how the stall windows are decorated with flowers.

Széchenyi felt that the first step to improving Hungary was to improve the quality of the horses. To get the noblemen interested in his project (since they were the ones with the money), he decided to tap into their competitive spirits by encouraging horse racing. He figured that if the rich improved their breeding stock to win races, it was bound to improve everyone's horses--his version of trickle down economics. It must have worked since Hungary became known for its horses and horsemen.

Look at how beautiful the stalls are. He treated both people and animals with dignity.

Does Mom look happy?

The horses were all stallions. (Mom notices things like that. They all just looked like horses to me.)

I think this one needs a haircut.

Do you think Mom will have us back here with the first snowfall?

How about these carriages?