Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Castle hopping with Kim

Hungary is a fairy tale land with many reminders of life hundreds of years ago. We promised Kim that when she came to visit us from Australia, we'd show her some of the many castles and palaces that surround Sopron. We had permission to pick her up in nearby Vienna. On the way home, we stopped by Schönbrunn Palace, where the rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire lived.

Here we are cooling off by a fountain.

One of the first things you see in the inner city of Sopron is the remains of the city wall that is built on the Roman wall that used to surround the city.

The Wednesday after our expert librarian Kim got here, we had to go to Budapest for a zone conference. We left a day early and stopped first at the castle in nearby Sarvar to see the city library that is built in one corner of the castle. Of course, we were missionaries on duty and discovered a long time member who has children and grandchildren in Phoenix, Arizona, who dared only to whisper to us that she is a member because she was afraid of what the locals would say if they found out. We invited her to move to Sopron and join our lively branch.

The impressive Sümeg castle, built high on a hill above the city, is being restored so you have to climb through the construction. The view from the top is impressive.

We spent the night at a grand 100 year old hotel on Lake Balaton in Balatonfüred, the vacation spot through the years for the rich and famous from Budapest

Of course we put in our missionary service helping the locals.

Before the sun set that day, we found two other families, one Austrian, one American that we talked to about the church.

Back home in Sopron we visited castles and palaces that are just a few minutes away. In Köszeg is one of the few Hungarian castles that has never been blown up by the Turks or the Hapsburgs.

It is famous for saving Vienna. The prince of the castle with a small army of townsmen held off several thousand Turks on their way to Vienna.

Nearby is this Cinderella looking castle that is actually a church built a hundred years ago.

Of course we had to visit the Szechenyi palace, the home of the person who Hungarians feel is the father of modern Hungary.

Not far away is the famous Esterházy palace, built to rival the kings of Europe. The Esterházys were the richest Hungarian family and the largest landowner. They felt they were the most important Hungarian family and were famous for showing off their wealth. Here's the front door to this country estate.

On the way back to the airport in Vienna, we decided to visit some of the other Esterhazy castles and palaces in the part of Austria that used to be Hungary, a narrow strip of land called Burgenland. They are about 15 miles from Sopron and are closer than any town in Hungary. This palace in Eisenstadt was their business headquarters, today operated by an Esterhazy corporation. It is used as a convention center and concert hall dedicated to Haydn, who for 40 years composed music solely for the Esterhazys.

The Esterhazys loved to promote cultural events, as you can see from these faces under the eaves of the building. Can you tell that it was pouring rain when I took the picture?

This is the Esterhazy castle above the town of Forchtenstein. (Fraknó in Hungarian). On a clear day, you can see these hills from Sopron. This is probably my favorite castle. Because it was beyond the reach of the Turks and Esterhazy was a favorite of the ruling Hapsburgs, it was never blown up, making it a delight to explore.

Here's Kim getting a nice hug to send her back to Australia.


  1. Love all the pictures! You two look so great! Such a cute couple! (has anyone told you that in a while- I feel like when you are newly married people tell you that ALL the time)

  2. great grandma and grandpa Thompson would be proud of that fish you are holding up. =)