DAY 4: Tracking down the aristocrats and crossing the Iron Curtain
Eisenstadt, Austria to Sopron, Hungary
Lesson Learned: Always have enough cash with you!
Distance: 57 km/35 miles
On the fourth day of my trip I had the opportunity to look into the lavish lifestyle of the Central European aristocracy. I started the day with a tour of one of the most beautiful baroque palaces in Austria – Esterházy Palace, built in 17th century. I had seen a lot of palaces and castles in my life but when I saw the Hayden hall of Esterházy Palace I literally stopped breathing. I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of rehearsal of one of Hayden’s works. I hurried along as to not make the same mistake the previous day. As well, it was raining and I knew later that day I would have to overcome the highest peak of the trip to get to the Forchtenstein castle.
On the way to the top of the hill I stopped at the only Gasthaus opened in the area to have lunch. I ordered really good boar goulach with Servietten knödel, a glass of Grüner Veltliner and a coffee. After asking for the bill and realizing it was not possible to pay with a credit card, I quickly realized that the nearest ATM was down the hill in the village, a hill that if I went down I would never make it back up. I managed to convince the owner of the restaurant to pay with the only cash I had – Czech crowns.
When he realized that I was biking by myself and going to the top of THAT hill to get to the Forchtenstein castle, he ran outside to find me. I was putting my helmet on and getting ready to leave. He insisted I take the money back, I figured I must have looked pretty desperate at that point. It took me quite a while but
I finally convinced him that I had enough money and I could survive on my own.
Reaching the castle was tough, I tried to be brave but eventually jumped off my bike and pushed it to the top.
The view that was given at the top and from the downhill ride made all the effort to get there worth it.
Later in the afternoon, I crossed the Austrian- Hungarian border and came to Sopron, the city known for its free spirit even during the hard times of the communist era. This was also the place where the Iron Curtain started to fall apart, when 600 East Germans fled to Austria on August 19th 1989, during so called Paneuropean Picnic. The Berlin Wall fell November 9th that same year.
I was given a nice room in the medieval building of Hotel Wollner with a view of a 1000 year old garden wall. I fell asleep almost immediately.