Sightseeing in the Seewinkel Area - Part II
The road to the Hansag down to the border to Hungary is full of sculptures that commemorate the tiny bridge of Andau, which served ten thousands of Hungarian refugees to escape from the Soviets in 1956. They were welcomed by Austria, something for which Austrians still love to clap themselves on the shoulder. The bridge was rebuilt a few years ago.
Note the boys with machine guns in army posts here: This border was the border of the European Union until recently and is still the border of the Schengen countries, thus it got to be defended against such threats as asylum seekers. Go back to Wallern and St. Andrä and move on to Frauenkirchen. There are two sights to explore in this charming village: The basilica and the ancient Jewish cemetery. Let′s start with the neglected one, the Jewish cemetery, which is on the edge of the village and a bit tricky to find.
Ask locals for directions. The Jewish population of the Burgenland was more or less completely extinguished in the Holocaust. The cemetery, however, was renovated recently and looks relatively decent. Most of the inscriptions are in Hebrew and there are very few graves that have been added after 1945. The basilica of Frauenkirchen is a more popular tourist attraction.
Basilica of Frauenkirchen
Once upon a time, the local landlords (the Princes of Esterhazy) had the problem that once in a while their devoutly Catholic peasants and labourers would had off to Mariazell or other places for pilgrimages. Every time this happened, the Esterhazys lost labour and thus money. To stop this without pissing off the Catholics (after all, the very reason why these people lived there was because they were Catholic and therefore loyal to the Habsburg Emperor on contrast to the more revolutionary Hungarians), they decided to build their very own church of pilgrimage.
In Frauenkirchen, there was a site that had been occupied by a church for centuries. From time to time, this church had been messed up by Turks, Huns, Magyars or whatever else came over from the East for looting, rape and plunder. In 1702, the Turks were finally defeated and the Habsburgs on the peak of their power. So the Esterhazys decided to build their new church of pilgrimage in Frauenkirchen.
Francesco Martielli was the architect in charge and he created a high-Baroque gem unique for this part of Austria. Note the "Kalvarienberg" or "Calvary Mount" outside of the basilica, an artificial hill with chapels that depict the twelve images of the Passion of Christ. Associated with the basilica is a Franciscan abbey, which is not open to the public.
Schloss Halbturn Castle
From Frauenkirchen, move on the Halbturn. This is another charming village, but the crowds are drawn to the local castle. It is property of the Habsburg family for centuries, and some obscure side-branch of the dynasty still owns it and lives here. However, for the current state of the building, a Count of Harrach is responsible. The Harrachs were top-notch Austrian-Bohemian nobility that still lives in the family′s main castle in nearby Rohrau.
For the refurbishment, the Harrachs hired Lukas von Hildebrandt (who also designed the Peterskirche or the Belvedere Castle in Vienna, among many other important Baroque buildings). The result is a very pretty little palace, which is mostly in its original Baroque shape apart from minor 19th century additions at the church and a sad re-modelling of the formal gardens.
That much about sightseeing in the Seewinkel. Otherwise, drink wine, watch birds, be merry. The Burgenland is a fantastic place for just relaxing. Other attractions somewhat nearby are the Roman city of Carnuntum, the medieval town of the Rust with the Roman quarry in St Margareten, and the province′s capital Eisenstadt.
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