If walls could talk, the Imperial hunting lodge of Eckartsau would tell many gripping stories about the final days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Nestled in the Danube wetlands and surrounded on all sides by the expansive Schlosspark gardens, Eckartsau was the final Austrian residence of Emperor Charles I and his wife Zita from 1918 to 1919.
Under the Eckartsau dominion, extensive land and territories were acquired both to the east and west, as were castles, market towns and rights. In the 16th and 17th centuries the inhabitants of Eckartsau came and went with regularity. The magnificent appearance of the palace today can be attributed in large part to Count Franz Ferdinand von Kinsky, who purchased the property, including the Eckartsau manor, in 1720. He subsequently converted the medieval fortification to a baroque hunting lodge. Top-notch artists such as Fischer von Erlach, Daniel Gran and Lorenzo Mattielli were closely involved in the extensive redevelopment.
In 1760, Francis Stephan von Lothringen (Francis I), husband of Maria Theresa, acquired the castle. Over the years, its most prominent residents included Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir presumptive to the throne, as well as Austria’s last imperial couple Charles I and Zita, who spent their final days in Austria at Eckartsau before going into exile. After 1945, the Austrian National Forests (ÖBf) became the administrators of Schloss Eckartsau and in the past decades have worked extensively to restore the castle – parts of which had been in absolute desolate condition – to its former glory.
At the time Eckartsau was erected as a fortification, the castle was in the middle of the wilderness and protected by ditches. At the beginning of the 18th century, in the course of redevelopment and conversion of the castle to the baroque style, two rows of linden trees were planted to form an allée. To the east, this lane stretched into the wetlands, all the way to a mooring spot on the Danube; to the west, it led to the spot where visitors arriving by carriage could be picked up.
Around 1900, Schloss Eckartsau experienced a renewed upswing under Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who found Eckartsau to be ideal for hunting. He refurbished the desolate structure from the ground up and commissioned Anton Umlauft, then imperial and royal director of gardens, to design the landscaped gardens. An even plateau was created where ditches once prevailed; the oval form created by these earth deposits is reflected in the curved paths in the park that wind around Schloss Eckartsau. The two-row linden allée was integrated into the design as an element of order and now forms the border between the wilderness of the Danube wetlands and the cultivated landscape of the Marchfeld.References:
The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.
In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.
The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.
The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.