Why are all baroque castles in Austria painted yellow? (I actually have no idea, I need to ask my father.) But seriously, it’s funny that they are all painted in the same shade: a bright, saturated, slightly orangey yellow (sometimes it’s already a bit faded). The castles which are located in the Marchfeld (an area north of Vienna, with a lot of agriculture, “Austria’s granary”) are no exception. I visited a couple of them some weeks ago, while my parents were coming for a visit.
Our first stop was Schloss Orth (not to be confused with the one in Gmunden!). There was an interactive exhibition about Orth and its history. Orth is also called the “Gateway to the Wetlands” and we actually went there because of the park behind the castle – they created a small theme park about the Danube and its floodplains. There were ponds with native turtles and water snakes, an enclosure with some strictly protected Ziesel (ground squirrels) and frogs everywhere. From tiny to big, almost toad-like ones. At first, we played “Spot the frog” and then “Catch the frog”…. After a lot of failed attempts I actually caught one! Needless to say, my niece loved it. But she was especially intrigued by the underwater observatory: They built it inside a pond, so you could see all the fish and the plants and everything like in an aquarium – but a “real” one.
Next, we visited Eckartsau – the most beautiful castle of them all. It is often rented for weddings and I can totally see why. Again, there was a small exhibition about hunting in Danube’s floodplains – all the castles used to be hunting lodges for the aristocrats. Some of them must have been truly obsessed with it… There was a room stuffed with trophies, all shot by one person. So sad, but at the same time strangly fascinating. All the animals that used to live in this area! Thank god it is a protected zone now.
After lunch at a Heuriger (wine tavern would be a good translation), we stopped at Niederweiden, but it was closed – it’s only open once a week and there was a renovation going on.
So we continued to Marchegg – our last stop. This castle is famous for the storks that come here every year. And we saw so many! They were everywhere, some trees had 4 nests – all with young storks, not yet quite ready to fly. Maybe they are now. As we sat on one of the observing platforms, we saw two foxes approaching two storks that were hunting for frogs (?) in the meadow. That was exciting! My brother brought some binoculars, so we could follow what was happening. But actually nothing happened. At the beginning the storks were very nervous, trying to move away and the foxes came closer. But then the birds flew a bit further down the gras and the foxes gave up. One of them was very small, so probably not yet experienced enough to take up the challenge of a real hunt.
It was a wonderful day with my favourite people. In retrospect, well worth the heat in the car and missing the GB Grand Prix, I think!