I'm a bit behind, since I worked all weekend and didn't have time to blog, but perhaps I can catch up a bit this evening. Last Sunday (August 8th) I went on a wine country tour of sorts, with some other YSSPers as well as a number of staff from IIASA. We rode from place to place on a bus. One of the nice things about Austria is that it is apparently not against the law for passengers to drink alcohol; I'm not sure if this applies to passenger cars or not, but it certainly seems to apply to buses, and you can also drink alcohol on the streetcars (although not, I think someone said, on the U-Bahn?) Anyhow, we started our wine tour with mimosas, courtesy of the organizers:
Our first stop was the town of Grafenegg...
...where there is (surprise, surprise) a schloss. So naturally we got a tour of it, and it was quite pretty. It's a funny mixture of many different architectural and decorative styles, having been built and renovated and altered many times over the years. At first we just looked around the outside a bit, because it wasn't open yet:
Then we went for a walk around the gardens surrounding the schloss:
A few comments may be in order. The first photo is of an outdoor stage near the castle, which provided quite a sharp contrast in style. The third photo is obviously of the TARDIS, although we didn't see Dr. Who. The fourth is of a Sequoiadendron giganteum, or giant sequoia, a tree I know fondly from California, apparently planted here as a novelty. Big shout out to Bill and Vida and Calaveras Big Trees State Park!
Back to the schloss, now getting to go inside. First some initial shots of the exterior, and an interior courtyard::
Now we go into a chapel inside the schloss, with the most amazing bright blue ceiling, as well as beautiful carved wood details:
Now out of the chapel and back into the rest of the schloss. The first photo of this next batch may be my favorite photo that I've taken thus far in Austria, I just love it. I'm just going to let the photos speak for themselves for the rest of the schloss tour:
Just amazing. As you can see, this schloss is particularly strong in the ceiling department, but incredible details were everywhere. A few photos worth commenting on:
That's the library, which had lots of old volumes by and/or about Lenin, Stalin, Marx, etc., interestingly, as well as sheet music handwritten by various Austrian composers (although I don't think any were originals). This is a heater; these hulking porcelain heaters were in most of the rooms:
And finally, here is a bathroom, with a recessed bathtub:
OK, enough of that! Onward to lunch! We went to a fairly ordinary roadside restaurant and had surprisingly good food. A YSSPer named Stefan borrowed my camera and took some portraits with it:
Clearly Stefan has a fallback career if academia turns out badly. :-> I only photographed the soup course, and then quite forgot to get photos of the rest:
Now we went on to a place called Heldenberg, which has a number of things going on. For one, it is the summer home of the Lippizaner stallions, and we toured their stables and got some lecturing about their pedigree and so forth. Here are some photos of Lippizaners:
They start out brown, go through gray, and eventually become white when they are mature; so the second photo shows a youngish one, if I understood correctly. It was certainly a frisky one; it seemed to be considering whether a well-aimed kick might not open its door to freedom, and it cast many of those wild-eyed looks that horses are so good at.
Heldenberg also has a sort of Celtic Village business that I skipped, since I felt fairly sure it would be identical to the Celtic Village seen some weeks ago. And it has a sculpture garden:
That's Stefan, having borrowed someone else's camera. There were jokes all day about how he would borrow your camera, take one or two hundred photos in a remarkably short period of time, completely fill up your card, and then innocently return it to you as if nothing had happened. The last photo was generally agreed to be a sculpture of an ancestor of Glenn, a YSSPer with a fine handlebar moustache. And the first photo shows, off in the distance, a golden statue on a very high pedestal (not the angel, but further off); here's a closeup:
It is, indeed, apparently a sculpture of someone's rather shapely tuchus. The front of the statue is not visible or accessible; there is forest beyond. The rear end is what faces the sculpture garden. And that was the end of Heldenberg.
Now, finally, we got to the wine tour part of the wine tour. It was held in a winery that was utterly nondescript from the street (first photo); I didn't see a sign of any kind. It's a father and son operation; you can see them in the second photo. We got the usual tour of the bottling room, the cellars, etc.:
After the tour, we sat at some long tables and tasted wine and ate food. Here's the food we ate:
That's the plate of food per person. It was pretty much meat, meat and more meat. I think I may have serendipitously captured Regina's expression at the moment when the realization sank in that we were each expected to eat a half a pound of sliced meat:
Even Aapo looks slightly grave there, but he polished off his plate within five minutes or so. I think I'm the only other person who finished. The wines were a mixed bag; overall I haven't been particularly impressed by Austrian wine, but this dry Muscat was fairly nice:
At this point Stefan borrowed my camera again:
I'm pretty sure Elisabeth wants that photo posted to the web; the world needs to see that facial expression. :->
And that was it for the day. We tottered off to the bus, rode for maybe an hour (I have no idea how long it took actually) back to Vienna, and that was that. Here's a photo of the outside of the winery, as we were leaving. Doesn't it look like an apartment building?
Can't end with that. OK, here's the church down the street from the winery:
Ah, that's more like it.