Ghosts, Heiße Liebe, and Beethoven

I’m pretty sure that Austria is my favorite place in the world. Ok, Austria/Germany. But I haven’t been to Germany recently, so Austria is currently in the top spot. (Wiener schnitzel fast food joints. I love it.) A few years ago I attended the Classical Music Festival in Eisenstadt, Austria, and it was the most amazing experience ever. I went with two other students from Weber State, Gabrielle Cox and Courtney Bullard, our violin professor Dr. Wang, and Gabrielle’s mom Emilie.

Here I am with Gabrielle, posing by one of the concert posters. For the Gala concert we performed Haydn’s Der Sturm, Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. 

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These are a few of the many delicious flavor of ice cream that contributed to my expanding waistline. (Totally worth it.) I probably ate ice cream at least twice a day. One of my favorites was Heiße Liebe, or “Hot Love.” It was ice cream with hot strawberry sauce and strawberries. Hot love indeed.

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The Festival Chorus and Orchestra performed as part of the Sunday mass at St. Stephan’s Cathedral in Vienna. (This is the view from my chair.) Mozart was married here, the organ was the most incredible thing I have ever heard, and the catacombs were incredibly fascinating. Music and bones.

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Ice was almost impossible to find. At this particular cafe, we didn’t even have to ask for it- hence our happy faces.

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Bones! Or, to be more specific, St. Constantine. He is a 2000 year old Roman soldier who is on display in the chapel at the palace.

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Eisenstadt! If you follow the road you end up in the Fußgängerzone, or pedestrian zone.

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This is Schloss Esterhazy, where Haydn was employed by the Esterhazy family. We rehearsed and performed here.

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This picture was taken at the back of the palace, where the main entrance is now. There is a huge park at the front, complete with a pool, tennis courts, walking paths, etc. There is a gazebo/shrine/temple up the hill away, and from there you get an amazing view of the palace.

On our last night, we decided to pull an all-nighter. The bus that would take us to the airport was scheduled to leave at 3:00 in the morning anyway, so we chose to stay up all night and sleep on the plane. Around midnight we got bored of the Hungarian soap operas that were on TV, so we went for a last walk around town. We started by walking up to the old Jewish cemetery, where the broken old tombstones leaned and tipped against each other. The grass grew wild in between the slabs of stone, and the etching was obscured by years of weather and moss. This place is pretty creepy in the daylight, let alone at night when the city is silent and dark. (Because buildings in Austria don’t typically have air conditioning, everyone sleeps with their windows open. There is a city curfew to reduce noise during the night.) To be honest, looking at the graves spooked us, and we headed down the lane towards the park behind the palace. Everything was dark, except for the temple on the hill that looked down on the palace. The temple was well lit, so we headed up the footpath towards it. 

The atmosphere at the cemetery was left behind as we sat in the glowing light of the temple. We could only see the silhouette of the palace below us as we talked. After a while, I looked back at the palace, and I could see light shining through one of the windows. I asked the others if that light had been on the whole time, and we couldn’t remember. We continued our conversation while keeping an eye out, and a few minutes later, another window lit up. Ok, I will admit, after visiting the cemetery and wandering around in the dark- I was spooked by the fact that lights were randomly turning on in the palace. (I wasn’t the only one nervous one. For the record, we were all feeling a bit skittish.) The conversation halted as we fixed our attention on the newly lit window. My brain was going a million miles a minute as we nervously began to ask questions. Who is turning lights on? Why would someone be in the palace at one in the morning? Is someone squatting in the attic? Maybe it was the spirit of St. Constantine, the 2000 year old Roman who was displayed in a glass coffin in the chapel?

My frazzled nerves were on the verge of collapsing when I saw a figure walk past the window. We began to panic, realizing that from the figures point of view we were the only things visible in the dark. We started to debate on whether or not we needed to leave, and it was right at this moment that the figure came back to the window and remained standing (floating?!?) there. Whatever was standing in the window remain perfectly still as it watched us. Someone mentioned something about the fact that we were being silly, it couldn’t be a ghost. I, ever the realist, responded with- “I may not believe in ghosts, but I do believe in murderers and serial killers.” Then the debate began. Do we leave now? Do we let the figure leave first? I knew that I was about to lose it, and I definitely wanted to make my move before St. Constantine did. I said as much out loud, and we all got up and turned to get back to the footpath. I thought chaos would break out when Courtney started running, but we caught up to her and began making our way down the footpath. There are only so many ways to say that it was dark, but it was, and the only way of staying on the path was listening for the sound of gravel versus grass and trying to avoid the trees and bushes that lined the path. The four of us walked arm in arm back to the road and up the Haus de Begegnung. (Our hotel.)

I imagine, if you are still reading this, that you are amazed that someone could be so ridiculous. This doesn’t sound scary at all. What ghost? Who are you, crazy person? There are a million reasons why a perfectly normal, well-adjusted person would be in the palace at one in the morning. For example, a security officer. My mom pointed that out to me when I told her the story, and I felt like an idiot. However, it was completely terrifying. For me.

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One last picture for you- here we are in front of Haydn’s house. If you have made it to the end of this particularly verbose post, I commend you. Maybe it wasn’t about music, necessarily, but I have been so blessed with amazing opportunities because of music. Ghosts and ice cream. I’m telling you, this is the life.

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