On the western outskirts of Graz, Austria, Schloss Eggenberg can be heard squawking for attention. Peacocks roam the palace gardens and grounds screeching in loud high-pitched tones. I squawk back to see what these birds will do. I guess I must sound a lot like a peacock as a few of Schloss Eggenberg’s birds respond to my ear covering song.
On a partly cloudy day in Austria, I lay down on one of Eggenberg’s many benches scattered throughout the gardens. The grass is unbelievably green, making the sky even bluer. A few sounds of thunder ominously grumble, hinting at rain heading towards the castle. The universe and elements are present, just as Prince Hans Ulrich von Eggenberg intended when he commissioned the castle’s construction in 1625.
Eggenberg sat as chief minister to Emperor Ferdinand II. The Schloss was designed to express the powerful rule of the Eggenberg family. However, Eggenberg wanted the castle to showcase a comprehensive architectural allegory. Along with architect Pietro de Pomis, Prince Hans Ulrich laid out the plans like a mathematical and allegorical scheme. The idea was to create a cosmic harmony during an era of chaos.
The harmony is ever-present as I gaze up at the baroque structure. Creamy whites and oranges stand out amongst the greenery that surrounds. Upon entering the structure, a courtyard opens up to the sky, forever hinting at who rules this castle. The four corners of Schloss Eggenberg face in the four cardinal directions of the sun, with the sides of the palace corresponding to the time of day. The floors carry visitors in hierarchical order with everyday life on the ground floor leading up to the ideal world on the highest floors of the castle.
It is the setting of Schloss Eggenberg that brings me harmony on this late afternoon. The gardens look more like a landscape painting jumping off the canvas. A Rose Mound winds up to a small gazebo type covering with a romantic bench. While not a part of the original design, in 1835 Jerome Herberstein constructed an artificial hill lined with roses. Today 300 historic roses, 400 conifers, 2,500 shrubs and 4,000 bulbs make up this artificial hill, offering a view at the same height as those ideal world floors of the castle.
I am reminded on the Rose Mound that seemingly the ideal world can be created in the form of rose bushes on a hill. A few of my friends, those shrieking peacocks, block the path back down from the mound. It is almost as though they do not want me to come down from such great heights. Frankly I would not mind staying on top of the world surrounded by roses, but those thunder grumbles are now producing rain and I must come down.
I looked today with rose-colored glasses at Schloss Eggenberg. While peaceful and ideal there are still those reminders the glasses must come off. One of which, those squawking peacocks remind me to leave. I am on their turf.
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