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Burg Kreuzenstein Review
Castle lovers, prepare yourself. Seemingly lifted from the pages of a Germanic fairy tale, Burg Kreuzenstein, bristling with storybook turrets and towers, might have made Albrecht Dürer drop his sketch pad. Sitting atop a hillside 3 km (2 mi) beyond Korneuburg along Route 3, "Castle Cross-stone," in fact, is a 19th-century architectural fantasy built to conjure up "the last of the knights"—Emperor Maximilian I himself. Occupying the site of a previously destroyed fort, the enormous structure was built by Count Nepomuk Wilczek between 1879 and 1908 to house his collection of late-Gothic art objects and armor, including the "Brixner Cabinet" dating from 15th-century Salzburg. Using old elements and Gothic and Romanesque bits and pieces, the castle was carefully laid out according to the rules of yore, complete with a towering Burgtor, "kennel" corridor (where attackers would have been cornered), Gothic arcades, and tracery parapet walls. The Burghof courtyard, with its half-timbered facade and Baltic loggia, could be a stand-in for a stage set for Wagner's Tannhäuser. Inside, the medieval thrills continue with rooms full of armaments, a festival and banquet hall, a library, a stained-glass chapel (available for weddings), vassal kitchens, and the Narwalzahn, a room devoted to hunting trophies (if you've ever wanted to see a "unicorn horn," here's your chance). Guided tours are available on the hour.
A group of falconers keeps peregrine falcons and other birds of prey near the castle grounds. Eagles and falcons take flight, hunt, and return to their trainer's arm with the catch at least twice a day, taking part in a sport that goes back nearly 4,000 years. Shows, which run from April through October, are scheduled every day except Monday at 11 am and 3 pm and on Sunday at 11 am and 2 and 4 pm. Tickets cost €7.50 each.
It is possible to reach Kreuzenstein from Vienna via the suburban train (S-Bahn) to Leobendorf, followed by a ¾-hour hike up to the castle. Until recently, the town of Korneuburg was the center of Austrian shipbuilding, where river passenger ships, barges, and transfer cranes were built to order for Russia, among other customers. Stop for a look at the imposing neo-Gothic city hall (1864), which dominates the central square and towers over the town.
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