Festetics Palace (Helikon Museum), Keszthely
The construction of the palace was commissioned by Kristóf Festetics in 1745, originally the building had 34 rooms. In the 18th and 19th centuries it was renovated and expanded three times resulting in a palace with 101 rooms.
Today, the palace houses a museum and a conference center. In the 18 rooms that can be visited freely, we can get a glimpse of the life of noblemen of the period. Also, we can see the Helikon Library, learn about the founding of the Georgikon, the first first agricultural higher education institution in Europe, and the history of the Helikon Celebratons. In 2005 the Balaton Wine House was opened in the cellar system of the palace.
Since 2000, the Keszthely Summer Games, one of the largest theater event of the Balaton is held in the park.
The separate wing for the collection of the library was commissioned by György Festetics I at the turn of the 18th-19th centuries. Today it is the only intact aristocratic private library in Hungary.
Among the more than 80 000 volumes, there are rarities such as the first edition of the Chronica Hungarorum by János Thuróczy from 1488, the oldest book of the library.
It is fortunate that while the other parts of the castle got looted and ruined during World War II, the library survived intact. This is due to the fact that the captain of the soldiers occupying Keszthely, who was a scholar in Latin, immediately recognized the value of the library and protected it from being looted. He ordered the most precious paintings, statues and furniture of the palace to be collected and put in the library, then he walled up the entrance so no one can access the cultural treasures. This is why the objects and books remained in perfect condition in their original place during the war.
Besides the many books, the library also holds the design drafts and maquette of the Phoenix galley of György Festetics, which was the first large sailing boat on the Balaton.
Today the 7,5 hectares large park of the palace is a protected area with many exotic species of trees some of which have been planted in the time of György Festetics. The oldest tree in the park is a 400 year old oak.
The Festetics Palace is surrounded by a French formal garden but there is also an English landscape garden behind the building. Located in the garden is the stable and carriage house where today the visitors can see a carriage exhibition, the orangery with Mediterranean and tropical plants, and also the statue of György Festetics I alongside other statues and a fountain.
The carriage house and stable, built in the 1880's, holds an exhibition of 54 carriages, coaches and horse drawn sleighs, all typical of the 18th-19th century noblemen's life. Unique exhibits are the travel carriage of Archduchess Marie Valerie of Austria, a coach used in the park by Franz Ferdinand and also the tilbury of Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria.
The orangery was built in 1880 by Count Tasziló Festetics II for the palm trees and larger plants of the palace. Today it holds the second largest plumeria hybrid collection with over 200 specimens, a huge, 500 specimens collection of hibiscuses, and many other rare plants.
Official website of the palace: www.helikonkastely.hu/en