The golden age of the palace of the Esterházy
family at the present-day Fertod was during the time of Duke Miklós
Esterházy I, who was also known as ‘Nicholas the Magnificent’.
The park, which is made up of gardens, pleasure grounds and woods, is today some 500 acres (about 200 hectares) in extent. Its layout is determined by a ‘goosefoot’ of 3 vistas that radiate out from the central balcony of the palace. Cutting across the parterre and then the ancient woods (called ‘Lés’ Forest), they take the eye out into the countryside beyond. Zinner´s elaborate parterre was simplified, in about 1775, into one of plain grass compartments decorated with statues, vases, fountains, orange trees and some 60,000 flowers. At the southern end of the parterre, on either side of the central vista, two cascades were constructed in 1784-85. In the ‘Lés’ Forest’, which was incorporated into the Baroque layout by being turned into formal groves (bosquets), there were two pairs of temples; one pair was dedicated to Apollo and Diana; the other to Fortune and Venus. There were also fountains, a rose-garden, a hermitage and the ‘Bagatelle’ which took the form of a Chinese-style pavilion.
Following the death of Duke Miklós Esterházy I, in 1790, the ducal court left the palace and it was then abandoned for the space of a century. The famous opera house, a number of other buildings and a large part of the gardens disappeared. Then around 1900 Duke Miklós Esterházy IV and his Duchess Margit (born as Countess Cziráky) renovated the palace and moved back into it.
It was thanks to the Duchess that between 1902 and 1908, the gardens
and grounds were remodelled according to plans of Anton Umlauft, the
Director of the Imperial Gardens at Schönbrunn, Vienna. The work
on the ground included a new, fan-shaped formal parterre with thousands
of flowers and yew-cones (now overgrown). There were also the formal
Privy Gardens on both sides of the palace, and a naturalistic area called ‘The
English Garden’, full of exotic trees. The alterations were directed
by Károly Hulesch, the Chief Gardener to the Duke, who was also
responsible for the design of the Northern Park and ‘Paul’s
Farm’ (The latter garden housed domestic animals for the ducal
The basic structure of the 18th Century Baroque layout (the 3 main radiating
vistas of the ‘goosefoot’ and the avenues around the parterre)
Behind the rose garden and the stable-block, a large and renowned plant nursery was established. It was famous for its achievements in the improvement of fruit during the early 20th century. Based on these traditions, the last ducal head gardener, Aladár Porpáczy, who himself was a specialist in fruit improvement, helped the whole ensemble to survive the post-war decades by establishing a gardening school and a state fruit improvement station in the palace and the grounds in 1946. Later on, in the 1950s, he lobbied for the foundation of the museum in the empty and dilapidated central part of the palace as well.
Today the major part of the palace, the gardens, and the immediate grounds are managed and maintained by MÁG (The Hungarian National Agency for the Ma-nagement of State-Owned Historic Properties) while the ornamental woods are kept by the local forestry office. MÁG has recently begun a programme of step-by-step conservation work and improvement of the gardens and grounds, based on careful research.