Cities / Towns Visited: 27
Countries Visited: 10
Steps Taken Today: 21,556
Steps Taken Around the World: 1,097,160
As we still hadn’t managed to become sick of royal abodes, we rose with a single item on the agenda for the day; Schonbrunn Palace, the Habsburg’s summer residence during their reign. We decided, as the sun was shining and the morning air was cool, we would walk the hour long trek. Just when it began to feel like we’d never arrive, we slipped through the gates, and headed down one of the many long paths which weave through the massive, almost Versailles like acreage. We approached the palace from the side, and as we walked through one of the arches under the left wing, we were delivered into the massive open yard to the front. The morning heat, radiating from the gravelled ground, and the sunlight bouncing off the yellow walls of the wings that encompass the space on three sides, warmed the space immensely, as a scattering of tourists posed for their obligatory selfies and generally milled around.
Locating the entrance to the state rooms, we checked our bags and stowed our cameras, as once more there was no photography allowed. This seems to be a common occurrence in this part of the world is any attraction which harbours large numbers of visitors, and although I understand it is to improve flow rates, it is saddening to know you will come out of it without a few pictures to jog your memory years from now when the photos in your head fade. As we moved through the rooms, it resembled very much their city residence. Room after room of ornate frescoed ceilings, elaborate gilded fixtures and chandeliers, plush silk covered chairs, beautiful period furniture, and literally thousands of paintings. Every room a different colour scheme, a different theme, some even skewing off to the oriental style which became popular with the expansion of trading to the East. There was entire rooms lined with Japanese and Chinese inspired panelling, and fine porcelain. It screamed elegance and excess. It was everything you’d expect from a palace you would seek pleasure from in the warmer months. With mirrored rooms bringing the light in from the garden, and in and of itself the sprawling gardens to the rear of the building, it was not hard to see why Marie Antoinette (the daughter of the Habsburg empress Maria Theresa) loved the Palace of Versailles so much, and why she had many parts of it expanded or added to. She was living in her own little Habsburg retreat in her kingdom in France, she was taking her home with her. The only restrained area was, once again, Emperor Franz Joseph’s rooms, which matched his minimalistic attitude toward decorating as at the Hofburg Palace. Once we’d finished exploring and committing as much to memory as humanly possible, we wandered back out.
We were starting to get peckish, as the sun passed into the west of the sky, and thus we ventured to scope out the cafes and restaurants of the grounds to see what was on offer. Eventually we settled on the casual dining option beside the carriage museum. Once more, we opted for Austrian dishes, as it seems wrong to order pizza or pasta at a royal Austrian residence. We indulged in a two course meal of Wiener schnitzel, and beef goulash; followed by kaiserschmaarn (torn pancakes with plum compote, a favourite of Emperor Franz Joseph), and topfenstrudel (a quark version of the traditional dish we all associate with apple, which kind of tastes liked baked cheesecake wrapped in filo pastry). With our hunger adequately subdued, we continued.
At this point, of course, it was time to pay the gardens a little love. Wandering through the rose garden to the side of the palace, and literally stopping to smell the flowers, we headed toward the rear of the residence. As we came through the trees we were faced with a scene that would make any artistic soul weep with joy. From the rear entrance of the palace spread a beautifully manicured garden, flanked with statues of gods. As you looked past this, your eyes were drawn to a fabulously large fountain, and thus we scurried towards it. As you neared, the sculptures came into focus, and the name Neptune’s Fountain immediately made perfect sense. At the top of the waterfall sits a massive statue of the Roman god of the sea, Neptune, flanked by the sea goddess Thetis, and a nymph. To the sides are four Tritons (sea soldiers) on Hippocampi (the better version of a seahorse, that pull Neptune’s seashell chariot). The water cascades down into a tranquil pool at the bottom, and you are able to go up to an alcove behind the water for a unique view back to the palace.
As you turn back away from the Palace, and you look up the hill behind, you can see the Gloriette, in all its…well, glory I suppose. With its colomned arches and marble eagle statue adorning the top, it stands proudly at the crest of the hill. As you reach it, although it in and of itself is beautiful, the true reward is behind you, and you are faced with an incredible view down over the Palace and gardens, and past it to the city sprawling out into the distance. We sat a while, basking in the landscape.
From here we weaved through the trees flanking the hill, and meandered lazily around the extensive gardens, stumbling upon many a statue and fountain hidden in the greenery, as well as some purpose built Roman ruins, to feed the desires of one of the emperors, and a fountain with a similar feel, made to be it’s sister piece. You could wander around the grounds for days and still not see it all, and it all just felt so reminiscent of Versailles, except with less of a crush of people. After an hour or so we wandered back to the palace. We considered visiting the carriage museum, but with the price being a little more than we were willing to pay we decided to pass on it. Besides the sun was hanging low and we were weary.
We caught the train back, dropping into the supermarket on the way home, and whipping up a quick meal before settling into bed. As my mind slipped into the realm of daydreaming, I pondered what it would have been like to live in the upper class world of yesteryear, when the wealthy spent their days simply swanning around, throwing extravagant parties, and playing the perpetual game of ‘Look at what I have!’. History romanticises it all of course, and we love to believe that it was all glamour and frivolity, but in a world where people bathed sporadically, pissed in a pot, died of ailments which we can fix with a simple tablet today, and the women were lacking in any rights and were expected to conform to a highly submissive role of being seen and not heard, would we even survive, let alone enjoy, this world, should we be placed back in it. It’s a no from me.