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Published: December 15th 2008
Navigated the metro enough to be able to reach Schönbrunn Palace on the outskirts of Vienna today. I make that sound harder than it actually was, amazingly it was literally one train with no changes - London could learn a lot from the tube system here!
I have decided, as of today, that I need to live in Schönbrunn. That's need, not want. Palaces are all very beautiful more or less but Schönbrunn I could actually see myself living in. Just the right size, nicely situated and, most importantly, yellow!
Maria Theresa obviously had a stroke of genius when she decided to rebuild the small hunting lodge that used to stand where Schönbrunn now does and paint it the lovely buttercup yellow that it's so famous for. Apparently the design ws based on the Palace of Versailles in Paris but in my personal opinion it manages to actually be live-able unlike the rather too grand Versailles.
Spent the first half hour trying to get decent shots of the front of the palace - a near impossibility. Schönbrunn receives over two and a half million visitors annually and on a sunny day in summer it was virtually impossible to
get a shot ithout a hundred and one tourists in the view.
With our wonderful student cards (I am seriously considering remaining a student for life!) we bought tickets for the state rooms and private apartments of Franz Josef and Sisi as well as those of Maria Theresa and Franz Stephen along with the Privy Garden, Gloriette and Maze. Really can't argue with all that for 14 euros! Wish things like the Tower of London would be so cheap!
Started the tour in the imperial apartments of Maria Theresa and her family before going onto the 'Sisi' apartments. Vienna is obsessed with Sisi - just strikes me as a slightly weird, anorexic spoilt little brat really although admittedly she had the right idea about never being photographed or painted after the age of thirty - no one can ever remember her as anything other than young and beautiful now I guess.
You can buy literally everything with her face plastered on it, although I will admit I find the replicas of her famous 'star' jewellery rather tempting if hideously tacky.
No photography within the palace of course although the ground were enough camara fodder - I
managed to get over 200 photos just of the outside and gardens.
While Maria Theresa was responsible for the rebuilding and appointment of the palace, her consort, Emperor Franz I Stephan of Lorraine, together with the circle of Lotharingian artists he had gathered around him, applied himself to the designing of the gardens.
Schönbrunn's Baroque gardens were intended to be an impressive symbol of imperial power, and were seen as an external continuation of the magnificent interiors of the palace.
In the 19th century, the Dutch Garden laid out by Franz Stephan in 1753 for his collection of plants was turned into a landscape garden in the English style.
Between 1880 and 1882 the Great Palm House, a monumental glasshouse construction, was built within the grounds and the surrounding gardens laid out. The nearby Sundial House, the last building project of the imperial dynasty, was erected in 1904 to house the ever-expanding collection of exotic plants.
We walked around the formal gardens before heading up the hill to see the Gloriette for a view over the city. Maria Theresa decided Gloriette to be designed to glorify Habsburg's power and ordered it to be built with
"otherwise useless stone" which was left from the almost-demolition of Schloss Neugebäude. Same material was also used for the Roman ruin which is stuck rather randomly in the middle of the gardens.
Very pretty even if the gardens were swarming with tourists by this point.
Even from a distance there were always people in bright colours who seemed to dominate photos - exactly the same at Machu Picchu with seemingly everyone in bright red coats! Perfect way to ruin other people's pictures - I think there should be a traveller's dress code of all pale or neutral colours!
We decided not to visit the zoo (despite very cute pictures of the baby panda outside) as there simply wasn't enough time. Like the Botanic Garden at Schönbrunn, the Menagerie was originally founded by Emperor Franz Stephan, who had a profound interest in natural history.
Based on designs by his court architect Nicolas Jadot dating to 1751, a menagerie was constructed consisting of thirteen animal enclosures arranged radially around a central pavilion. The enclosures were completed by 1752 but the central pavilion was not finished until 1759.
Instead we popped next door to try the maze. The
Maze at was laid out between 1698 and 1740 and consisted of four different parts with a central (probably elevated) pavilion from which the maze could be seen as a whole. During the 19th century the Maze was gradually abandoned until in 1892 the last remaining hedges were felled.
In autumn 1998 a new maze extending over 1.715 m2 with a viewing platform at its centre was laid out taking the historical model into account where possible. The new maze is still quite fun although seemingly no-where near as large or as easy to get lost in as the one at Hampton Court although admittedly I was a lot smaller when I last visited that one!
The beautiful sunny weather we had had whilst inside the house was starting to give way to rain (typical isn't it?!) so we made a quick visit to the Palm House at the other end of the grounds. We got more distracted by the numerous red squirrels that were running around (a rarity now in England) and even more bizarrely, a bunch of black squirrels.
I assume they were just a variant on the red squirrels as they were the same
size. Chased them all over the garden but still didn't manage to get a decent photo. I guess I'll have to be content with the boring old grey ones at home.
Managed to make it back to the main house to visit the Privy Gardens, the last thing on our tickets before closing time. Actually very beautiful, kind of a mini-version of the main formal gardens known in German as the Crown Prince Rudolf Garden, named around 1870, after apartments had been furnished for Crown Prince Rudolf on the ground floor of the wing.
The immediately adjacent section of the gardens goes by the curious name of "On the Cellar" and is one of the oldest parts of the gardens at Schönbrunn.
It was laid out directly above the cellar of the court kitchen, which was constructed around 1700. At the centre of the tripartite parterre with its elaborate design based on embroidery patterns, is an octagonal pool.
This section of the garden is surrounded by a horseshoe-shaped pergola with five trellis-work pavilions leading to the Gazebo from where it was possible to see the flower bed designs from above.
Hopped on the metro home
(now really quite adepted at it) before having a well deserved break and food. Visited a church near to our hostel in the evening, with a statue commemorating Josef Haydn - it's crazy here, you can't go anywhere without finding some tourist site or place of historical interest.
Definitely one of the most beautiful European cities and, more importantly, on of the most compact and easy to navigate. My feet are still killing me though!
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