MONDAY, 26th June
Like most visitors to Vienna, Austria, SCHONBRUNN Palace was high on my list of places to visit so, together with Pat and Erika, we set aside this day to enjoy visiting the place we had viewed in books, travel programmes and brochures. Since the mid-1950s the Palace has been a major tourist attraction. Eight million people visit the Palace, Park and its attractions each year.
The Palace is a symbol of the power and influence of the House of Habsburg over a long period of European history from the end of the 17th to the early 20th century. It is a former imperial summer residence and the 1,441-room baroque palace is one of the most important architectural, cultural and historical monuments in the country. The name Schonbrunn, meaning”beautiful spring”, has its roots in an artesian well from which water was consumed by the court. The Palace in its present form was built and remodelled during the 1740-50s during the reign of Empress Maria Theresa who received the estate as a wedding gift. Franz l commissioned the redecoration of the palace exterior in the neoclassical style as it appears today. The buildings and the gardens are owned by the Republic of Austria . Emperor Franz Joseph was born in the palace in 1830. In 1916 he also died there in his bed at the age of 86.
We purchased tickets for the Grand Tour of the Palace (with audio guide) to learn about the Viennese dynasty and to get a glimpse into the old imperial world. We walked through the elaborate themed rooms from Sisi’s private chambers and beauty salon to the Marie Antoinette room which was used to host family dinners.
THE GLORIETTE (from the 12th century French gloire meaning “little room”) is a building in a garden erected on a site that is elevated with respect to the surroundings. At Schonbrunn it is a colonnaded building flanked by wings and arches and topped with an imperial eagle (very impressive). The views over the gardens and palace from this unique vantage point are spectacular. The inner hall was originally used as a dining room in the 19th century and now is a lovely cafe area. We chose to sit at one of the outdoor tables to enjoy our coffee and cake.
SACHERTORTE – It was an opportunity for me to taste one of the most famous Viennese culinary specialties. It is a specific type of chocolate cake, or torte, invented by Austrian Franz Sachertorte in 1832 for Prince Wendell von Metternich in Vienna.
ORANGERY GARDEN – measuring 189m in length, the Orangery is one of the two largest Baroque orangeries in the world, alongside the one in the Palace of Versailles on the outskirts of Paris. Franz Joseph ll used to use his Orangery or, as it was called, the ‘winter garden’ for imperial court festivities where he would decorate the citrus trees with exotic flowers to impress his guests! The cultivation of exotic plants in tubs goes back to the early eighteenth century.
PRIVY GARDEN – the Privy Garden lies immediately in front of the east facade of the Palace.The four parterre sections are framed with narrow beds and at the centre is an old Yew Tree. As the garden is sheltered from the wind, fine specimens from the citrus collection of the Federal Parks Authority are transferred here during the summer months.
VIENNESE APPLE STRUDELSHOW – Erika and I watched a young baker from the Imperial Bakery of Schonbrunn bake “traditional, classic, typical Viennese apple strudel – probably the best in town”. We watched as the chef rolled and pulled the dough until it became paper thin (see through). End result – YUMMY, and I can vouch for that.
The Park at Schonbrunn was opened to the Public around 1779 and since then has provided a popular recreational amenity for the Viennese population as well as being a focus of great cultural and historical interest for international visitors like us. It extends for 1.2 kms from east to west and approximately one km from north to south.
Another day incorporating all recognised methods of perception – seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling. What joy to learn so much through these God-given senses.