Monday, October 12, 2015

A day at Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna

First stop of the day 2 in Vienna was Schonbrunn Palace. Vienna has lots of nice palaces (Hofburg and Belvedere to name a few) but we didn't have time to visit all, so I chose the one that came most recommended. I again booked the tickets well in advance at which was very useful as the ticket queue was fairly long when we reached the venue.

Palace Facade
Schönbrunn Palace, the former summer residence of the imperial family, is one of Europe's most impressive Baroque palace complexes. It has 1441 rooms and gardens extending for 1.2 km from east to west and 1 km from north to south. Both the palace and gardens were placed together on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1996.

We had opted for the Grand Tour that in addition to the state rooms and private apartments of the imperial couple allows access to the precious 18th-century interiors from the time of Maria Theresia - all in all 40 rooms. The rooms, shown to the public, are mostly decorated in Rococo style. Most of the walls and ceilings are covered with white-lacquered surfaces with ornamentation covered with gold leaf.

Bohemian crystal chandeliers and white porcelain tile stoves are also part of the harmonious design. The living quarters and offices used by Emperor Francis Joseph are simple and very unpretentious; by contrast, the state rooms and guestrooms are much more lavish. And of course there is a Hall of Mirrors, where in 1772, six-year-old child prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart gave a concert. Photography is not permitted inside most of the rooms and so absorbed was in the beauty of it all, that I decided it's better to soak it in than click pictures.

By the time we were finished with the Grand Tour, it was almost noon and the sun was almost at its peak - honestly not the best time to the visit the one square km garden. But since the palace and its grounds form a unit and reflect each other, the visit would have been incomplete without visiting the gardens. 
Water ponds in the Garden

As expected the gardens are really beautiful. There are French Gardens called the Great Parterre which also contain a 630 m long maze in a classic hedge design. Adjoining this is the labyrinth, a playground with games, climbing equipment and a giant mirror kaleidoscope.

The Gardens also have a zoo, an Orangerie, palm house and a botanical garden. But we were more interested in exploring the Gloriette (a building in a garden erected on a site that is elevated with respect to the surroundings). The Gloriette at Schonbrunn is on a hill at a height of 200 ft and houses a café and an observation deck, which provides panoramic views of the city.

Sun Fountain

As we left the labyrinth for the Gloriette, first stop on our was was the original Schöner Brunnen fountain, from which the palace gained its name. It pours through the stone pitcher of a nymph near the Roman ruins.

View of palace as one moves towards Gloriette

Life saver on  that hot day!
It was quite a walk to the Gloriette as it was a very hot afternoon and uphill walk is never easy. But the cold beer at the Cafe turned out to be a perfect reward at the end of the walk. 

View of Palace & City from Gloriette

After spending a good part of the hour at the cafe, we stepped out to enjoy the view. The view from the Gloriette, looking back towards the palace with Vienna shimmering in the distance was simply amazing!
View of Gloriette back from the palace

After a while we slowly made our way back to the palace, trying to walk in shade wherever we could find some. I wanted to visit the Orangerie and the zoo but the sizzling temperatures were to tough to handle and we decided to skip the same and boarded the subway back to the city. 

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