Trip Start Dec 18, 2008
25Trip End Jan 15, 2009
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Where I stayed
Derag Hotel And Living Hotel Kaiser Franz Joseph
Day 2 Using the sehr sehr (and very) efficient Austrian rail system, we went to Schoenbrunn - the Hapsburg's imperial summer palace.Superb. Spent the day there touring the interior and exterior and visiting the world's oldest zoo .... complete with Pandas. This menagerie was founded in 1752.
Whilst it was freezing cold, it was beautifully fine weather and we all enjoyed it. The palace looked amazing in the mid afternoon sun, it's painted in what is known as "Schoenbrunn Yellow", and is constructed in strict symmetry (typical Austrians which is why they didn't appreciate the hippy architect Hundertwasser.. see next entry). Similar in scale to Versailles.
On the hill behind the palace is the "Gloriette" a neo-classical arcade built in 1775...this is the crowning gloryof the Schoenbrunn- overlooking the magnificent gardens (which were not exactly in bloom given it's winter) and providing fantastic views of the palace across the pond and pebble alleyways of the gardens.
Met an Aussie in the queue to tour the interior, a finance guru from the mining sector in Western Australia - and yes, he'd just lost his job!
The interior was full of Rococo decorative designs in the state rooms - very sumptuous, ornamental panelling. Great idea having a mobile electronic guide telling you about each room. Franz Josef's work ethic was something else.. phenomenal - he lived relatively frugally given the surroundings and he actually loved his wife the Empress Elizabeth (known as Sissy) but it was not reciprocal.
The Vieux-Lacque room and the Round Chinese Cabinet (Maria-Theresa's) and the Millionen Zimmer were totally OTT !!!The tragic story of Napoleon's son with Maria Louisa - and the raising of Marie Antoinette -provided other human touches.
Had lunch in a restaurant within the palace grounds between the visit the interior and the exterior - Schnitzel but not as we know it, covered in potatoes. Very trad for eastern europe but despite the tender meat and great service was not that enjoyable. Matt had an Osterreich bier und was sehr happy with that concept!!
As daylight faded, we visited the zoo and then from the palace got a great view of the Gloriette. Missed out on the Palm House and the Coach Museum.. and of course the famous maze was closed as you could see through it!! The marble statues along the garden pathways were all covered up for winter too but you got a real sense of the place.Shame the Hapsburgs were so dysfunctional ... might be a good idea to not inter-marry.
Then it was onto the crowded Christmas markets in front of the palace, where you couldn't get close to the stands. Leigh saw some baubles that were beautiful but getting to them was tough - and getting them home might be impossible. It was Sunday night and clearly this is what the Viennese do. The crowd was in a good mood and you almost had the idea that this was the real Austrian Christmas experience. But quite commercial. Started to get really cold.. maybe snow overnight?
Photos to follow