Today we were thieves…and not the accidental thieves of yesterday, but thieves with full knowing of their thievery. By this we are referring to the fact that we didn’t pay for breakfast again. We just walked in, took our food, ate, and left. No tickets involved. We are such rebels 😉
After beginning our life of crime we set off for the metro. Today we rode the metro a lot (and got good use out of the 48 hour passes we bought). We actually rode 4 of the 5 lines at some point during the day…sometimes within a spance of an hour. On this occasion we took it to Schönbrunn. Among the palaces in Europe, Schönbrunn comes closest to Versailles. This palace was the former summer residence of the Habsburg’s….remember them from yesterday?
The palace tour took us through a vaierty of state rooms. The general feel of the palace was quite similar to the Hofburg, although bigger & a tad more luxurious. Its funny how these monarchs made their summer homes more grand than the ones they lived in the majority of the year. The walls all carried a shining white base with gold trim…extra wall hangings, paneling & pictures were added from there. There were a selection of 17th century rooms done by Maria Teresa combined with many of 19th century design, decorated during the rule of Franz Joseph & Sisi. We didn’t need the provided audio guide to tell the difference. Maria Teresa had a taste for the ornate and created some truly lavish rooms. Sometimes you would look into the room and have to take a step back because there was so much going on in there. This was especially the case with the oriental rooms. This was a very “in” style to use in that time period so we saw many oriental screens, panel inserts and an entire room wallpapered with white & blue sketches that made the room look like a giant porcelain vase. In stark contrast, Franz Joseph was a simple man. He believed he was a servant of the people (put there devinely by God, but still bound to do the people’s work). His rooms were often painted brown and only had simple paintings of his wife & children. They generally just looked more bare & less shiney. Also fitting with the theme, he slept on a small, simple iron bed, as opposed to the intricately carved wooden structure covered in beaded bedding in Maria Teresa’s room.
Unlike the gardens of Versailles which were meant to shut out the real world, the gardens of Schönbrunn have been a public park since 1779. Opening the gardens to the public was part of Maria Theresa’s reform policy, making the gardens a celebration of the evolution of civilization from autocracy into real democracy. Today you can see many locals jogging or strolling through the grounds, simply because the can. We joined them (in the strolling, not jogging) and took a turn through the vast park area. Wide lanes run the length, normally with patterns of flowers between them but alas it is the end of October and we only got to see dirt shapes. It still looked kind of cool. At the far end is a huge statue dedicated to the god of the sea, Neptune or Possidon (depending on if you’re feeling Roman or Greek). Behind it is a hill and, atop the hill, an arch…but more on that later.
With our ticket we had free entry into the Kammergarten. This small garden beside the palace looked more like those of the French and British palaces. It was once a fancy private garden for the Habsburg’s. The flowerbeds & hedges created intricate patterns and the whole area was enclosed by an arch covered promenade. This might have looked a bit nicer in the summer when it was all green, but in general the fall colors really brought the grounds to life!
At the end if the gardens is the Gloriette. We walked the length of the gardens and up a large hill to get there. This monument is purely decorative and celebrates Austrian military victory. Our ticket gave us access to the top…and the view was worth the climb. From the arch’s base we could see the palace, but from the top the entire gardens was visible with it. From here we were also rewarded with great views of the city.
On our way back to the palace we peeked at the other wonders the grounds have to offer. There are constantly tree-lined paths running off the sides. Each looked like a perfect “fall stroll” photo. It really showed why locals like to take advantage of this place. The gardens are the home to Europe’s oldest zoo, built in 1752 by Maria Theresa’s husband for the entertainment and education of the court. Peeking in we saw a rhino 🙂 Then there is the labyrinth…which turned out to be an area with 3 separate mazes! The first had high hedges and provided a decent challenge. The other two were tree-lined paths to follow, unveiling games & puzzles along the way. There were spring boards to bounce on, math/logic puzzles to solve, a mirror maze and a fun walk-on glockenspiel to play (it was similar to a large piano set into the floor, where you step on the notes to make little jingles).
After leaving Schönbrunn we rode the metro to what was basically a random spot in the middle of the city. It is here that the Kummer Hotel is located. Yes, that is a hotel that shares a name with one of our very own writers! We snapped a few photos and went inside to check it out. It looked small but ritzy, with a fancy (and way too expensive for our budgets) restaurant. We wanted to snag some Hotel Kummer swag, but not even the pens at the reception had the hotel name on them…boo!
Next adventure was a quest for a penny machine. You will recall that we are gathering pressed pennies from around Europe for sister/cousin Alexa’s collection. This is proving to be quite a helpful thing for us: last time we went machine searching we found the best gelato place in Venice and this time we ended up in midway-fair grounds-amusement park-madness. We knew that the penny machine in question was located in a park with a ferris wheel, but we had no idea that the park was actually filled with rides, souvenir shops and midway themed food stands. We took our time walking through the entire park, watching the rides and riders in all of their craziness.
Returning to the main square of tourist’s Vienna we hit up a gift shop so Justine could buy a book. Ture to her history neediness it was on the Habsburgs…now she has books on both the English & the Austrian monarchs…she just needs French to have a fun set. We then found a restaurant with a heater filled patio and had a hot beverage. It kept us warm, but not warm enough to stay outside to eat. We packed up our stuff and moved inside (at the same restaurant) and had some dinner. Kristin had hunks of meat (rolled into sausage form, but not really tasting like sausage) with fries and Justine had hunks of meat in patty form with pureéd potatoes…because here mashed just isn’t smooth enough apparently.
Highlights of the Day:
– Watching the guy on the street play with his balls…they were glass balls that he would move around in his hands and over his arms like they were just floating there…his performance was even timed to music.
Love, Luck & Labyrinth