I was born in Spring. This fact stamped itself on my heart. Blue sky, green trees and colorful flowers make my heart happy like nothing else (the sea might be an exception). There is a place in Europe that is called “Beautiful Spring”. The name isn’t English but German, so only German speaking people know it under this sweet name. The place is in Austria, more precisely in Vienna, and bears the name Schönbrunn. Despite the spring time name, the palace was build as a summer residence for emperors. Nothing tempted me in Vienna as much as Schönbrunn Before booking my flight ticket I was wondering “when is the best time to pay a visit to the emperor” ? I decided that the name can’t be accidental and it must be during the spring!
Schönbrunn Palace is one of the most popular attractions in Imperial Vienna, if not the best known. It isn’t located in the city center but luckily, it is on a metro line and it is super easy to visit. The metro station is across from the palace walls but I had to walk few minutes to reach the main gate. The gates of Schönbrunn look nothing like those I saw in Versailles. They are quite ornamented, but at the same time very simple. They were wide open. Was the Emperor expecting me? I knew that the Emperor is not waiting for me with tea and cookies, but still the open gate made me feel very invited. Behind the gate there is a flat area made of whitish gravel. As easily predicted, there were many people They were taking photos, selfies, photo bombing other people’s photos or arguing in the public over something. I must admit, Schönbrunn makes a dramatic and movie-like background for any quarrel.
Depending on what you want to do, you can stroll the gardens or buy one of few packaged tours of the palace. The most popular tours are: the Imperial Tour, the Grand Tour, and the Sisi Tour. The Imperial Tour covers 22 rooms and is the cheapest. The Grand Tour covers 40 rooms and is almost twice as expensive. The most expensive is the Sisi Tour.
I like visiting palaces to see all the posh, gold and glam hidden behind the outer walls. Although I come form a country that was a kingdom till 1795 and royal palaces aren’t alien, I like visiting foreign residences and imagine what it would have been like to live in such an incredible “home” among royals and nobility, or to have 1500 rooms.
Schönbrunn was built on a grand scale by roman Emperor Maximilian II, Empress Maria Theresa made from it her home, Napoleon chose it for his headquarters. Beloved by crowds Sisi wandered the corridors of the palace; Franz Joseph, the longest-reigning emperor of Austria, was born at Schönbrunn, and spent a great deal of his life there, and died there as well.
Schönbrunn Palace is the most beautiful palace in Vienna, maybe even in Austria. It is painted yellow and this colour is known as ‘Vienna Yellow’ or ‘Maria Teresa Yellow’. The building is beautiful inside and outside, but, it just can not compare with Versailles. And since I visited Versailles before Schönbrunn, Vienna’s palace appeared to me only as a poorer cousin of the French residence. While French kings liked splendor and magnificence, the Austrian emperors obviously did not want a lot of fancy decoration and walls dripping with gold. Additionally, you are not allowed to take photographs inside the buildings. Such a disappointment. It always irritates me when they don’t permit pictures.
Even if Versailles Palace surpasses Schönbrunn Palace, the gardens do not. The Baroque Gardens at Schönbrunn were made as a demonstration of power and an ambition to outshine Versailles. And I think they do. Vienna’s palace has the nicest gardens I have seen and you don’t need to pay euros to see them! The gardens are very impressive, especially when you come in the spring or summer time when all the flowers in the gardens are blooming.
The best view of the gardens is from the palace’s balcony. From this point of the complex you can see the garden and the imperial fountain. If you would look a bit further up to the crest of the hill, your eyes would come to rest on the columns and arches of the mighty Gloriette – the thing I loved the most in entire Schönbrunn. All of these you can see by looking in one direction and having an imperial residence just behind your back. Sounds amazing, isn’t it? I was trying to spot the emperor wandering the alleys, but I saw only tourists.
From the palace I walked through the palace’s back gardens straight up to the Gloriette. I passed the flowerbeds that made the garden a work of art. At the end of a path there is the Neptunbrunnen. It is a fountain and it is great! I spent here quite a while and took lots of photos. The water carried by the breeze didn’t help me doing that. However it was a hot and sunny day, so feeling micro water drops on my face was more pleasant that annoying. The fountain was finished shortly before the death of Empress Maria Theresa and now is definitely one of the highlights in the gardens of Schönbrunn. It is worth spending some minutes marveling the statues. There is Mr Neptune of course, but other characters aren’t less interesting. My favourite sculpture is the one of the horse. The elegant creature looks like it is in motion, bending towards the palace, frozen in time in the middle of the jump. All the figures look toward the palace. They all saw the end of the monarchy, and who knows what else they will see before they decay. Behind the fountain there is a small view terrace from where one can have a glimpse of the yellow gem of Vienna.
A narrow, sandy path leads from the fountain up the steep hill to the Gloriette. It is not an upper garden fence. It is a tribute to war. Gloriette has alarge viewing terrace from which you can look down over the palace and gardens and Vienna. Gloriette houses also a modern cafe of the same name. It must be a pretty expensive place. Knowing that Franz Josef used it as a breakfast room I looked for the emperor there, hoping he might enjoy a coffee, but no luck again.
There are many more beautiful things to see in Schönbrunn, some of them almost hidden in the huge grounds of the palace, somewhere between trees and perfectly cut shrubs. There is for example, the Palmenhaus, the glasshouse of Schönbrunn, which was built sometime around 1880 and it isn’t really hidden. If one believes signposts, it still is the third biggest in Europe. There is a rose garden as well. I was spellbound by gazebos and tunnels made of red roses. There is also a zoo on the premises, and it just happens to be the oldest zoo in the world.
I was quite sad leaving Schönbrunn. It is a lovely place. My kind of place. Oh, and in case you would wonder … I did not meet the emperor … he was not home … I was late by a … century.