Late last night we made some of our Christmas phone calls. We’re using European SIM cards (beats the $5/day roaming fee that Optus would charge .. that gets completely out of hand on a 50+ day trip) but it was only when we tried to phone our respective mums that we realised our cards appear to not be enabled for international calls! Grrr!
We spoke to Lauren & Ainsley via messenger and they relayed Christmas wishes to both grandmothers. Yesterday had been fine but cold and quite windy but today was even better. Intense, cloudless blue skies and no wind made for the next best thing after missing out on a white Christmas.
We had a very leisurely day planed – breakfast at the apartment then a train to Schonbrunn Palace. We had a reservation for lunch but little else planned and just wanted a relaxing day wandering the grounds etc. So did thousands and thousands of others! The train disgorged a wave of tourists and we shuffled our way along with them from the station to the palace gates.
Schonbrunn Palace is a former imperial summer residence of the long ruling Hapsburgs. It In 1569 by Emperor Maximillian II bought a swathe of land outside Vienna that had a ‘small’ hunting lodge on it. This lodge ended up being destroyed by the Turks and in 1695 Emperor Leopold I had a grand residence built. The palace as it is today (a sumptuous 1400 room complex) is mostly the result of re-building and remodeling overseen by Empress Maria Theresa who had been given the estate as a wedding gift, during the 1740’s & 50’s. Ainsley & Dan – don’t get any ideas!
|This photo was taken at 2.30pm - couldn't believe the length of our shadows|
In 1775 she decided she needed a ‘little something’ to glorify the power of the Hapsburgs. The Gloriette is the result. Sitting on top of a hill overlooking the palace, its extensive park and the wonderful formal gardens it was destroyed in the Second World War, but had already been restored by 1947, and was restored again in 1995. We had lunch in the Gloriette Café.
|The Gloriette ceiling|
The strict formality of the buildings are reflected in an amazing park and gardens – grand alleys radiate out from strategically placed fountains. These vistas end with more statues and follies. The trees are heavily pleached/pollarded and short beech hedges surround the larger groups of trees. It would be utterly gorgeous in spring & summer. It must take a massive team of ground staff to keep it looking amazing and the glasshouses that provide the annuals planted out for spring displays are huge.
|Follies pretending to be Roman Ruins|
|The Neptune Fountain punctuates the vista between the Palace and the Gloriette|
The strict ‘no photos in the palace’ policy is ruthlessly enforced (as one poor sucker with his phone trying to sneak a quick photo found out). I’ve lifted a few photos from the net to show you what we saw on our tour of the inside of the palace.
|This grand room was used for gala events including concerts - Mozart played here as a 6yr old!|
|This was as close as I got to taking a photo inside the palace.|
After our tour we headed out into the forecourt to check out the Christmas Market. I added to my Christmas decoration collection and in Christmas Market tradition (started in Germany in 2012) also got a Gluwein mug – although I had coffee in mine because I’m not a huge fan of Gluwein. By 4pm it was getting cold and the sun was all but set so we escaped the swarming masses (and more pouring in) and headed back to the flat.
Fully aware that many places would be closed, we headed out in search of some dinner. Just down the road was an open café, and they had schnitzel on the menu. In we went and ended up eating in one of Vienna’s oldest café’s, the 1895 Café Frey. And their schnitzels were huge and really good! We waddled back to the apartment.
Tomorrow we’re back in full tourist mode with plans to visit the Belvedere (especially the Klimt exhibition)