If you want to see a palace that looks like those in fairy tales where princesses and princes roam about in beautiful buildings and halls, then walk around in their fancy dress in a majestically beautiful garden, I say go to Schonbrunn Palace. This is one of my favorite sites in Vienna.
Schonbrunn was the summer residence of the imperial family and dates back to 1695. The palace itself was commissioned since then, but it wasn’t completed until 1730. It has lived through wars and seen deaths. It was Napoleon’s headquarters from 1805 to 1809 and it was here that Emperor Franz Josef died. It was also here that Emperor Karl I abdicated from the throne in 1918.
History came and passed by here. In the olden days, this must have been considered far for the Viennese and outside of the city. I imagine carriage trips through fields and hills, but now the city has grown and it is easily accessible by bus and underground. A summer palace within the city itself.
When you first walk into the grounds, you are greeted by the Baroque building that is so wide you would find it hard to fit into your camera view finder if you went too close. There are hardly any trees and all you see is a large expanse up towards the grand staircase. I imagine trotting up towards the palace on my horse. How much fun it must be with all that space to ride. Of course everyone in the palace would also be aware of my entrance. I guess the design is also for security. I read also that Schonbrunn was inspired by Versailles in France.
Inside, the palace’s rooms are so beautiful I cannot help but wonder what it must have been like living amongst all this grandeur. The wood paneled walls and themed wall paper give each room a distinct character. There’s the Blue Chinese Salon, the Vieux Lacque Room and even a Great Gallery that was the site of imperial banquets. This is where the aristocracy waltzed their nights away in beautiful dresses. I wish I could see this place alive with people. How magical it must be. There is the Round Chinese Cabinet room which shows you how far China came centuries ago. Vases and lacquered panels give it an oriental flair but in a baroque setting. China was strong then , now it is once again becoming a world superpower.
Once you’re done with the palace, do not miss the garden. The garden here is one of the highlights and I wish I had spent more time there. I had spent afternoons writing away in my little notebook amidst the fountains and hedges that shaded you from the sun, but I still yearn for more. The garden is a beautiful design and reminiscent of French gardens, but you just have to love it. Hedges, framed alleyways and openings give it a magical feel. There is a maze where you can get lost in, a zoo with an octagonal pavilion, a palm house, japanese gardens and even a public swimming pool. So large is this garden.
But that is not all though. The crowning jewel of the garden is the Gloriette which is a neo-classical arcade that stands atop the hill at the end of the garden. It towers above the garden and gives you a view of not only the palace, but also of Vienna. By the time I climb up there, I’m usually ready to have a seat at the coffee shop in the Gloriette. It’s a wonderful place to just really have “me” time.
No matter how many times I go, I still like Schonbrunn. Even if its only to sit in its gardens and enjoy listening to the birds chirp. Its a garden that’s open to all, but oh what a magical one it is. I wish I could spend a summer there…but I guess that’s only in my dreams. www.schoenbrunn.at