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Schönbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn Palace, just outside of Vienna proper,  was the summer residence of the Austrian Habsburg royal family for centuries.  Extensive additions and renovations were complete by Maria Theresia (mid 1700's) and then again by Franz Josef and Elisabeth (late 1800's).  Our family did the 24 room tour;  Breck and Alea loved the audio cassettes and wandered the rooms by themselves using the numbers as a guide - practical math in action:)  The left side of the Palace is open for general tours.  The right side has been developed into a children's museum.  There is one room that is full of 17th. century costumes (big wigs included) and the kids played there for hours.  Another room has a play banquet service; goblets, silver trays, linen napkins, candelabra and plastic foods. Yet another had wigs on stands that children could dress with feathers, combs, ribbons, birds and other 17th century accessories.
There are extensive gardens all around Schönbrunn.  The oldest zoo in the world is located here.  During the monarchy,  many parts of the gardens were open to the public, though some areas were reserved for the exclusive use of the Royal family. Today, all the grounds are part of the museum.  The famous Lippizaner horses are still trained and bred in Vienna and many in the Habsburg family were known for their equestrian skills.

Schönbrunn was built in the early 1700's to rival Versaille near Paris.  It is very similar in design and architecture: gold gilt  abounds, mirrors are everywhere and red damask is the order of the day. The Mirror Room is where a 6 year old Mozart played his first royal concert for the Empress Maria Theresia. 


There is an entire section of the Palace reserved for the story of the Empress Elisabeth, considered the most beautiful and enigmatic woman of her time.  She had an arranged marriage to her cousin, the Emperor Franz Josef, at the age of 15.  Four children later and disaffected by court life, she took off and began travelling the world.  She was assasinated by an Italian anarchist when she was 61 years old. Her nephew, Ferdinand, was assasinated a few years later by a Serbian anarchist and this was the spark for WWI. 

Schönbrunn was the residence of Empress Maria Theresa for her long and busy life. She married off  her ten daughters to various royal families throughout Europe.  The portrait above is of her ill-fated daughter Marie Antionette.  Alea, full of questions as always, had quite the conversation with us about rule/power, the ethical issues of beheading and a ruler's accountability to the people. 

The Grand Hall in Schönbrunn (above and on the left) is still used for State and UN functions.  The Hofburg Palace, in Vienna, was the winter residence of the Habsburgs.  This complex - now all museums - is also open to the public.  One of the museums in it is about  the royal Silver and Service.  This is also still used on State occasions.  As you can imagine, it is quite an experience to dine here! 

This is the last picture our new Canon took before crashing. We had 7 more days of vacation and all those memories are now stored in our 500,000 year old hominid brains (more trustworthy than our 21st century digital:)
We did buy a disposable camera and finished off our trip with it...

The rest of our trip - including beautifully afternoon glowing Vienna (with blue skies!!), snow laden Slovenian mountain forests, and a picture postcard perfectly picturesque Ljubljana Christmas market - was a torturous mix of awe and frustration. We could enjoy all the sights, but couldn't record them except on a cheesy disposable. It should be easy to just enjoy - but it really wasn't! Until next time, I suppose...

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