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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