I’ve lost track of what I’ve posted and what I’ve not from our recent travels eastward, so I’ll start with the beginning: A visit to Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna.
Our overnight train from Zürich arrived in Vienna at 7:30 a.m., and despite our hopeful queries to the porter, it was clear that we had to vacate our cozy little sleeping compartment within 5 minutes of arrival, 10 minutes at most. We staggered into the almost empty Vienna train station, which is possibly the most polished, clean and criminal-free train station we have happened upon thus far in Europe.
One little shop was open, so we scurried in that direction, but it turned out to be a book shop, leading us to believe the Viennese fall into seizures if they are without reading material. Clean train station, devoted readers – we liked Austria already. The book shop gal directed us to the tram stop just outside of the station where we caught a tram to Schonbrunn palace, arriving there before opening, so we wandered the grounds a little, then discovered the palace doors were open so we were able to wait in warmth.
Schonbrunn is the childhood home of Marie Antoinette who along with her surviving siblings (16 children in total, not sure how many died at birth) was given fairly free rein in the palace and its 20-acre grounds of marble statues, troops of trees, trimmed gardens and ponds. They were also encouraged to play with non-royal children. Shocking.
Despite some historical writings saying that Marie Antoinette’s parents had married for love, the palace audio-guide said the opposite, that her mother Maria Theresa reportedly did not like her father, so she was absent most of time. Only one of Marie Antoinette’s siblings was allowed to marry for love, the rest were all political liaisons. It explains so much about the dysfunction seen in royal families. It may also explain why so many were named Maria – Maria Theresa, Maria Josepha, Maria Carolina, Maria Amalia. The imagination must have been bred out of the family. On the other hand, when a woman has 13 to 16 children it might be economical to be able to just shout Maria when summoning one or more of the flock.
The palace is worth the trip – it shows heavily ornamented Viennese design, and a few surprises in that most of the royal family’s private living rooms are surprisingly small, for a palace, that is. Schonbrunn is also the location of what the audio guide said is Mozart’s first concert at the age of six, but a quick run through the Internet suggests he had other notable concerts before that. I will rely on some music history buff to correct me.
Plan on taking at least 45 minutes for the short tour of about 20 rooms, another hour or more for the gardens. A lovely garden restaurant is behind the palace, but the hike up to it is a steep one. The truly curious could spend an entire day at Schonbrunn.