Warning: Image – heavy post.
There’s not a year that passes by that we do not visit the Schloss Schönbrunn (Schönbrunn Palace). We used to live near the area so it’s inevitable but even though we’ve moved and it takes about an hour to travel there, we still do come by, even when it’s in winter, in spring, in summer and especially during fall.
So let’s start with the entrance. Below photo would show you the scale of the palace’s grandeur size compared to a bus and some cars. There’s no entrance fee when entering the palace grounds which makes it a favorite tourist attraction…well, not just that…the Schönbrunn itself is a UNESCO Heritage Site and is so full of history worth knowing.
The vast courtyard houses a theater, a cafe, fountains with a cobblestone path leading to the palace’s front balcony. The balcony leads to the ballroom, which unfortunately, I could not show for prohibition of taking photos inside the palace. 🙂 The Schönbrunn palace has 1,441 rooms…but it was not so in the beginning. To answer the question, why are there so many rooms, well every emperor would add a room or two or an extension to the palace that it grew bigger and bigger to its size today.
The palace was originally a mansion called Katterburg , it was bought by Roman Emperor Maximilian II along with the floodplain it was erected on. He intended the place to be the court’s recreational hunting ground, he got the area fenced and exotic animals were kept and fishponds were made. To this day, there is a zoo and an aquarium that visitors enjoy, the little kids especially. The palace served as the Summer residence of the Habsburg monarchs and the member of its House. The Habsburg Monarchy (or the Habsburg Empire) covered the territories ruled by the junior Austrian branch of the House of Habsburg (1278–1780), and then by the successor House of Habsburg-Lorraine (from 1780), between 1526 and 1867/1918. The Imperial capital was Vienna, except from 1583 to 1611, when it was moved to Prague. From 1804 to 1867 the Habsburgs ruled the Austrian Empire and from 1867 to 1918 Austria-Hungary.
The name Schönbrunn literally means “beautiful (schön) well (Brunnen),” it comes from the artesian well from which healthy water was consumed by the court.
Facing the palace going to the left, one would find the well after walking a path of trees, it was unfortunately under maintenance the last time we went and I never got the chance to photograph it the other times we’ve visited.
Walking further, one would find the Roman Ruin. They are follies that look naturally integrated into the surrounding area – a picturesque horticultural feature added as an attraction. It was erected in 1778, in tune with the era’s rise of the Romantic movement.
Further to the left one will find the Obelisk Fountain, it is erected at the foot of the Hill leading to another structure, the Gloriette. Like the other features at the palace’s ground, this fountain was also designed by Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg and according to the inscription on the socle of the obelisk was erected in 1777.
The fountain has a pool contained against the slope behind it by a retaining wall reamed by a balustrade and decorated with vases. Projecting forward into the basin from the centre of the back wall is a grotto with river gods, crowned by an obelisk. Water flows out of the mouth of a central mask and also the vases held by the river gods into basins and finally into the main pool.
Facing the main palace, going to right side and further behind the Schlosstheater (palace theater), one will find the Wagenburg. It is a museum showcasing the carriages and vehicles used by the imperial household of the Austrian Empire.
I posted below photo on my City Daily Photoblog and a blogging friend commented that the building looks too small to be able to hold a number of carriages, there’s only the white van to compare and scale the building but it is a giant hall that’s home to what’s left of the Habsburg’s transport fleet; carriages, sedans, sleighs and even a car. Most notable on display are:
- the black carriage used in the funerals of Emperor Franz Joseph, his wife Sissi (Empress Elisabeth) and their son, Crown Prince Rudolph
- the 1914 motor car used to take the last Emperor into exile, 1920
- the imperial coaches, used to carry Emperor Joseph II, Leopold II and Francis I Stephen to various formal coronation ceremonies
- the coach used by Empress Elisabeth (Sissi) when she first arrived in Vienna in 1854 prior to her marriage to the Emperor. The same carriage was used by Napoleon when crowned King of Italy in 1805!
Hopefully we’d be able to enter the museum next time as it was closed when we last visited. For now I am borrowing this photo. Note the man on the right to scale. Notice too the horses, which are Lippizan, are of a taller breed. These horses were developed with the support of the Habsburgs.
Going a bit to the side of the palace, one would be welcomed by garden of roses in different colors, a pathway resembling a tunnel under vines growing on an iron structure. This is majestic when the flowers are in full bloom as lavender flowers hang down. There are also mini-ponds full of lilies in different colors but this is just to prepare visitors to what would be a grander view.
Behind the back of the Schönbrunn Palace is a vast garden designed and taken care of by Vienna’s Unsere Garten, the department responsible for landscaping and beautifying the city. Noticeable would be the white and red flowers by the side, a representation of the Austrian flag. Note that the flowerbeds are asymmetrical. This entire area is called the Great Parterre, there are 32 sculptures by the side representing deities and virtues (I’ve yet to look for my photos of those).
From this part of the garden, one can view the Neptune fountain, a massive structure representing Neptune and his minions. Above the hill, the Gloriette is also visible. I have climbed this hill a number of times and I won’t tire for the view from up their is so worth looking at and taking photos of.
The Neptune fountain is consisted of Neptune, the god of the sea on a shell-shaped chariot, Thetis; the sea goddess kneels by his side to entreat the former to protect her son, Achilles. There’s also a nymph on the other side and tritons (merman) holding their special attributes, conch shells are seen restraining the sea horses.
The back of the structure is actually a curious piece. One can go about to examine the structure itself while others just take photos of the palace’s back view.
Going up the hill from the Neptune fountain is a struggle as the pathway zigzags…it’s the best choice for someone trying to lose weight! ^_^ There are also pathways on the side leading up, if you’re not up for the challenge, the Liliputbahn will take you up the hill to the Gloriette.
The Gloriette, French for little glory, is a pavillion erected in 1775. It is the last building constructed in the garden according to the plans of architect Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg as a “temple of renown” to serve as both a focal point and a lookout point for the garden, it was used as a dining hall and festival hall as well as a breakfast room for emperor Franz Joseph I. That hall now houses a cafe.
There’s a platform on top of the Gloriette that one can access with a fee….the staircase leading to it is a bit steep but it’s worth going up to view Vienna from atop.
This pond is a favorite hangout for ducks and albatross and all kinds of birds, why, the kids, adults as well, feed them bread much to their delight. The cool breeze on the platform is also a welcome addition especially in the summer when it gets too hot to handle. 🙂
I hope to show more of the Schönbrunn in the next posts. Here are some more photos I took through the years and will feature them one by one soon.