Vienna, Austria When Maria Theresa of the mid 1700’s Habsburg fame redid her family’s original hunting lodge outside the crowded city, she did it in typical Habsburg style. The summer Schönbrunn Palace doesn’t seem much different than the winter Hofburg Palace in town in its Rococo excess, and its only rival for over-the-topness is Versailles.
But a lot happened here. While not occupied running the empire, Maria Theresa managed to produce 16 children, so as to ensure power matches with the rest of Europe. No photos are allowed in the interior of the palace, whose many gilded and ornate rooms almost get a bit repetitive. Of the forty we were allowed to see, one did seem rather special. It was the salon where a six-year-old Mozart played his first public concert.
Maria Theresa’s great-great-grandson Franz Josef, who died in 1916, and his wife Elizabeth (lovingly remembered as Sisi by her adoring public), are the romantic heroes of the place and their belongings are still in place. Of course, the Empire only lasted another two years after Franz Josef’s death, though there are still Hapburgs to be found in the world.
Outside, we were free to roam the palace gardens behind the palace. Even during Maria Theresa’s day, the grounds were open to the public. There is a battle monument across from the back of the palace and a large fountain. But there seemed to be little sense of the manicured perfection of the French style, except in the sculpted allées. In fact, we have noticed for several weeks that the dandelions we abhor as weeds are welcome here, and turn up everywhere, thriving in the sun.
There is also a huge Orangerie, some of whose plants are done wintering inside and are beginning to be brought out into the (dandelion-filled) grounds for some air and sunshine.
The front of the palace was bustling with carriages, motorized trains, lots of pedestrians and some horse-drawn wagons.
It is quite the tourist attraction. Can’t imagine how crowded summer will be here. We were lucky enough to have an absolutely perfect spring day — not a cloud in the sky, cool air and warm sun.
Don’s Food Corner
We spent much of the day at Schönbrunn Palace, roaming from one area on a seemingly endless route to another. There were cafes and restaurants sprinkled throughout. We finally just collapsed into one of them.
The food offerings seemed a little slim. No traditional Viennese specialties. (Where’s the wiener schnitzel?) But for some odd reason, there was a long list of breakfast possibilities.
Jo went with a nice pile of scrambled eggs. I made sure to question if anything would be in the eggs — like onions or peppers. The waiter looked puzzled. (I guess he’s never been to Slovakia.) No, just eggs. But also there was some crispy bacon. Real, crispy bacon. None of that flabby stuff seen in some countries. (We’re looking at you, U.K.) Jo was pleased.
I went for a vegan salad, piled high with lettuces, some beet falafel, hummus, lots of olives, and chickpeas. This is the kind of food that seems to be gathering popularity. It could be putting boiled beef out of business in the very near future.
Actually, yesterday at the restaurant that served the boiled beef, while looking through the various rooms of the restaurant, we encountered one of the restaurant staff eating take-out sushi. Sushi. Vegan falafel. That’s the future, and not boiled beef. Schnitzel could be the exception. Timeless.