Monday, July 13, 2009

Schloss Schonbrunn: the Grand Tour

The seven kids: Joss, Tomas, Sebi, Will, Liam, Maddie and Chloe on the front steps of the palace. On Saturday we met the Isaaks and tackled Schonbrunn. This was the summer palace of the empire (not to be confused with Laxemburg which was the summertime get-away-from-it-all retreat). It was originally a more modest hunting lodge designed by Fischer von Erlach, then enlarged and rococo-ed to the teeth. It is named for a small spring of water on the grounds (means "beautiful spring").
Maddie and I tagged along with the Isaaks and visited the imperial apartments on the first floor. We got to see forty rooms decked out with furnishings from the time of Maria Theresia and her great-great-grandson Franz Josef (and his wife Sissi, though she figures more prominently in the city palace tours). Among them were the room where the Mozart played for the empress and was said to have jumped into her lap and kissed her afterward. Also the room where JFK and Khrushchev met in 1961. It was featured in a couple of movies that I want to go see now (briefly in the Bond movie "The Living Daylights"). We always play the Which Room Would You Want? game, and this time around Maddie loved the Maria Christina room which had blue and white accessories and profiles of Maria Christina and her husband Albert. She was Maria Theresia's favorite daughter, and the only one she allowed to marry for love instead of an advantageous alliance (Marie Antoinette was the best-known and perhaps the least advantageous of those marriages the empress arranged). My favorite was surprisingly the lacquered room to commemorate Franz Stefan, the guy who started the zoo here and Maria Theresia's husband. It's not my usual style, but it was impressive. This time around they had the bed for Maria Theresia and Franz Stefan. We were encased in a glass tunnel and the room was darkened so that they could preserve the textiles, but it was a pretty sumptuous covered-in-gold-braid-and-velvet sort of bed.
In the interim, Rob kept the three boys outside the palace. We've made them do the audioguide thing in Barcelona, and we just carried Joss through another castle tour, and on the home turf, we're just going to say 'no'. Be a kid. Run around. Throw pebbles. Eat sugar.

All aufgezuckered. They look pretty content with their lot, don't they?
Rob thought that Schonbrunn was looking pretty good this visit. It is often a surprise to see these incredible palaces fall into disrepair, but they take such enormous amounts of money for upkeep, their fortunes do tend to rise and fall. I told Rob I'd love to learn how to be a gold leafer because the work would take me to all the greatest places and I'd get to see lots of details up close.
The gardens are also very lovely. I'll do another post on those. If I would go to bed earlier, I'd get up and come walking down here since it opens at six. As it is, I roll out of bed and go to the Donaucanal because it's right here.
One of the side gardens. One of our students got engaged here in the gardens at Schonbrunn on this trip. Her fiance flew over and surprised her and nearly everyone else in the group knew it was happening before she did. On this visit, we saw a bride and groom walking into the gardens as we were leaving. She was lovely. I didn't even notice him (Mr. Twinkie is right -- it's all about the bride). I hope they got smashing pictures.
All the grounds are covered with these fantastic tunnels of trees. They are one of Rob's dreams. He would love a long allee planted with linden trees on either side. Sort of a gardener's version of the grand staircase.

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