Lead you down the garden path with that little paraprosdokian, didn’t I? I even managed to mislead spellcheck with that fancy pants word, paraprosdokian. It’s my new favorite word.
We had little chance of seeing all there was to offer: a zoo (the oldest in Europe), an orangery (yep, a nice warm spot for growing oranges), a butterfly house, a palm house, an English Garden, a French Garden, a botanical garden, a maze and labyrinth, the Great Parterre, the Gloriette , the Sun Fountain, the Obelisk Fountain, a public swimming pool and the Wagenberg Imperial Coach Collection; all of which is spread out over acres and acres (1 square mile) of a flood plain of the Wien river.
Least you think I’m exaggerating, here’s a view from the back balcony of the palace looking towards the Great Parterre and Neptune Fountain, with the Gloriette (a marble summerhouse topped by a stone canopy with the imperial eagle flying high at the center of it all) majestically
poised several football fields or so at the top of the hill. We never made it to the top of the hill. Initially I was on information overload, not sure which way to go; the maze of pathways and options didn’t necessarily help.
When she became Empress of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and inherited her father Leopold I’s grandiose ideas for a place to rival that of France’s Versaille, she finished what her father started with a flair only a woman can bring to the table, or should I say palace. Schonbrunn was a far cry from the hunting lodge constructed on the site in 1696 following acquisition of the land by Maximillian II in 1569.
Furthermore, Empress Maria gave birth to 16 children, 12 of whom were born during her 40-year reign as empress of Austria-Hungary. Several of those children went on to be emperors and empresses throughout Europe. This girl was a force to be reckoned with. She ruled from 1740-80, beginning at the ripe old age of 23. You go girl!
When she had the imperial summer palace done in her favorite color, “Maria Theresa ochre,” a warm, creamy yellow, it was a daring move considering the usual gray façades so typical of the times when it came to state residences and palaces for nobility. She was certainly Austria’s ‘golden’ girl!'
Which leaves me to wonder; were the garden variety public facilities her idea, too?
The Bottom Line on Vienna's Schonbrunn Castle:
Verdict: PLAN ON SEEING Vienna's top tourist attraction. It's ah-maze-ing! I'd opt for a beautiful summer day next time.
Ideal For: Gardeners, botonists, tree lovers, children of all ages. No dogs allowed.
How to Get There: Head to Vienna's Ringstrasse. Follow signs for the city centre which will take you directly to Schönbrunner Schlossstrasse 47
Nearby Food: At the top of the hill, in the Glorietta and inside the palace cafe.