Day 4 - Monday, September 19, 2005

Ok, it was hard getting out of bed at 6AM, it was still darkish outside. Anyways somehow we managed, and for an optional tour no less! Everyone else only had to get up at 7:30. Well, we were about to find out how Trafalgar manages to get their tour groups past the long lineups to the attractions...they just get there first :P I think that's false advertisement ;) Anyways, Schönbrunn Palace was worth the effort. Standing in front of this huge building I could just imagine the horse and carriages driving up to the front door.

Built in the 1500's, the palace had a specific significance. For years the Turks had been trying to sack Vienna, but were unsuccessful due to the strong city walls. But at the same time, it forced the Viennese to remain within those walls for safety. Eventually the Turks retreated and it was once more safe to leave the fortified city, and the result were the "country" palaces such a Schönbrunn or Belvedere. Of course, nowadays these palaces are no longer out in the country, but right in the city proper. A view to the right of the entrance courtyard.

People actually still live in parts of the palace, descendants of servants. As the tour guide pointed out, that's quite the address to put on your mail. A view to the left of the entrance courtyard.

As expected, the interior was mind-boggling. So much gold, silver, paintings and other ornamentation. One room was entirely black and gold, very striking.

After a guided tour inside the palace we stepped back outside. Just in case you were wondering, it was freezing this early in the morning. Now we found ourselves swarmed by the tourists that slept in a little later than we did. Seeing the crowds, we were glad we got up that early or we'd have spent half the day just trying to get inside.

We go around the right side of the palace to visit the gardens out back. The grounds are huge, we only scratched the surface. There's even a zoo and a hedge maze somewhere back there. First we passed a small garden right up against the side of the palace, that little gate to the left is where we came in.

Then one had to walk under rows of rose vines to get behind the palace itself. The gardens were beautifully maintained, with fountains and statues.

The back of the palace is almost as beautiful as the front.

Look at what they did to the trees! The Hapsburgs loved in long as it was groomed and manicured. On our film camera we have a picture of some even stranger trees shapes, the have a kind of 90 degree overhand sticking out from flat part, I guess to simulate the canopy.

This is an interesting little building at the top of the hill. All it is is arches, it's just for decoration, nothing more. Its called the Gloriette, a monument to the glory of the Imperial Army in Roman style. At the top, a Hapsburg eagle. I suppose you could have taken tea up there, but you'd have gotten wet if it started to rain. Wait, you say, but the middle part is closed up! Sure, now it's a cafe, but it was only put in during the last decade or so for the tourists to take a break (and spend some money!).

Another view of the back and gardens...and some guy mowing the lawn :o)

It is now around 9AM and we wander about the front gates of the Palace looking for the bus to pick us up to take us to the Vienna Woods. Took us a while to find it, there were so many busses there. The busses were all of a similar make, they all had these strange rearview mirrors that kind of stuck out from the front of the bus, making them look a bit like a caterpillar.