Schönbrunne was the summer residence of the Habsburgs. Marie Antoinette was born there before being shipped off to Paris to have her head cut off. Sisi spent quite a lot of time at Schönbrunne as well, making herself beautiful and not eating much. It’s not as ghastly as Versailles.
The building is painted an amazing buttery colour that looks incredibly warm in the sunshine. The extensive gardens are, of course, to the French style, so popular in 1776. They are very in keeping with what was expected of Baroque royalty.
Now, of course, the whole place is over run with day trippers and international tourists hurrying between sights. And people like us who leave their hotel, catch a local bus and wind up some where close.
I can thoroughly recommend the cafe, which has strudel making demonstrations every hour. If the strudel I had is an example of the strudel they demonstrate, then they’re very good at it.
It did occur to me while sitting in the cafe and listening to an American woman going on and on about something she must have thought was interesting to her two companions who clearly didn’t, that American tourists must quiver when they drink the coffee in Vienna. It’s pretty strong! And that’s the normal stuff.
American coffee, on the whole, is not very strong. That’s not to say it isn’t brewed. That’s not the same thing at all. Leaving it in a Pyrex jug on a heated ring all day just means it’s old and nasty. No, the Viennese pride themselves on their coffee, ever since they found a few bags of it left behind by the invading Ottermans.
As a coffee drinker, I love it. The stronger the better. This is not the Starbucks latte type coffee that I have each day in Farnham. This is thick and (almost) nourishing. This is the sort of stuff that lines your stomach like an oil slick.
But, enough talk of coffee and back to Schönbrunne where we started our tour of the palace only to encounter a tour group of mammoth proportions. Not that they looked like elephants, but…there must have been 150 people in the group, at least. How they fitted in some of the smaller rooms is anyone’s guess. We waited an hour for them to get passed us.
We then wandered through the palace, listening to our audio guides and generally getting to know the Habsburgs a little better than before. Though Mirinda claimed that a lot of the guide was the same as in the Royal Apartments.
Apart from the massive tour groups who seem to think they own stately homes, the thing that really annoyed us today were the babies and small children. If they weren’t crying loudly and defiantly, they were hacking and coughing all over the furniture. Really off putting.
In fact, I reckon families with children who cannot be left unsupervised, should be barred until they can come on their own. The kids don’t like these old houses anyway. Why make all of us suffer?
We had ventured to the palace today for the express purpose of attending the marionette theatre production of Hansel & Gretel, the Opera but, sadly, all the seats were sold out. So we made do with the palace and gardens instead.
Just as the marionettes reminded us of Prague two years ago, so did the doctor fish in the desert house.
In the gardens there are a couple of glass houses. One of them, the biggest, contains the usual big palm trees, Australian natives, big African things that rarely see the light of day but the other glasshouse was all about the desert.
And it wasn’t just full of plants either. There were also reptiles and birds and rodents. It was fantastic. Though, the most fantastic of all was the huge aquarium at the entrance with the sign saying ‘Try it’.
This sign was referring to people putting their hands in the aquarium and letting the doctor fish have a nibble of their fingers. What a weird feeling! Seriously bizarre but something everyone should experience at least once in their life.
And the nibbling is only half the fun. The squeals of unexpected joy of the participants is also worth it as well.
Not so happy were two of the three Oman spiny tailed lizards.
I wondered why they were pressing themselves up against the glass every time someone came near. It was in an attempt to escape from the third, evil Oman spiny tailed lizard. The evil one was horrendous. Every time either of the others went to the food or water bowl, the evil one would attack them mercilessly.
While the lizards weren’t having the best of it, a bunch of seagulls and ducks were skating on thin ice on the Neptune Fountain. Visitors were tossing them titbits, making them skate across the slippery surface of what was, until recently, water.
But it was soon time to bid farewell to Schönbrunne Palace and head back to the bus stop and make the trip back to the hotel.
In Austria (as in other parts of Europe), it’s Christmas Eve that’s the big family time. For this reason, we’d booked into a restaurant for our Christmas dinner.
Remembering our awful Christmas dinner from two years ago (in Prague) I made sure that the Museum Cafe served decent food, wine and no carp.
And Christmas dinner was delightful. The waiters couldn’t have been nicer, the food was delicious and the wine superb. There was a slight glitch walking back to the hotel but nothing a short taxi ride couldn’t sort out. All round, a vast improvement over our Czech Christmas dinner.