I have decided to bow to expectation (and if you know me, you know how hard this is for me), and unveil some of the lesser known aspects of the ever-popular castles of Vienna. There are five of renown: Schönbrunn Palace, Hofburg Palace, Lower Belvedere, Upper Belvedere, and Schloss Wilhelminenberg.
Today we will tour Schönbrunn. Opulent homage to Maria Theresa, but originally built for Emperor Leopold I, this is where we spent much of our summers. How many rooms do you think in this Imperial cottage? Go ahead, take a guess. Nope, not even close.
1400 you say? Ding, ding, ding!
Schönbrunn is the well-known mother ship of the famous Palace Theater where Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart played. Remember the movie Amadeus? The Palace Theater is where Mozart lost a contest for composers to his arch rival Salieri.
I married the Emperor in St. Augustine’s Church, another Schönbrunn feature. Perhaps my ambivalence on my wedding day has something to do with the fact that this church is also home to the exhumed Habsburg’s hearts? I don’t know. Just a thought.
Now we come to the most over-the-top aspects of Schönbrunn: the gardens and the zoo. The grounds, as you may glimpse below, continue to be manicured with characteristic Viennese attention to detail. (Okay, let us call a spade a spade. Insufferable anal retention.)
As for the zoo, that is a sad memory for me. I bought a little macaque to entertain my daughter Valerie, but the ladies-in-waiting became quickly aghast due to its, um, indecorous obsession with its private parts, and it was then banished to the zoo. I could never bear to see animals behind bars, so, like a PETA member of yore, I boycotted the very institution.
That said, I should admit that I do have a prickly fondness for Schönbrunn on the whole. If for no other reason than, with 1400 rooms, I had ample space to hide from certain members of my family. All in all, if you have funds for one castle tour only, I suggest Schönbrunn without reservation. I mean with all those rooms embellished with gold leaf, the gardens, even the blasted zoo, you are getting quite a hit of Vienna!