Saturday, January 18, 2020

Vienna, Austria Travel Guide

The following are beauty posts inspired from my visit to Vienna, Austria:

Austria is an ideal vacation destination for families. Direct flights from the US to Vienna make it convenient, and Austria's child-friendly vibe provides numerous opportunities for introducing your kids to European culture and history.

Vienna’s history dates back to the first post-Christian century when the Romans established the military camp Vindobona. Today’s cityscape is characterized by the abundance of baroque buildings created mostly under the rule of Empress Maria Theresia and Emperor Franz Joseph who was largely responsible for the monumental architecture round the Ringstraße.

Vienna owes much of its international fame to the many celebrated composers who lived and worked here including Strauß, Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn. The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is one of the world’s best, the Staatsoper one of the world’s leading opera houses, the Vienna Boys’ Choir one the world’s most famous.

In Vienna, traditional coffee houses, rustic wine taverns and the beloved sausage stand (Wuerstelstand) exist alongside with top restaurants and shops, time-honored events alternate with internationally-acclaimed extravaganzas (Life Ball) to create a unique and very special ambiance. Another special feature of Vienna are its many greenspace and recreational areas such as the Wienerwald, the Prater and the Donauinsel. Vienna has over 800 bridges- twice as many as Venice, Italy. And there is nothing more special than a visit to Vienna during Christmas to see all of the Christmas markets and the city come to life.

Vienna’s spring water flows from the drinking fountains! Simply turn on the tap and enjoy mountain spring water? It's possible in Vienna. Vienna’s water flows from the mountain springs in the Styrian/Lower Austrian Alps, reaching the Austrian capital city 36 hours later, without pumps and under the strictest regulations. It’s not for nothing that Vienna is the best city in the world to live in!

Vienna can be proud of its tap water. After all, the city is supplied with 400,000 m3 of fresh spring water daily from two mountain spring pipelines from the areas around Schneeberg, Rax, Schneealpe and Hochschwab. A positive side-effect of this is that on its way to Vienna, the water flows through hydroelectric power stations, which generates 65 million kilowatt hours of power, or enough for a small town. Vienna is the first city in the world to place the "White Gold" under the protection of the constitution. The city's 1,000 or so drinking fountains are not the only place to freshen up on hot summer days. Among them is also a number of mobile drinking fountains, which are connected to hydrants in heavily frequented locations. At the press of a button, you can enjoy not only a powerful slug of fresh spring water from the hills but also a cooling water spray.

All around is the water tower water playground, at 15,000 m² the largest water playground in Europe. The unique park landscape offers waterfalls, streams, ponds, bridges and pure relaxation on its extensive lawns. A water adventure path symbolizes and explains the journey of Viennese water from the mountains direct to Vienna!

Public spring water fountains

How about a picnic in a scenic park?
Great picnic locations

Does a picnic in an idyllic meadow sound great? You should head to the Vienna Prater. The many sunbathing lawns invite you to linger; secluded walks guarantee a romantic atmosphere. You can also rent a pedal boat and enjoy your snack on the waters of the Heustadlwasser in the Prater.

But in Vienna you can also picnic in the center of the city: there are even free deck chairs in the Sigmund-Freud-Park between the university and the Votive Church in the summer! Those who prefer an imperial ambiance should make an excursion to the Burggarten, where a meadow has been opened to picnickers. There is also the Baroque Augarten.

Cobenzl, located above Grinzing,is recommended for a picnic with a view of Vienna. Here you will find a farm that promises relaxation and fun especially for children. The Himmelwiese is just a short walk away, which rewards you not only with a beautiful panorama of Vienna, but also entices you with "talking trees" in the "Life Tree Circle" and with the Sisi Chapel. Below, you can follow in the footsteps of Sigmund Freud in the Bellevuewiese. The famous Viennese founder of psychoanalysis is said to have spent a lot of time here. A memorial stone serves to remember him.

*Fact: Did you know that the picnic originates from France? Nobility first celebrated food in the open at the beginning of the 18th century. Another fun fact: I come from a noble French family! 

If you prefer something a little more comfortable, you can order a ready-made picnic basket and find yourself a cozy spot outdoors. The restaurant "La Crêperie" puts together picnic baskets in various assortments and invites you to a rowboat ride on the Old Danube. At Restaurant Hermes in the Hermesvilla, guests can choose from a variety of basket variations and then retreat for a cozy picnic in the Lainz Game Reserve. Those who prefer a picnic in a central location should collect their picnic basket (choice of three varieties) including picnic blanket from Palais Coburg. Those who prefer to wait for their picnic basket in the park would do best to have it delivered directly by Vienic and put together a "bag" according to their wishes - the picnic blanket and basket, drinking glasses and cutlery can even be kept afterwards. For a picnic in the Prater, pick up one of the hearty to vegan organic enjoyment packs from Kolariks Luftburg. Blanket, tableware and drinks are included.
 Caution: Orders should ideally be placed with all providers 24 hours in advance.

Vienna Sausages:
Need something quicker than a picnic? How about a visit to a traditional Hot Dog stand?
New creations, coupled with exceptional variety and top quality have revived the Viennese sausage-eating traditions. Whether at the sausage stand on Hoher Markt late at night or at the sausage stand in imperial tradition. “Sweet (süss) or spicy (scharf)?” is the standard question you will get asked when ordering from a Viennese hot dog stand. This has nothing to do with making a choice between Sachertorte or Käsekrainer, but refers to your mustard preference – whether the mild sweet Kremser or spicy hot Estragon. Incidentally, the Käsekrainer is an Austrian invention and a traditional classic. It is a lightly smoked pork sausage with 10-20% cheese content.

The city’s hot dog stands – mostly small sidewalk kiosks – sell not only hot dogs but also wieners, Käsekrainer and fried sausage, and as well as a whole range of culinary surprises. They are complemented by an impressive variety of beverages from raspberry pop to specialty beers.

One of the popular stands is the legendary “Würstelstand am Hohen Markt” located on a traffic island in the heart of Vienna’s old city. During the day it is the ideal place to grab a quick snack while shopping or sightseeing. However, it owes its cult status to its late night opening hours and the diversity of its night owl clientele. It is nothing unusual for bankers to be seen eating shoulder-to-shoulder with punks.

The Bitzinger sausage stands at Albertinaplatz and next to the Giant Ferries Wheel are widely held to be the best in Vienna. Choose between a delicious Bosna, hot dog or Käsekrainer and a range of traditional side orders. Draft beer, bottled wine or champagne are also on.

The "sharpest" sausage stand in the city is called "Zum scharfen Rene". The name says it all. The fine selection of sausages here are served with the sharpest chili mixtures and an award-winning, home-made curry sauce.
Dine like an emperor at the Kaiserzeit Sausage Stand. In addition to the traditional offering of sausages, including the multi-award winning Blunzn (blood sausage), there are also local delicacies such as goulash soup and Altwiener Suppentopf, which you wouldn’t normally expect to find at a sausage stand.

Wiener Prater: The Wiener Prater is a large public park in Vienna's 2nd district (Leopoldstadt). If people talk about the Wiener Parter they often mean the "Wurstelprater". The so called "Wurstelprater" is the oldest amusement park in the world. But the Wiener Prater consists of more: the Hauptallee (the main alley), the Krieau and the Praterstadium (Ernst Happel Stadium) belong to the area of the "Wiener Prater". The Prater was firstly mentioned in a document in 1162 under the reign of emperor Friedrich I. In 1766 emperor Josef the II. donated the area to the people of Vienna. From this point on the Prater was accessible for everyone. Following to that bowling alleys, cinemas, Cafés and merry-go-rounds were created. Still the "Wiener Prater" and the "Wurstelprater" are open 24 hours each day - 7 days a week. Entrance is free of charge. Attractions, restaurant businesses, arcade shops and other leisure facilities are all part of the Wurstelprater.
In winter, the Jesuitenwiese meadow in Vienna’s Prater becomes a big playground. A snow-making machine provides enough of the white stuff for a proper snowball fight. In addition to cross-country trails, there is also a tobogganing hill, which was created from the ruins of houses bombed during the Second World War.

Check out my post on the World's Oldest Amusement park here in Vienna.

The Natural History Museum of Austria:  The history of the earth and the breathtaking variety of nature can be practically experienced due to 20 million objects: From insects to gemstones and minerals and pterodactyls, the Habsburgs united everything under the roof of this museum near the Imperial Palace. Numerous taxidermy specimens of animals that are either extinct or threatened with extinction make the collection all the more valuable. The showpiece of the collection is the 29,500 year-old and only eleven centimeter tall "Venus von Willendorf", which was found in the Wachau in Lower Austria in 1908. This masterpiece of Early Stone Age sculpture is one of the most famous archaeological discoveries in the world and is presented in the so-called 'Venus Cabinet' alongside the 36,000 year-old Statuette von Stratzing ("Fanny"), as befits its status. Right next door are the prehistoric collection newly opened in 2015 and the 'Gold Cabinet' with objects from across five millennia. In the digital planetarium, with its approx. 8.5 meter-diameter inner dome and state-of-the-art Fulldome technology, live presentations of various topics in the fields of astronomy, biology, prehistory and the deep sea are offered several times daily.

The dinosaur hall presents the skeletons and remains of the gigantic prehistoric animals with a lifelike allosaurus that moves and makes terrifying noises. The model was built for the Natural History Museum on the basis of the latest scientific findings. The world's first living model of a bird of terror in the original size and new exhibits of a fascinating horned dinosaur skull supplement the impressive permanent exhibition. The principal element of the hall is a central platform where the large skeletons of Diplodocus, Allosaurus and Iguanodon can be viewed from all sides. The dinosaur podium is animated by the Animatronics-model of an Allosaurus, correlating with the skeleton cast of a 150-million-year-old Allosaurus fragilis from Utah. Measuring more than 6 m, the very realistic model represents a “youngster“ of this most dangerous predator of late Jurassic.
A full-size Pteranodon model with a wingspan of 7 m dominates the air space of the hall. Further highlights of the exhibition are the skeleton of Archelon ischyros - the largest turtle ever, a female ichthyosaur with fossil embryos and several pterosaur-skeletons.

The  exhibition design conveys the most important advances of dinosaurs and related reptiles. Thus, the reptiles owe their sudden bloom to an ingenious invention: the egg with its protective shell, which fully provides the embryos with all necessary nutrients. Another main theme is feathering. Modern research has revealed that also many  dinosaurs were feathered - a feature that they had invented independently of one another. A full-size model of a feathered Deinonychus indicates just how much the image of these reptiles has changed. In the Jurassic, one branch of dinosaurs evolved into birds. This actually makes the hummingbird the smallest surviving dinosaur.

Also worth seeing is the biggest and oldest collection of meteorites in the world in the Meteorite Room. 1,100 rocks that "fell from the sky" can be seen there. And with the aid of a simulator, a power meteorite strike can be staged on the screen in 3D. The famous large public displays in halls 1-5 show aesthetic and scientifically valuable minerals, ores, gemstones, rocks as well as meteorites and impactites (including tektites) collected over more than 500 years. All objects are arranged in a systematic way and new objects are added each year.

*St. Stephens Cathedral: Building works on the 137 m cathedral started in 1137. Today, it is known as one of the world’s ten highest churches. Visit St. Stephen’s Cathedral and you’ll be standing in the same church in which Joseph Haydn sang as a choir boy, and in which Mozart was married in 1782.
descend into its catacombs, The underground burial place contains the mausoleum of the bishops, the tombs of Duke Rudolph the Founder and other members of the Habsburg family, and 56 urns with the intestines of the Habsburgs buried between 1650 and the 19th century in the Imperial Burial Vault.
and climb its lofty towers, Climb the 343 steps of the tight spiral staircase that leads up to the watchman's lookout 246 feet above street level. The lookout was once used as a fire warden's station and observation point for the defense of the then-walled city. The climb is well worth it: Once at the top, you’ll enjoy the finest view over the Old Town in all of Vienna.

Other sights I recommend:

*Rathausplatz: The famous city square is the picturesque setting for many events throughout the year, among them the famous Lifeball, Christmas market and bike festival.
*Kunsthistorisches Museum: Vienna’s renowned art museum awaits you with some of the world’s most awe-inspiring art treasures.
*Belvedere: The Belvedere comprises the Lower Belvedere, which used to be the summer residence of Prince Eugene, and the Upper Belvedere complex built between 1721 and 1724. Today, the palace houses art exhibitions from the likes of Gustav Klimt.
*The Spanish Riding School

*Naschmarkt: With its delicacies and spices

from all over the world, Vienna’s most famous market is a hotspot for gourmets and foodies. Looking for vintage vinyl, artisanal vinegar, and some sauerkraut? Vienna's Naschmarkt is home to a flea-market on Saturdays and an eclectic farmers' market throughout the week. It's the city's most famous open-air bazaar.

*Kutschkermarkt: street markets in Vienna, focuses on providing organic produce and local food to the neighborhood. If you come on a Saturday morning you will rub elbows with Viennese who stock up on farm-fresh groceries. Stop in at Cafe Himmelbau a cute, sun-soaked Kaffeehaus with Insta-worthy cakes.

*The Liechtenstein Garden Palace: gorgeous, opulent interiors and a manicured park - the only thing missing are the throngs of visitors you'll find at Schönbrunn. This is because Liechtenstein Garden Palace is privately owned by the Princely Family of Liechtenstein (yes, those Liechtensteins) and only open for public tours twice a month. Want the palace to yourself? You can arrange a private tour in advance.

*Austrian National Library: Built in the 18th century, this historic library holds 7.4 million volumes, which makes it Austria's largest. Head to the palatial State Hall for the main event: Leather-bound books line the two-story shelves and ceiling frescoes radiate across the cupola vault. This breathtaking Baroque architecture is what makes the Austrian National Library a great below-the-radar alternative to the ornate Kunsthistorisches Museum. Both are monumental buildings, filled to the brim with treasures from the Habsburg Empire.

For families:

Zoom Children's Museum 

Aqua Terra Zoo

Mozart for Kids

Toboggan Run/Alpine Slide

I also stumbled upon an amazing shopping find! But you have to keep it a secret. Only locals, and those who pay out lots of cash for Louis Vuitton's city guide books, know of this place.
Flo Vintage - Nostalgic fashion : “A lust for fashion means wearing it whenever the desire grabs you,” says shop owner Ingrid Raab. Aside from this, when you shop here you are not only investing in quality, you are investing in value: These unique pieces have monetary value.
One can find the most exiting, exquisite and original pieces from 1880–1980, such as pearl-embroidered dresses of the Art-Nouveau or the Charleston period (1920), «The little black Dress» a la Coco Chanel and Audrey Hepburn as well as a large variety of the «New Look» of the 50’s and the 60’s style of Jackie O. In the category of the 70’s and 80’s creations of top-designers from A (Armani) – Z (Zegna) and even more, will get your heart bumping. Of course you will also find all the necessary accessories such as fine lingerie, delicate lik stockings, nylons, Exquisite shoes and hats, handbags and all the matching adornments and jewelry, according to the various Periods as well as exclusive bathing suites from 1920–1970. She keeps a stock of about 5,000 dresses! Regulars at the store are celebrities from the field of art, theater, music, film and show-biz and even top-designers as Marc Jacobs ( for Louis Vuitton, the most important company for luxury, worldwide ), also Helmut Lang, Stella McCartney, Dries from Noten, Donna Karan, Escada, Strenesse …The famous Louis Vuitton City Guide praises FLO:

«This place is heaven for vintage fans … discerning travelers will find the best of everything …»
FLO Vintage is one of three top addresses worldwide, where designers like Karl Lagerfeld or Stella McCartney personally acquire fashion. Long before international celebrities like Julia Roberts and Reese Witherspoon started showing up at the Oscars wearing vintage fashion, Mrs. Raab understood that quality design was immune to aging. In the cozy store in the famous Viennese art-district «Freihausviertel» – close to the Naschmarkt – one can find the most exiting, exquisite and original pieces from 1880 to 1980, exclusively originals of finest quality.

Other noteworthy stores to visit; Bananas and Gabarage

For a full list of Vienna sights to choose from, visit HERE.

Any trip to Vienna, I highly recommend that you get Vienna City Card. The amount of benefits you receive are insane for any city! Ont top of the typical transportation it gets you, in Vienna, you also get food discounts and free wine,  tons of sightseeing discounts, tours, shopping, sports,
Buy your Vienna City Card in the app for total convenience; you can find in in the app store HERE.

Here is a coloring page of Sisi for your children to get ready for the trip.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Schönbrunn Palace Guide

The following are beauty posts inspired from my visit to Vienna, Austria:

Fun for all ages is guaranteed at Schönbrunn Palace – whether you visit the Children’s Museum, enjoy a special guided tour for children through the State Rooms or explore the Maze with the Labyrinth and Labyrinthikon Playground. 

Schönbrunn Palace was where the imperial family used to spend their summer months. Explore the spacious palace park with maze, labyrinth and Labyrinthikon Playground and visit the state rooms in the palace where Maria Theresa and Franz Joseph used to live!

The imperial children lived either on the second or third floor of the palace, or on the ground floor. Until the age of six each child had three rooms of his and her own: an anteroom, a salon and a bedroom. Afterwards they were given two rooms more: another anteroom and an audience room (the room where the children received visitors). Their apartment was thus as large as that of every adult member of the imperial family. The servants lived in the adjoining building or, like the children, on the second or third floor of the palace. In all, there were around a thousand servants waiting on the imperial family.

Children’s Museum Schönbrunn Palace
Have you ever dreamed of dressing up as a prince or princess from long ago and pretending to live in a palace like they did?
In the Children’s Museum Schönbrunn Palace there are so many interesting things to discover about the everyday life of the children in the imperial family.
How did they dress? How was the imperial table set? What about hygiene?
Find out the difference between imperial children and children from ordinary families by using our time wheel. You can play with toys that were used in those days, learn the fascinating secret language of fans, and set the table for an imperial dinner!

If you go on a guided tour you can discover a lot of interesting and fun facts from the past: What sort of foods were people familiar with during imperial times? How old is the palace, and was it always this big? And afterwards you get the chance to dress up as a prince or princess.
Another unforgettable experience is the children’s birthday party in Schönbrunn Palace. All the children wear fancy dress, and the birthday girl or boy gets to dress up as Empress Elisabeth or Emperor Franz Joseph. Afterwards the children are taken on a tour of the imperial couple’s residential apartments in Schönbrunn, where they can discover a whole lot more about the life of Sisi and Franz Joseph.

Maze, Labyrinth and Labyrinthikon Playground in Schönbrunn Palace Park

The Maze: 
Find your way through the Baroque maze in Schönbrunn Palace Park! The maze was designed around 1720, but by 1892 it had gradually been removed. It was not until 9 September 1999 that the new maze, based on historical models and covering an area of 1,715 m², was finally re-opened. There is a viewing platform at the center of the maze and two energizing harmony stones activated by feng shui masters Jes and Julie Lim. It is alleged that if you place your hands on the stones it strengthens the flow of energy and enhances inner harmony.

The Labyrinth:
Reconstructed on the basis of historical plans, today the Labyrinth is an exciting invitation to a journey full of discoveries.
 Over a total area of 2,700 m² there are fun and games for all ages waiting to be tried out. For instance, you can explore different types of labyrinth with your fingers, or master simple hopping games. You can distort your reflection from all sides in a giant kaleidoscope. Athletic types can shin up a pole and ring the bell at the top. A math puzzle awaits those looking for a mental challenge: numbers on the flagstones tell you the number of steps you’re allowed to take, and you have to end up exactly in the middle of the game. But there are also more difficult variants for you to try! The Labyrinth is a place for play and recreation – fun for visitors of all ages.

In the Imperial Apartments and the Sisi Museum you can get an inside view of the everyday life of Empress Elisabeth and Franz Joseph. What hobbies did they have? And what were the secrets of Sisi’s beauty? Where did Sisi and Franz Joseph live? A special children’s guided tour takes you to the Imperial Apartments, thus the apartment of Empress Elisabeth and Emperor Franz Joseph. But the imperial couple lived here only in the winter; in the summer they usually resided in Schönbrunn. As you roam through the imperial rooms you find out lots of interesting things about the imperial family’s everyday life, about Sisi’s hobbies and the secrets of her beauty. The nineteen work, living and reception rooms of Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife Elisabeth give you an idea of the imperial lifestyle. The rooms are authentically and historically arranged and decorated, just as they used to be. But no doubt you’ll have the most fun dressing up and transforming yourself into an imperial majesty: you can try on clothes, uniform jackets, caps and hats to your heart’s content and be kings and queens for a day.

The Park and Garden

The park at Schönbrunn Palace was opened to the public around 1779 and since then has provided a popular recreational amenity for the Viennese population as well as being a focus of great cultural and historical interest for international visitors. Extending for 1.2 km from east to west and approximately one kilometre from north to south, it was placed together with the palace on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1996.

The park gates are opened at 6.30 am. You can enter the Palace Park free of charge during opening hours. If you wish to visit to the Schönbrunn special attractions, such as the Privy Garden, the Orangery Garden or the Maze as well as the Zoo, the Palm House and the Desert House you need to purchase individual admission tickets.

Vineyard in Schönbrunn

Until 1744, there existed a historic vineyard named ‘Liesenpfennig‘ right in front of the Orangery Garden at the magnificent site of Schönbrunn Palace. The most dedicated Viennese growers‘ group WienWein resurrected this vineyard and started growing grapevine on an area of 1000 square metres. The vineyard has been designed according to the great traditional field-blend of Vienna, namely ‘ Wiener Gemischter Satz‘ – this means that grapevines of all sorts are bedded out at the same time.

Since 2016 the vineyard in Schönbrunn is twinned mith the Clos Montmatre (Paris) and the Vigna della Regina (Queen's Vineyard) in Italy.

Overall plan of Schönbrunn Palace Park

Discover the park at Schönbrunn with the aid of this overall plan of the complex. Click here to download the Overall plan of SchönbrunnPalace Park.

A tip for joggers and runners:
Planning to run in the park at Schönbrunn? Then download the Schönbrunn Running Map.
Distances are given in meters.

Tour through the park

There are many ways to discover the park. Here we present the most beautiful objects of interest.

The Maze at Schönbrunn was laid out around 1720 and originally had four quadrants with a central (probably elevated) pavilion. Consisting of paths between tall, narrow hedges without the dead-ends and false turns of a classic maze, it was intended to offer an inviting setting for a gentle stroll.
 It was gradually abandoned and eventually cleared in 1892. 1999 saw the opening of the new Maze: extending over 1,715 m², it was reconstructed on the historical model with yew hedges.
At its centre again is a viewing platform, next to which two harmony stones with ‘energizing properties’ have been set up.

Reconstructed according to the original historical designs, the Labyrinth invites you to come and discover its secrets. Extending over an area of 2,700m², it offers plenty of games for visitors of all ages. For example, using your fingers to solve mazes or hopping your way across bouncing boards. A giant kaleidoscope lets you see yourself from every possible and impossible angle. Athletic visitors can climb a ‘chiming climbing pole’ and ring the bell at the top. For people who like a mental challenge there’s a mathematical riddle: numbers on stepping stones tell you how many steps you’re allowed to take – by the end you should find yourself right in the middle of the game.
And there’s a more complicated version for math wizards! The Labyrinth is a playful place for visitors of all ages to relax and have fun.

Small Gloriette
Situated in the middle of the woods on Schönbrunn Hill near the Maria Theresa Gate lies the Small Gloriette, a tower-like two storied pavilion built around 1775, probably to designs by Isidor Canevale. The octagonal structure with its balconies and built-on stairwell was probably used as a viewing pavilion. On the ground floor, the interior is decorated with Rococo architectural murals which on the second floor open up above a balustrade into a painted sky.

Neptune Fountain

Designed as the crowning element of the Great Parterre, and sited at the foot of the hill behind the palace is the Neptune Fountain, which was conceived as part of the overall design of the gardens and park commissioned by Maria Theresa in the 1770s. Under the direction of court architect Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg, excavations for the basin were started in 1776, and work was completed four years later, just before the death of the empress. It was very probably designed by Hetzendorf von Hohenberg, while the sculptural group of Sterzing marble was executed by Wilhelm Beyer. A retaining wall curving back into the slope of the hill, its balustrade crowned with vases, forms the back wall of the vast basin. At the center the wall is interrupted by a projecting, semi-oval plinth from which rises a rocky landscape peopled with the sea-god Neptune and his entourage.
Retaining wall and plinth are articulated by blind panels, those on the plinth being decorated with masks, while the vertical elements separating them are embellished with garlands. At the center of the figural group above a rocky grotto stands Neptune in a shell-shaped chariot, his trident in his hand. To his left is a nymph, while on his right kneels the sea-goddess Thetis, entreating Neptune to favor the voyage of her son, Achilles, who has set off to conquer Troy. Frolicking at the foot of the grotto are the Tritons, creatures who are half-man and half-fish, and belong to Neptune’s entourage.
They hold conch shell trumpets with which they can inspire fear in both man and beast, and are restraining the hippocampi or sea-horses who draw Neptune’s chariot across the seas. Neptune driving across the seas in dominion over the watery element is a common motif in sixteenth- to eighteenth-century art, being used as a symbol for monarchs controlling the destiny of their nations.
The figurative group was originally free-standing, but a screen of trees was planted behind it during the nineteenth century in order to provide it with an effective foil.

Roman Ruin

Originally called the Ruin of Carthage, the Roman Ruin stands at the foot of the wooded slopes of Schönbrunn Hill. Designed by Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg and built in 1778, the ensemble is completely integrated into the surrounding landscape as a picturesque garden feature. The fashion for picturesque artificial ruins had started before the middle of the 18th century in England but it had taken several decades for it to spread further afield. Hohenberg created the Roman Ruin at Schönbrunn as an entirely new structure on the model of the Ancient Roman temple of Vespasian and Titus, the remains of which had been recorded in an engraving by Giovanni Battista Piranesi dating to around 1756. In contrast to the Gloriette, all the architectural elements of the structure, including the columns and reliefs, were made under the supervision of the court architect, as has only recently been verified. The stone decorations were executed by the sculptors Beyer, Henrici and Franz Zächerle, and spoils from the Neugebäude palace were only used for the decorative compositions of stones surrounding the structure. The ensemble consists of a rectangular pool framed by a massive semi-circular arch with lateral walls evoking the impression of an ancient edifice slowly crumbling into the ground. The center of the ensemble is the arch with its fragmented architrave and frieze, which is decorated with reliefs of various sacrificial implements based on Roman models. The lateral walls projecting forward at rightangles display the same relief decoration in addition to Classicistic figures and busts. In the pool in front of the ruin is a figural group representing the gods of the Rivers Danube and Enns, executed by Wilhelm Beyer. The aisle in the woods rising directly behind the central arch was originally terraced to simulate a cascade. It leads to the statue of Hercules fighting Cerberus, the three-headed hound which guarded the entrance to Hades, as well as the personified Vices, while beneath his feet lies the defeated Hydra, a many-headed water-snake. Quite apart from the romantic or picturesque effect that the architect was striving for, the fact that the structure was commonly referred to as the 'Ruin of Carthage' indicates that it was probably intended as an allusion to the victory of Rome over Carthage. For centuries, the Habsburgs had embodied the office of Roman-German Emperor, seeing themselves as the legitimate successors to the ancient Roman Empire; this edifice was thus also intended as an expression of their dynastic claims.

Privy Garden
Meidling Privy Gardens: Crown Prince Garden and the Garden on the Cellar - Dating to around 1745/50, the plans for the laying out of the Meidling Privy Gardens were probably drawn up by the Lotharingian garden designer Louis Gervais. One of these of plans shows four sections placed along a central axis, a basic structure that was simplified in a number of aspects during the nineteenth century. On the eastern façade of the palace lies a sunken area with parterre sections edged with beds which has been known as the Crown Prince Garden since 1865. As it is sheltered from the wind, during the summer months specimens from the valuable collection of citrus trees belonging to the Austrian Federal Gardens Authority are placed here in tubs. Adjoining the Crown Prince Garden is the Garden on the Cellar, its rather curious name deriving from its elevated site above the cellars, which were probably built around 1700 and still exist today. This part of the garden is bordered by a horseshoe-shaped pergola incorporating five trelliswork pavilions. The central pavilion at the mid-point of the horseshoe was demolished in 1950 and replaced by a modern pavilion with a viewing platform based on the original model in 2001. Erected around 1750, these filigree pavilions are of lath construction and elaborately carved. It is possible that the painter Johann Wenzel Bergl used them as inspiration for the murals he created in the garden apartments of Maria Theresa on the ground floor of the palace twenty years later. Around 1770 the trellis-work of the pergola was replaced by a considerably more weatherproof iron construction which was planted with Virginia creeper in the nineteenth century. The center of this part of the garden with its magnificent plantings has a tripartite parterre de broderie arranged around an octagonal pool, a design that only came to light at the end of the 1990s and has since been reconstructed. Its intricate patterns consist of box and bedding plants interspersed with coarse varicolored sands. Around 1770 the parterre de broderie was replaced with a parterre à l’anglaise, as in the Great Parterre, probably as a result of changing fashions in garden design.

Fair Spring
Tucked into the corner of a hedged walk on the Meidling (east) side of the park is the Fair Spring. The first well house on this site is thought to have been built by the court gardener Adrian van Steckhoven, but this was replaced by a new structure designed by court architect Isidor Canevale in 1771.

The well house takes the form of a square pavilion with open semi-circular arches at the front and rear. Framed in the arch at the back is the figure of Egeria, executed by Wilhelm Beyer, inclining above a small basin. She holds a vase under her arm from which flows the spring water once so esteemed by the Viennese court. The figure of Egeria is one of the most graceful statues in the park at Schönbrunn. According to legend, the taught the Romans to influence the gods in their favor by performing pious acts in order to ensure the prosperity of the state. The façade of the small, tempietto-like building is covered in a dripstone-like surface, as is the triangular pediment and the shallow dome crowned with vases, while the architrave is decorated with shells. The dripstone decoration continues inside the building, and the corners are decorated with sheaves of reeds while garlands of flowers embellish the ceiling. On one of the walls is a stone plaque displaying the crowned initial M, which according to the latest research does not in fact refer to Emperor Matthias and the discovery of the fair spring but to Maximilian II, who acquired the Katterburg estate in 1569.

The statues at Schönbrunn
When the hill at Schönbrunn was landscaped it was decided to redesign the Great Parterre at the same time. Mythological statues executed by Johann Wilhelm Beyer and his studio in 1777 were set up along the two lateral hedges. The planning was the result of fruitful cooperation between the sculptor and the court architect Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg.

Beyer and his team of sculptors created thirty-two statues of equal height on tall plinths representing mythological or historical figures, the majority of which were designed and executed after models from antiquity.
The final siting of the statues was determined not by Beyer but by Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg as architect-in-chief responsible for the overall design of the gardens.

In 1945, under the supervision of the palace governor Josef Glaser, the statues were numbered from 1 to 32 on the side of the plinths to make the subjects easier to identify.
The sequence starts at the eastern hedge in front of the palace façade and ends on the Hietzing or western side.

Fischer von Erlach's designs had included a belvedere for Schönbrunn Hill intended as the crowning touch to the palatial Baroque ensemble, but it was not until Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg remodelled the park that this project was finally realised. The Early Classicistic colonnaded Gloriette was built to Hohenberg's designs on the crest of the hill in 1775. The structure consists of a central section in the form of a triumphal arch, flanked by arcaded wings with semi-circular arches. The central section, which was glazed during the last year of Maria Theresa's life, is crowned with a mighty imperial eagle perching on a globe and surrounded by trophies. The flat roof with its retaining balustrade was already being used as a viewing platform by the beginning of the 19th century. It can be accessed today via a stairway. The attic below the roof bears the inscription JOSEPHO II. AVGVSTO ET MARIA THERESIA IMPERANTIB. ERECT. CI)I)CCLXXV. The way the date is written follows a usage from the early days of book printing: large numbers were represented by a combination of the letter C, the letter I and the ancient Roman apostrophe which resembled the modern round bracket. Thus M (=1000) was replaced by the formula C-I-apostrophe, and D (=500) by I-apostrophe. Besides the external flight of steps leading up to the glazed central section, which today houses Café Gloriette, there are additional lateral flights of steps which are lined with massive sculpted trophies. These are arrangements composed of antique Roman armour with shields, standards and lions, and were executed by the sculptor Johann Baptist Hagenauer. The central eagle motif and the other sculptural decorations were executed by Benedikt Henrici. The majority of the twin columns, capitals, arcade arches and entablatures came from the Renaissance palace of Neugebäude, begun by Maximilian II in 1568. The bucrania or bulls' skulls that decorate the frieze inside the central section also came from the Neugebäude.  Never completed, the palace was made over to the army in 1774 to be used as a powder magazine. Maria Theresa subsequently gave orders for the valuable architectural features to be dismantled and used in the remodeling of the park and gardens at Schönbrunn. During the 19th century the glazed inner hall of the Gloriette was frequently used as a dining room. A kitchen was built nearby so that food could be freshly prepared, but this was demolished around 1925. One year later the glazing was also removed. In 1945 part of the east wing was destroyed by a bomb, but was rebuilt in the years following the war. The Gloriette underwent complete restoration in 1994/95 during the course of which the central section was reglazed.

Palm House Garden and Botanic Garden
In 1753, Maria Theresa’s husband, Emperor Franz I Stephan, who was a keen amateur natural scientist, bought a neglected enclosed field from the neighboring village of Hietzing, on which he had a ‘Dutch Botanical Garden’ laid out. This garden, which was located on the site today occupied by the Palm House, had a geometrical layout and consisted of three sections. Each section had four quadrants with a fountain at its center. The northern section was a flower garden, the central section contained vegetable beds and espaliered fruit trees, and the southern section was an orchard. A large glasshouse was erected on the north side. During the reigns of Emperors Joseph II and Franz II (I) the Dutch Botanical Garden was extended by the purchase of additional plots of land. Further glasshouses were erected in this new part of the garden and an arboretum laid out for study purposes with exotic trees from the Americas planted in evenly-spaced rows in sandy soil and equipped with inscribed plaques. The four mighty plane trees still standing near the former ‘Great Palm House’ erected by Emperor Franz II (I) (today the Orangery) date from this time. An inventory of the entire holdings of the Dutch Botanical Garden dated 1799 lists 4,000 plants from nearly 800 different species. From 1828 the extended part of the Dutch Botanical Garden was landscaped in the English style and was known from then on as the Court Plants Garden. Today's Botanic Garden is located on the site of the extra plots of land acquired by Joseph II and Franz II (I). The varying temperatures are achieved by means of a steam heating system which means that rare specimens from all over the world can be grown here. This impressive iron construction used the most modern technology of its time, with the materials determining its form. The proportions of the convex and concave lines of the central and lateral pavilions are perfectly balanced and endow the iron structure with a perceptible lightness despite its massive dimensions. Inserted into the framework of the external iron construction, the glazing clings to the curved iron girders like a skin. The Schönbrunn Palm House was the last of its type to be constructed in continental Europe.

Like the Dutch Botanical Garden at Schönbrunn, the Menagerie was originally founded by Emperor Franz I Stephan, who had a profound interest in natural history. Based on designs by his court architect Nicolas Jadot dating to 1751, a menagerie was constructed consisting of thirteen animal enclosures arranged radially around a central pavilion. While the enclosures were completed by 1752, the central pavilion was not built until 1759. The individual enclosures, each with its own well, were separated from one another by high walls and from the central pavilion by railings set between pilasters and crowned by vases and groups of animals, through which the animals could be viewed. The back of the enclosure was formed by a ‘lodge’ or hut providing shelter for the animals at night. In a lower-lying area to the west is a two-storied building intended as accommodation for the keepers. Beyond this is a pool with roosting pens for water fowl. The central single-storied pavilion, where the imperial couple occasionally took breakfast, forms the visual emphasis of the great diagonal axis connecting the center of the palace and the pavilion. The pavilion is elevated on an octagonal plinth and can be accessed via four entrances. The shallow projecting sections on four sides of the building have semi-circular arched doorways and pediments decorated with figures. In between are segmentally-arched window embrasures. The bell-shaped domed roof is crowned with a continuous balustrade.
Originally painted green, the interior was refurbished shortly after 1765 on the orders of Maria Theresa as a memorial room for her late husband, with rich rocaille wooden paneling, mirrors and paintings of rare birds and animals. The paintings are by Johann Michael Purgau and consist of twelve portraits of very rare animals, not all of which were in fact present in the imperial Menagerie at that time according to recent research, but which were highly desirable collector’s items. The shallow dome of the interior is decorated with a ceiling fresco by Josef Ignaz Mildorfer showing scenes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Besides the Bacchanalian revels centering on the lovers Bacchus and Ariadne, various episodes are represented in which humans are transformed into animals.
The initial animal collection at Schönbrunn was formed by the stock of animals from the former palace of Neugebäude and the menagerie belonging to the Belvedere. These animals – with the exception of the ‘rapacious’ beasts – were moved to the new menagerie at Schönbrunn. The number of exotic animals subsequently increased through new acquisitions and gifts. Both the zoological and botanical collections benefited from the expeditions to the West Indies financed by Franz Stephan.
The opening of the gardens to the general public in 1779 also included free admission to the menagerie. Joseph II continued the upkeep of the menagerie, and expeditions undertaken during the 1780s contributed new specimens to the collection. However, ignorance of the correct conditions in which to keep the animals as well as lack of a suitable diet led to regular losses. During the course of the nineteenth century new animals were added to the collection, with existing enclosures being adapted and new enclosures built. The attractions included elephants, camels, kangaroos and other exotic fauna. A sensation was caused by the arrival of the first live giraffe, the gift of the Egyptian viceroy, in 1828. The enthusiastic Viennese flocked to the menagerie in their thousands ‘in order to satisfy at last their burning curiosity by looking at this most peculiar of creatures’. The arrival of the giraffe had an effect on fashion and social life – dresses, accessories and hairstyles à la giraffe were popular, and at a ‘Giraffe Fête’ held at the Black Grape in the Viennese district of Penzing, the Alexandrian giraffe-keeper was guest of honor. Despite being given the best care possible, the giraffe died after only ten months, and it another twenty-three years were to pass before the menagerie was able to boast a giraffe in its collection again.

From Menagerie to Zoological Garden
At the end of the nineteenth century the appearance and objectives of the menagerie at Schönbrunn were to change, and in time a modern zoological garden evolved out of the Baroque menagerie. The walls between the enclosures were knocked down in 1880 and replaced by bars, so that ‘the specimens may be viewed more easily and conveniently’. After 1900 the zoo was extended eastwards as far as the Neptune Fountain, on the site of the former Small Pheasantry, in order to provide more appropriate conditions for the animals. In 1914 the zoo had a total of 3,470 animals, the highest number it was ever to contain.

Further information on the zoo at Schönbrunn (opening hours, admission charges, etc.) can be found on the Tiergarten Schönbrunn website.

Orangery and Citron House
As far back as the time of the dowager empress Wilhelmine Amalie an orangery garden was established at Schönbrunn which included a hothouse for overwintering the tender citrus trees. In 1754 Franz I Stephan instigated the building of the Orangery by Nikolaus Pacassi, probably to designs by Nicolas Jadot. One hundred and eighty-nine metres long and ten meters wide, the Schönbrunn Orangery is one of the two largest Baroque orangeries in the world, the other being at Versailles. The south façade is articulated by an alternating series of large and smaller round-arched bays separated by rusticated pilasters decorated with masks. The interior has a rhythmic sequence of shallow vaults and is heated by an underfloor hypocaust system which ensures a temperature in which citrus trees and other tub plants can be overwintered. The adjoining
semicircular Citron House at the eastern end of the Orangery Garden was probably used for cultivating tropical plants that were less suited to the climatic conditions in the elongated hall of the Orangery. The Orangery was also used for glittering court festivities. Joseph II was especially fond of arranging banquets in the plant-filled Orangery,
emulating those he had experienced on his journey to Russia in the winter garden of the imperial palace in St Petersburg. One such occasion was the ‘Spring festival on a winter’s day on 6th February 1785.’

Tour of the palace
A visit to the piano nobile at Schönbrunn Palace today begins at the Blue Staircase. The tour of the imperial apartments and the magnificent state rooms includes the residential suite of rooms occupied by Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife Elisabeth in the west wing, which are furnished in nineteenth-century style, the state rooms in the central section of the palace, the imperial apartments of Maria Theresa and Franz I Stephan, and the Franz Karl Apartment, which was occupied by Franz Joseph’s parents, Archduchess Sophie and Archduke Franz Karl.

You can take an online Palace tour HERE.

My favorite room is the Porcelain Room.
The décor of the Porcelain Room as it appears today dates back to 1763, when the room was used by Maria Theresa as her study. A typical example of chinoiserie, the painted wood paneling and the carved blue and white framing were intended to imitate porcelain, which was highly prized in the eighteenth century. Integrated into the wood paneling are 213 delicately framed blue gouache paintings. These are copies of originals by the French artists François Boucher and Jean Pillement made by the children of the imperial couple Franz Stephan and Maria Theresa. During the course of restoration work carried out in 2013, the surfaces of the wood paneling and the carved decorations were cleaned in order to re-establish the porcelain-like impression of the room as a whole in its original quality. For reasons of conservation the blue gouaches – hitherto erroneously referred to as ink drawings – will not be restored for the time being and instead will be
subject to longer-term monitoring. The objective is to develop a gentle method that can subsequently be used to treat the strong brown discoloration of the works.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The World's Oldest Amusement Park: Vienna, Austria

Wiener Prater: The Wiener Prater is a large public park in Vienna's 2nd district (Leopoldstadt). If people talk about the Wiener Parter they often mean the "Wurstelprater". The so called "Wurstelprater" is the oldest amusement park in the world. But the Wiener Prater consists of more: the Hauptallee (the main alley), the Krieau and the Praterstadium (Ernst Happel Stadium) belong to the area of the "Wiener Prater". The Prater was firstly mentioned in a document in 1162 under the reign of emperor Friedrich I. In 1766 emperor Josef the II. donated the area to the people of Vienna. From this point on the Prater was accessible for everyone. Following to that bowling alleys, cinemas, Cafés and merry-go-rounds were created. Still the "Wiener Prater" and the "Wurstelprater" are open 24 hours each day - 7 days a week. Entrance is free of charge. Attractions, restaurant businesses, arcade shops and other leisure facilities are all part of the Wurstelprater. One of the biggest attractions of the Prater is the chestnut blossom. While the trees flower in delicate shades of pink in May, the Hauptallee is filled with walkers and cyclists as well as joggers and riders, the children romp around on the playground and youngsters meet on the BMX and skating track or throw themselves into the sand on the beach volleyball courts.

Viennese giant wheel: Wiener Riesenrad
The giant wheel was built in 1897, 210 feet tall, The Wiener Riesenrad, a symbol of the Austrian capital and a symbol of the world-famous Vienna Prater, with its silhouette that is visible from afar, it has even played a prominent role in the movie adaption of Graham Greene’s novel “The Third Man”.

The Liliputbahn - a miniature railway - is a true landmark of the Prater. A round trip over the 4 km long route through the Prater and the Hauptallee (main alley) takes approximately 20 minutes. The over 75 year old attraction is probably the funniest railway in Vienna. Another Liliputbahn is located at the Donaupark.

Alt Wiener Grottenbahn
The Grottenbahn is an ideal adventure for children and adults. Meet Max and Moritz, little red riding hood and many other fairytale characters in this train ride. Thirty grottos will take you into the world of fairy tales. Our journey goes deep into the mountain, where the realm of fairies and dwarves, where beautiful princesses are waiting for their frog prince. Dive into the world of fairy tales and legends with the dragon or swan train! Meet many well-known characters from the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm and many other mythical creatures. Meet the Lilliputians, Max and Moritz and many more! You can’t imagine the Prater without the Grottenbahn. The fascinating front was designed and manufactured by Robert Tar. At the shop dolls and teddy bears are available in different size at attractive prices.

According to documents the Schweizerhaus existed even before 1766 under the Name "Zur Schweizer Hütte". Today the Schweizerhaus is the most famous restaurant of the Prater - maybe even the most famous restaurant in whole Vienna. It is famous for its knuckles of pork, but you can also enjoy other delicous dishes at the most beautiful beer garden of Vienna. You can try the knuckles of pork, beer and potato pancakes from the 15th of March until the 31st of October.
Swiss house, famous for its hearty dishes in Vienna's most beautiful beer garden. No Prater visitor should miss out on beer, stilts and potato pancakes.   Menu 

Vienna Rollercoaster
With its design and characteristics this rollercoaster is one of the buildings which bring the flair of former times into these days. Experiences and memories are shared between different generations. It is a joy to see people of different ages visiting this well-kept attraction. The family business puts in a lot of effort to keep the original character of the rollercoaster. The wooden structure with its conventional railing system guarantees high operational reliability and safety. The brakeman is not only a traditional escort, but also an additional safety factor. In contrast to many other attractions the rollercoaster is suitable for all ages – this means fun for everyone!

The destruction after World War II
In the sixth year of Nazi rule in Vienna, the Vienna Ferris wheel burned out; - a fire that was felt by many Austrians as symbolic. After the fall of Austria and the murder and abduction of many of its inhabitants, a symbol of Vienna threatened to go under, which for many Austrians was also a symbol of hope for Austria's resurgence.

In 1945 the country was liberated by Soviet, American, English and French troops. Austria is now divided into four occupation zones and Vienna is a four-sector city.
The Vienna Ferris wheel was also repaired in the same year. With an absolute height of 64.75 meters and a total weight of 430 tons, it travels 0.75 meters per second; the number of cabins is reduced from thirty to fifteen. After checking all functions for several months, the Ferris wheel started operating again in 1947 - for many Viennese, this inauguration in Vienna, which is still occupied, is symbolic.

Equipped with the latest projection technique this "house of stars" creates a realistic copy of the star spangled sky making astronomy possible on days and nights no matter of the weather. Adventure a magnificent artificial sky in fascinating multimedia shows, special shows for children and families, presentations and classes. Also cultural events, company presentations and your personal party will become an impressive memory in this atmosphere. Lean back and join us on a ride through the universe!

In winter, the Jesuitenwiese meadow in Vienna’s Prater becomes a big playground. A snow-making machine provides enough of the white stuff for a proper snowball fight. In addition to cross-country trails, there is also a tobogganing hill, which was created from the ruins of houses bombed during the Second World War.

You can see the full list of attractions HERE.