In addition to the Hofburg, Vienna has two other magnificent Palaces – Schönbrunn and the Belvedere.
Schönbrunn could be called the Summer Palace or perhaps even the Suburban Palace, as it is not far from the centre, only a short ride on the Underground. But it is magnificent in being coherent: it is the opposite of the Hofburg in that instead of being sprawling and incoherent, it is a magnificent whole, though it is still huge, with allegedly over 1000 rooms.
Its coherence however is somewhat surprising. When the Turks besieged Venice in 1683, and were eventually defeated, there was already a small mansion at Schönbrunn — the name means the beautiful well – but it was virtually destroyed at the time of the Turkish siege, so plans were drawn up by Jacob Bernhardt Fischer von Erlach and building was half-heartedly begun. However the Palace as we see it is virtually the work of Maria Theresa who was Emperor for 40 years from 1740 to 1780, who, despite being a Catholic bigot nevertheless turned out to be a good housekeeper who found Austria poor and left Austria rich; she also found Schönbrunn half built, and competed it with the help of the architect Nicolo Pacassi and also laid out the superb gardens.
There are also numerous fine statues. I couldn’t quite understand this one. It seems at first sight to be a clear case of a man carrying off making a lady whose dress has already begun to slip, but somehow a third figure is wriggling round between his legs. Can someone explain this? Would Maria Theresa have approved?
Sorry for the photo, but when I took it, the sun was in the wrong direction!
And here is a view from the Gloriette, showing the Palace and Vienna behind it, courtesy of Wikipedia (Click on the picture to appreciate it!)
The other side of the Palace is also very fine. I don’t quite know whether to call it the back side, but this is in fact the main entrance facing Vienna, where today you go in and, as we did, spend half an hour queueing to get in. Unfortunately no photos were allowed inside the Palace — why not? But on this side the Palace is laid out as a courtyard with ancillary buildings on either side. When we walked back to the Underground, we passed yet another long row of low buildings that were presumably accommodation for the servants.
One imagines that when some foreign dignitary – a King perhaps or a Prince came to visit, they would bring their whole entourage of perhaps 100 people with them, all of whom would have to be accommodated. It it was really a vast hotel: I wonder what it would have been like for the royal children who actually lived there?
19th October 2011