Today’s travel memory is brought to you by summertime heat–days that start out hot, become alarmingly hotter, and end in your body, bones and all, reduced to a puddle on the asphalt. If this sounds like the beginning of another post on my new home in Florida . . . oddly enough, it isn’t. Today’s memory is from Schloss Schonbrunn (Schonbrunn Palace), in Vienna, Austria. It was built in the 17th and 18th centuries, modified in the 19th century, and partially reconstructed after WWII (the palace took a direct hit in 1945)– so it is, in every sense, “one for the ages.”
Emperor Leopold I had planned to build a palace that would rival, or surpass, Versailles. At the end of the day, Schonbrunn did not meet that goal, but its elegant lines and interiors still impress. The Palace has over 1400 rooms, but only 30-40 are opened for touring.
We visited on an outrageously hot day in July of 2015, when the mercury was hovering at around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. We toured the inside of the palace, which was impressive–but we were wilting in the un-airconditioned and little-ventilated space, along with a throng of fellow tourists, so our photos skew toward views of the garden, where at least we could catch a slight breeze. (Two days later, we’d find ourselves in Budapest and standing under the nozzles of misting trucks, brought out to offer relief from the extreme heat– relief that’s hard to come by in a region that so rarely deals with this sort of heat, and where air conditioning is the exception to the rule.)
The grounds are massive, and they boast not only beautifully manicured gardens, but plenty of shady spots for sitting, and a maze for your children (or you!) to test your wits in. (Being somewhat witless, and horrifically directionally challenged, I sent the children in ahead of me and then wandered in shady patches and took photographs.)
Schonbrunn is a very popular tourist destination, so if you go in the summer, you might consider purchasing tickets online ahead of time to avoid lines. Schonbrunn also hosts many concert series and has a zoo on its grounds, so there is lots to do. Plan on spending at least half a day there (better still, a whole day).
Finally, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite photos from the day: a bicycle in the gardens. Not sure why I love this photo so– maybe it brings a human scale to a massive palace and grounds, or simply offers a sense of adventure and movement (travel!) to a formal landscape.