The Big Driving Trip – Vienna – July 22nd

We started off our first full day in Vienna at Schönbrunn Palace, the 1,441 room former imperial summer residence for the Habsburgs.  Schönbrunn also has extensive gardens – including the Tiergarten (founded as an imperial menagerie in 1752) which is the oldest zoo in the world and some 18th century fake Roman ruins. We opted for the Imperial Tour which allows you to see 22 rooms, including the Great Gallery (hello huge ceiling fresco), the Chinese Cabinets (check out that parquet floor)  and Emperor Franz Joseph’s private suite (remarkably, unremarkable?).    Also, we were able to see the Mirror Room where a six-year-old Mozart gave his first concert to Marie Theresa in 1772. With its Rococco-style decoration, every surface is covered with a combination of decorative gold leaf, painted frescoes, white enamel and crystal chandeliers. Not bad for a summer hunting lodge!  You can’t take pictures inside, so I rounded a few up from the internet. After finishing the tour we grabbed some coffee and walked around the gardens to the Neptune Fountain and then up to the Gloriette (which is a deceivingly high climb).

Our next stop was the Zentralfriedhof, Europe’s second largest cemetery -2.5 million people- including Beethoven, Schubert and Strauss. It probably seems like a strange place to visit, but it is very well maintained and seems more like a big park with statues and monuments all around.  Back in town we walked around the Belvedere Palace gardens. We didn’t go inside: 1. I had already drug the boys through one palace that day and 2. It is an art gallery/museum and we’d be touring one of those the next day.  Right around this time a storm rolled in so we walked/ran over to Karlskirche. It is pretty unique as far as churches we’ve seen in Europe.  The dome is an elongated ellipsoid and it has two flanking columns of bas-reliefs. Inside the church is having some renovations and there is a scaffolding set up that takes you right up next to the top of the dome so you can get a really close look at the fresco on the ceiling. Looking at it close up, you can see that the “marble” trim up there isn’t actually marble (just painted to look like it) and that the subjects have proportions that are slightly off.. but this way from the ground everything looks correct.

To dry off from the rain (again) we grabbed coffee in a café right on Stephansplatz, the square surrounding Stephansdom (the Cathedral). Morgan and I enjoyed cappuccino and a piece of apple strudel.  I think it was Mathias’ first and last expresso for a long time to come!  Next we went inside Stephansdom (after admiring the outside – including all those colorful roof times- the day before) which is the seat of the Archbishop of Vienna. Inside it was actually quite dark – the stained glass wasn’t as striking as in Prague.  Looking back we didn’t take many pictures inside, so I think the outside was definitely more impressive than the inside.

Once the rain stopped we took our time walking through town to Bettel Student for dinner.  We saw a few stores selling kids versions of lederhosen and dirndl’s, which were pretty cute! Also, in a nicer department store we found some really high-quality traditional clothing, including a vest with actual deer antler buttons.  Sadly we couldn’t bring ourselves to spend 100 euros on a vest for Morgan to wear once a year for Octoberfest.  We ended the day with a yummy, pretty traditional dinner. Big Wiener Schnitzel and potato salad plus Kaiserschmarrn for dessert.  Kaiserschmarrn is a shredded sweet pancake with rum soaked raisins in it, served hot with fruit compote and/or whipped cream. This is one of my favorite desserts over here!