Monday, September 17, 2007
Vienna-Tales of Palaces,Opera and a Stork!
Vienna is the Capital of Austria and a lovely city to visit. Our first stop was Schoenbrun Palace-the summer residence of the Hapsburgs, the ruling family of Austria. Shown above, it was her that Maria-Theresa (remember she was the only female ruler of Austria) birthed her 16 children, 14 of whom made it to adulthood. She was a smart, strong lady and as you will hear when I get to France, she made marriages for political reasons...also to gain power and cement relations with other countries. We toured the palace filled with beautiful oriental furniture and chests, silk fabric on the walls and lots of beautiful paintings. One in particular was fun as the man depicted appeared to follow you as you move through the room-Not only his eyes, but his foot points towards where ever you are!
The gardens outside were filled with multicolor flower arranged in geometric patterns. At the back of the gardens was a huge fountain with Neptune, and beyond that a mini arch of triumph.
Marie-Theresa also started the first zoo in Europe on this site and a zoo still exists there today. We did not have time to visit the zoo, but while we were walking around the gardens, a huge stork landed right near us! A lady who I assume was a trainer promptly took out some fish & hand fed it! That was cool!
Later on in the day we had a walking tour of the older part of Vienna. We saw the Vienna Opera House, and although we did not hear any opera, we were treated to a behind the scenes look behind the stage. They have an elaborate system for changing sets which involves rotating entire sections of the floor.
We also saw the main palace of the Hapsburgs which I think was called Wolfburg Palace. This one was a massive complex which included a small church where the Vienna Boys Choir practice & perform, and what was the carriage house and now houses the Spanish Riding School. This is where the Lipizzaner stallions, famous for their precision drills and high jumps, live.
Just a side note, while driving around we saw the Tour de France bicycle racers go by! They seemed to follow us from London to every country we went to--but this was the only place we happened to see them racing.
Our dinner/entertainment was so special I decided it deserves a post of its own...So stay tuned to hear how a restaurant that was the former hunting lodge of Austria ruler Franz-Joseph (1830-1916)rolled out the red carpet for us!