Friday, August 23, 2013

Schonbrunn Palace

After tucking my very sick fellow traveler into our cushy hotel room I got on the Go Ahead tour bus and we all headed out to Shonbrunn Palace. After Melk Abbey I really didn't know what to expect but was hopeful to see something amazing. I wasn't let down. (click on the photos to see the larger version)
 The gates of the Palace set the mood. Highly ornate wrought iron beckons you to take a few moments to actually look at it and take in all of the detail. Sadly, most of those who enter the gates barely seemed to even see them.
 Schonbrunn means "beautiful spring" due to the artesian well on the property where they got their water. Built in the early 1600's, Schonbrunn was the Summer Palace for the imperial family. There just is no way to convey the size of this place. From the gates to the front stairway is at least as big as a professional football stadium!
 As with the gates, hardly anyone stopped to take in this fun fountain on the way into the Palace. I loved the "hanging out" attitude of it. Making it clear that this is a place to relax, to get away from it all, take a holiday.
 Horse drawn carriages helped to set the mood as well. We found out that these horses are, like in Salzburg, totally pampered animals. The carriage drivers spend a lot of time grooming them and taking care of them in between rides.
 The romance of the buildings details is hard to miss. From the beautiful lanterns to the impossibly ornate railings it bridges the line between plain and over-done constantly.
 From the twin walkway across from the one pictured on the far right, I was able to get this sweeping view of the front of the Palace. Just trying, still, to convey how large this place is in real life.
 I would have loved to have been able to photograph the inside but after this one photo I was told that there is absolutely no photography allowed, even without flash. This will give you a small idea of how ornate it is inside as well.
 After the inside tour we were able to have a short amount of time in the gardens. There are many sections to these gardens with their own mini gardens and features. You could easily spend hours exploring the grounds and never be bored. Unfortunately we were not given much time here.
I wandered off from the group, as I tend to do, to explore off the main walkway and found lovely shaded groves with their own statues to admire.
 When I got done with my wandering I headed back to the Palace. We were now on the back or garden side of the Palace which had it's own beautiful details.
 They really love their statues here. They are literally placed a few feet apart over every flat surface on the roofline!
But it was the staircase that I fell in love with. More lanterns I would love to have in my own garden...if my own garden was the size of Yankee Stadium that is.
But, like the front gates, most of those who tour this Palace walk right past these gorgeous works of art like they don't see them. I actually, by taking the photos of this staircase, managed to get some people to stop and actually LOOK at the amazing ironwork here. 
While gazing down these steps I tried to wrap my head around the idea of actually living here. Wondering if the family had become so jaded in their wealth that they didn't even notice the beauty that was everywhere they stepped or if, like me, they would take the time to actually soak it all in one section at a time.
From the top of the staircase you were able to look out over the main section of the back gardens. They are so big that there was no way my widest lens would be able to capture both sides at the same time!
 Several of our group walked down to the first set of fountains in the lower garden.
 I loved the horsemen but it was the man in the middle that made me laugh out loud. The sheer arrogance in his stance made it clear that he was definitely "Lording" over the entire group. (click on the photo to see the larger version)
We didn't have a chance to walk all the way up to the upper gardens but the facade up there, with it's own plethora of statues and gardens, really was something to see, even from afar.

The time we didn't get at Schonbrunn to explore wasn't an issue at Belvedere Castle the next day. I'll share that with you all next week!


Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Sadly, when you take long trips, things don't always go the way you wish they would go. I love traveling with my mom. We have the same vision when it comes to seeing the sights...whatever catches our eye is the direction we will go! But she started to feel ill in Salzburg and by the time we were in Vienna she had full blow bronchitis and was, basically, bedridden for almost our full time in Vienna.

 One thing about Go Ahead is that they put you up in some really wonderful hotels so she was able to rest in comfort. Ours was a corner room with lots of light and air. Lovely.
 Driving into town we did get to see some amazing sights. This downtown building is the Parliment Building! See the lines going through the photo? They all over Vienna.
 They are train cables! Literally crisscrossing the city everywhere you look!
 At first I thought they were an eyesore but when the vintage looking trains make their way up and down the lines the whole effect is just charming.
 One of our first stops on our tour here was the Hundertwassen Haus Wein. This is a small section of downtown that was created by the artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. He didn't believe in all straight lines or boring colors. So everything is curved or mismatched in some way.
 Ok, so you can't make this stuff up...this guys name when he was born was Friedrich Stowasser. He changed it to be Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser. Nope, not kidding, not even a little bit! Stop laughing and shaking your head...ok, I haven't stopped laughing or shaking my head yet! How can you even read Dunkelbunt and not laugh? BUT, this sense of fun is mirrored in his art so I guess it's all good.
 I loved how the windows were mismatched, the paint just sort of here or there, the textures of the actual side of the building is mismatched. Totally fun!
 Even the fountain in the square is totally mismatched. Check out the lines of tile in the walls, the odd squares of tiles here or there. Not even the edge of the fountain is the typical bowl edge. He's built up the sides so they roll in some places and flat in others. Not even the pieces of the fountain match! Each section is totally different from the others. Too funny!
 Now this is where I gave our local guide a heart attack. I tend to wander. Not far, but I wander. Hey, my mom does it too! I promised to be back at the meet up spot at the appointed time and, after taking in the look of true panic on her face and the smile on our normal guides face (she had gotten use to our wandering), I took a right and headed into the neighborhood surrounding the Hundertwassen Haus. And was rewarded heavily! Art Deco was everywhere and I was enthralled!
 I began to get an idea of what the buildings of Vienna were going to be like walking through this neighborhood. Rather risque, very ornate and beautiful.
 Even the buildings that had rather plain surfaces had hidden art on them! (just click on the photos to see a bigger view!)
 I loved this one. Not just the touches of gold but the overall attitude of the piece. The "just hanging out" look of this guy made me laugh out loud. Ok, I got a few stares but it was worth it! 
We did go visit Schonbrunn Palace after our brief downtown visit (I'll take you there in a few days) and then returned to downtown after our tour. We were dropped off right in the center of downtown, across from the Sacher Hotel. Yup, the chocolate haven of my dreams. The rest of the day was free time for us but as I wandered around it was clear that I just wanted to go back to our hotel room and rest, check on Mom and figure out what we could do together. Now, I'm not nuts, I did stop into this hotel to buy a Sacher Torte to take back with me!
I took a taxi back to the hotel (the stand was right in front of the Sacher Hotel!) and on my way got to see more sights of the city and her architecture. I love the many designs on the building and the roof but my favorite part is roof trim which, to me, looks like little Knight helmets all in a row!
 And, of course, I found a lion! this one looks SO fierce like he's roaring at the sunrise.
Outside of our hotel I found this cheerful looking guy. No special building, just over the doorway of a regular house. One of the things I loved about Vienna.

 This is the view from our hotel room. The building on the right isn't part of the hotel. Just a building next to the hotel. I looked to see if it was an office building or something but never saw any markings on it. I loved the little garden square right on the side of the building. Like a mini park!
 This is what I mean about the building decor. How ornate a design for just a regular building in the neighborhood. This is one of the joys of traveling in Europe. You see design elements that have been lost in America because of the "time is money" attitude here. It takes craftsmen and time and, yes, money, to create such beautiful buildings. Totally worth it. Every bit.
 The doorways were my favorite. Yup, found a "fat baby" again. We had ventured just up the block where there were some restaurants and, more importantly, ice cream, and this was the doorway on a side street along our way. Just beautiful.
 This was the doorway to some official building. We think it was an embassy. The reason I couldn't resist it was all of the details in this one door topper! There is just so much to take in! (click on the photo to see the bigger version)

While we ate this was our view. Victorian looking home across from the shops with ornate wrought iron fencing and lamps. Lovely.
On one of my walks alone I discovered this. It is the entrance hallway to a school! After walking the hallways a bit I realized that it was right next to Belvedere Palace! That is an amazing place that deserves it's own blog so I'll take you there in a few days. 

See you then!


Monday, August 12, 2013

The Danube Cruise

We left Melk Abbey and took the Go Ahead tour bus to the docks where we boarded our cruise ship. 
 The ship, part of the DDSB Blue Danube line, is the size of a ferry and there were several areas where you could sit, order food or just site see. Unfortunately it was way too cold to sit up on deck anywhere.
 But the views were wonderful. Along this tour route we did get to see a few castles as well as remnants of them such as this turret that was on the other side of the railroad tunnel.
 But this is the one I fell in love with. The Schonbuhel Castle sits on its promontory over the Danube and is just too picturesque for any camera to ever capture. It has changed ownership over the years since it was built in the 12th Century, even owned by the Abbey for a short time, before it landed into the hands of its present owner, Count Oswald von Seilern und Aspang.
 Some of the buildings we could admire but had no idea what they actually were. Due to all of the crucifix's in the shed we have an idea that there is some sort of religious connection to this one.
 We disembarked in Durnstein where we loaded up onto a train-like tram for a tour of the town. This is our guide, Paula, who was simply wonderful. If she didn't have the answer to a question she found a way to get it as soon as she could. 
 Durnstein was a very pretty little town. With a population of only about 900 people it truly had that small village look and feel to it. It is considered the most romantic place in the Wachau Valley.
 The crowning glory of the village was this church and it's ornate spire.  It was once an Augustine Abbey and the "Blue Church" is something pointed out on every tour. Click on the photo to see the details in the larger version!
 But the real fame of this village is the Durnstein Castle ruins. Richard the Lionhearted was reported to have been held "prisoner" here for a few months between 1192 and 1193. It was said that he was treated quite well, often playing card games with his guards as well as flirting with the local ladies. His "ransom" was paid and it is said that the money went to help establish Vienna. How much is true we will never know but it is a romantic story for a romantic village.
 Below the Castle are the vineyards. No, the photo isn't turned, the grapevines and the little temple are, indeed, tilted downhill. I've always wondered what it would be like to try to stand inside of that little building!
 In the middle of the vineyard was this ornate memorial to the soldiers of the battle against the French in 1805. 
 From the other side of the vineyard you can see the Blue Church in the valley and the Castle ruins up on the point. 
 If you turn directly away from the ruins you have the Danube at your feet as well as a hazy view of the Gottweig Abbey up on the far hillside.
 All through the vineyard were little pieces of sculpture like this one. Since you can hike through the vineyard as well as take the tram, the sculptures are a very nice addition to the tour.
One last look at the Schonbuhel Castle before we head off to Vienna. The river cruise was a nice, relaxing way to pass a few hours, get a bit of rest before heading to our final destination. About $15 Euros, or a little over $20 in US dollars, it was an inexpensive way to see sites as beautiful as the castle above.

Next time Vienna and the beautiful Belvedere Castle!