After touring the city of Vienna this morning, we returned to the ship for lunch. Then Bill and I and some of the others from our group caught a bus at 1:20 p.m. for the optional excursion to Schönbrunn Palace.
Schönbrunn was the summer estate of the Habsburgs, built in 1749 during the reign of the Empress Maria Theresa. The Emperor Francis (or Franz) Joseph was born there in 1830. Francis Joseph had a long rule of 68 years. He lived exclusively in this palace during his last years. Then, two years after his death in 1916, the property came under the ownership of the new Republic of Austria. According to the web site vienna-vacation.com, Schönbrunn Palace “together with its ancillary buildings and extensive park is by virtue of its long and colourful history one of the most important cultural monuments in Austria.” It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996.
When we arrived at Schönbrunn, the first person we saw at the front gate area was Mozart himself. He looked a bit different than I had remembered him, as he was dressed all in gold and had even painted his skin gold. Instead of his usual white powdered wig, he wore a gold one. He was standing atop a box with his name on it and, if I remember correctly, he was singing or humming some of his famous music. I presume times were rough for him, and he was hoping for some extra Euros that we would offer him for going to all the trouble. Unfortunately, we were fresh out.
We walked through the gates and waited for our tour guide to handle the ticket situation, then we all headed toward the huge garden area in the back of the building.
The name “Schönbrunn” means “beautiful spring.” It is named after an artesian well which was located within the huge front courtyard. The Palace grounds contain not only the beautiful gardens, sculptures, fountains, etc., but also a zoo, a maze, an orangerie, a Palm House, a botanical garden, restaurants, and offices. There is even “a modern enclosure for Orangutans,” according to Wikipedia.
According to our Avalon Guide Book, the “most attractive rooms (in the palace) include the Mirror Gallery, where the 6-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart performed for Empress Maria Theresa, and the Chinese Round Salon.” Of the 1,441 rooms in the Baroque palace, only about 350 rooms were actually ever used by the Imperial Family as living quarters and rooms for entertaining. “Many of the rooms have gilded decoration or have rosewood paneling and elaborate chandeliers.”
We, on our tour, were not allowed to take any photos of the interior of the Palace, nor did we have much time after the tour to view a lot of the grounds. However, you can get an idea of how breathtakingly beautiful the grounds and some of the rooms inside are by taking a look at this web site: http://www.wien.info/en/sightseeing/sights/imperial/schoenbrunn-palace
(Be sure to scroll down the page to find the photo gallery.)
On the way back through the front gates I almost dropped a Euro into Mozart’s bucket, but I was worried he would start singing to me. Our tour guide said that he probably earns quite a lot of money doing what he does, because he is there virtually “all day, every day.” So we boarded our bus and rode back to the ship.
We dressed up for dinner, as our whole group had signed up for the Bistro Dinner in the main lounge. The same food was offered this night as when Bill, Lois, Fox, and I enjoyed during the first Bistro Dinner, but none of the others had tasted it, so it was nice for everyone. It was also nice to have a change of pace from going downstairs to the usual dining room. (All of the following photos were taken by Sue or with her camera.)
At 7:50 p.m. most of us boarded the bus (again) for the “Salute to Vienna” concert at the Wiener Konzerthaus. The concert featured conductor Matthias Fletzberger, who was very entertaining. There was a wonderful orchestra, four fantastic opera singers, and the International Champion Ballroom Dancers. The music was mostly selections from Vienna native Johann Strauss II, “The Waltz King,” including his best known operetta Die Fledermaus (The Bat). We were not allowed to take photos during the concert, so Sue took a few before it began.
The Konzerthaus was gorgeous inside. We all loved the concert, and we were so glad we went. It was a wonderful way to end a very busy day in Vienna. We were all given concert programs and compact discs to take home as souvenirs.
As I mentioned previously, since we only had this one day to spend in and around Vienna, we didn’t have nearly enough time to see and do as much as we would have liked. So Bill and I have vowed to return someday.