Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

An American Back in Bavaria / Part # 11 / Schonbrunn

GAPP Exchange Journal 2014
Part # 11 / Vienna - Schonbrunn Palace

Schonbrunn Palace / Main Center Front
Our overnight stay at our hotel in Vienna had come to an end as we repacked our belongings, cleared out our rooms, and met downstairs in the lobby for a light breakfast.  The hotel had agreed to allow us to store our luggage at the hotel so we could continue to explore the city before our train was due to leave for back home to Bavaria later in the afternoon.  I had to hand it to Wendy, who had done a fantastic job with the itinerary of our trip.  She had really maximized our short weekend in the city by scheduling a series of amazing historic sites within our limited time frame in Vienna.  First on tap this morning was boarding the now familiar U-bahn subway to visit the famous summer palace of the Hapsburg Dynasty known as Schonbrunn.  Again, I had no idea what to fully expect, having only a free city map from the train station, which showed the location of the palace and a small picture.  The subway emerged from the underground darkness into the light of the surface.  Apparently the trains of Vienna run both above and below ground depending which direction you are headed.  It seemed the subway emerged on lines that ran outside the city's congested center.  Our train arrived and we walked along a long wall towards the front gateway (Map-I) of the popular palace.

Schonbrunn Palace and its accompanying imperial gardens were first opened to the public in 1779 by Queen Maria Theresia.  As with many magnificent palaces I have visited in Germany and now Austria, Schonbrunn began as a simple recreational location for the sport of hunting for the select members of the royal family and imperial court.  Originally known as the Katterburg Estate, the royal family acquired the rural property in 1569 for its close proximity to Vienna's forest.  In 1612 a spring fountain was discovered on the estate that provided the property with fine spring water, which was so pure, it was bottled for consumption for the Hofburg Winter Palace in the center of Vienna.  The spring was called Schones Brunnl, and would eventually give the grand palace its namesake.  The first constructed house of leisure was almost completely destroyed by the Turks in 1683.  The remaining foundation was soon razed to make room for a new grand structure to be built as a monument worthy of emulating the power of the Hapsburgs.  Over time, the main palace expanded to include over 1440 rooms to house 1000 people of the royal family and the entire royal court who resided there during the warm months of summer.

  Naiad Basin / Lilly Pad Fountain (13)
The massive gardens were so impressive and rather than go on the interior tour of the palace, I went rogue and decided to take the full time of our visit to explore the palace grounds to the rear of the structure.  I walked through the center-arched passageway under the main palace to stand at the extreme edge of the expansive imperial gardens.  The entire site encompasses 436 acres and is more than a half square mile in physical size.  Once again, to our great fortune, it was once again a beautiful sunny day.  Off in the distance on top of a hill was a structure known as the Gloriette (Map-8), which looked down over the palace grounds and appeared to be square with the palace's center.  If time permitted, my goal would be to try and reach the Gloriette to see the view offered of the palace grounds below.  First, I ventured to the left, with every turn in the pathway revealing one garden display after another in full bloom.  There were ornate statues, elaborate fountains, groomed gardens, flower lined pathways, and sculpted shaped shrubs.  I walked at a brisk pace all the way to an impressive fountain spring known as the Obelisk (Map-9), which denotes the history of the Hapsburg Dynasty.  

 Schonbrunn Palace and Gardens Map
Keeping my goal of climbing the large hill to reach the Gloriette (Map-13) in mind, I headed back to the east and passed a large fountain of mock Roman Ruins (Map-12) known by the same name.  I took in the view of the expansive center area known as Schonbrunn Park (Map-6) looking toward the center facade of the palace.  The climb was steep and the sun hot so I took a turn to enter a side road (Map-26), which provided shade from the heat of the sun overhead.  I imagined this was what much of the area resembled when the estate was originally used mostly as hunting grounds.  I came to a crossroad intersection and turned east once again to angle my climb toward the Gloriette, which was completely hidden from view.  I had no idea of my position in relation to the top of the hill, when the grandeur of the Gloriette suddenly appeared before me as I came around a bend in the wooded roadway and out into the bright sunlight.  As I turned to face the palace below, the view was nothing short of magnificent as the colorful city skyline of Vienna was stretched out along the horizon.  Just below the Gloriette on both sides was a large pond that created natural bookends to the structure. There was a grand cafe with large glass widows, offering thirsty patrons a beautiful setting and accompanying view to enjoy a cool drink.  However, tempting as it may have looked, the clock was ticking and all I had time for was a bathroom break and bottle of Coca-Cola Light from a vendor before I began my descent. 

The Neoclassicist Hilltop Gloriette
The Gloriette was built as a monument to all the soldiers who had perished over the centuries defending the empire.  The original grand plans for the summer palace dictated the main palace structure be built upon the top of the hill but construction was determined to be too expensive and the lower location was chosen instead.  The grass-covered hillside is an excellent space for spectators to sit when summer outdoor musical concerts are performed at the Gloriette.  The long zig-zagging pathway down the slope was longer than anticipated and I was beginning to worry I would miss our predetermined rendezvous in the main courtyard more than a half mile away.  However, I couldn't resist stopping periodically to take a few pictures of the beautiful view below.  I finally came to the base of the hill where the Large Neptune Fountain (Map-7) roared with powerful cascading falling water into a large pool below.  The Baroque styled fountain contains large marble statues depicting a mythological scene of the Goddess Thetis requesting Neptune to give her son Achilles a safe passage to the ancient city of Troy.  Stretched out before me was a colorful view of Schonbrunn Park (Map-6) framed by the large side gardens and main palace structure beyond.  It resembled a living work of art where nature and man merged to create something of true beauty. 

View of Schonbrunn from the Gloriette
The ornate gardens of brilliant colors were scrolled out in multiple complex designs of patterned symmetrical artwork displayed on a canvas of bright green lawns, framed by broad stone walkways. As always, I wished we had more time so I could explore the other half of the gardens on the opposite side of Schonbrunn Park.  I later discovered that the other side contained one of the largest greenhouses in the world known as Palm House (Map # 18) and a large zoo, which has been in existence since 1752.  The zoo known as Tiergarten (Map # 22), has been brought up to date as a modern facility and houses a variety of exotic animals such as elephants, apes, and hippopotamuses. There is also a space known as the Maze (Map # 15), a labyrinth of tall green hedges that would have been fun to navigate but time was slipping away.  Unfortunately, I was never able to penetrate the space hidden from view by a line of trees and accompanying statues.  If I ever get a chance to visit again, I will be sure to get the interior tour and then start by exploring the east gardens first.  I made it back to the main courtyard to join up with our students and even had time to explore the gift shop and enjoy another Coca-Cola Light under the shade of a brightly colored umbrella overlooking the courtyard and palace frontal facade.  

Schonbrunn's Neptune Fountain
On our way out, we even had a few minutes to explore the side English rose gardens that had several rose covered trellises that were large enough to walk through, resembling a tunnel of flowers.  The summer imperial palace was absolutely beautiful and it was no wonder why the royal family and court wanted to spend the summer months in residence.  In fact, I wouldn't mind moving into one of the 1000+ rooms of the palace for a month or two, so I could take my time to fully check out the property in full!  We walked back to the small train station and boarded to make our way to our next and final destination before departing the city.  On our train car we met a nice old gentleman who was quietly ministering to anyone who would listen.  He asked if he could pray for us and we welcomed his blessing, which requested safe travels for all of us during the remainder of our stay in Europe.  We got off at our stop and said goodbye to the kind elderly missionary, who continued on the train to destinations unknown.  

Elderly Train Missionary

Site Facts, Figures, and History
Source / Vienna by Lina Schnorr
Published by Harald Bohm - 2014


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