Thursday, December 15, 2016


A really early start to the day today.  With the full on days that we have it is getting harder to get up each morning.  We are 9 days into our tour now and starting to feel the pace getting to us a little.  Most days it's a 6 or 6.30am start and often we go until 10pm or later at night.

Gary wanted us ready in the foyer of the Hilton to leave by 7:45am as we were off to see  Maria Theresa's Schonbrunn Palace and Formal Gardens.  Gary wanted us to leave early so that we would be the first ones into the Palace and so that we could admire it and appreciate it before the hoards of tourists arrived around 9am.  We had a special entry time and it was great to have it to ourselves.  Apparently on average they have over 9,000 visitors a day, every day of the year and in summer it is more.  The Palace has more than 1441 rooms.

Schonbrunn Palace is a former summer residence of the former Imperial Family.  It's a Baroque Palace and is one of the most important architectural, cultural and historical monuments in the country.  The history of the Palace and it's vast gardens spans over 300 years. 

Schonbrunn Palace in it's present form was built and remodeled in 1740-50 during the reign of Empress Maria Theresa who received the estate as a wedding gift.  Franz Jospef the longest serving monarch commissioned the redecoration of the Palace exterior in neo-classical style as it appears today.

Franz Josepf was the longest reigning emperor of Austria was born at Schonbrunn and spent a great deal of hi life there.  He died there, at the age of 86 on 21st November 1916. 

Following the downfall of the Habsburg Monarchy in November 1918 the palace became the property of the newly formed Austrian Republic.

The grandiose Rococo interior of the Palace is a dazzling confection of gilded mirrors, crystal chandeliers and fresco-ed ceilings.  Unfortunately we were unable to take photos in the Palace.

The tour we did went through about 20 rooms of the Palace and took approximately a little over an hour and then we had another hour to wander through the gardens.  The baroque garden at Schronbrunn wa made as a demonstration of power and an ambition to outshine Versailles in France.

Maria Theresa took control of the Holy Roman Empire at the age of 23, in 1740, apparently too young and too beautiful for her responsibilities.  She mothered 16 children during her reign and married most of her children off to other European Royal families.  In fact she became known as the Mother-In-Law of Europe.

It was Maria Theresa's husband who established the zoological and botanical gardens at Schronbrunn.  The Zoo in the gardens dates from 1752 and is described as the oldest in the world.

The hilltop Gloriette which gives the garden its Baroque focus was completed in 1775.  A fine Roman Ruin was made in 1778, a a monument to recovery after disaster.  They represent Carthage after its defeat by Rome.  The park was opened to the public in 1779.

Steve managed to walk up to the Gloriette and take some photos looking back to the Palace.  I managed to climb the Palace back steps and take photos of the gardens looking up to the Gloriette.

Unfortunately we only had an hour to visit the gardens which was not nearly enough time at all.  Still I am glad I have seen them.

From the palace we drove back into District 1 in the main city of Vienna and drove around the ring road where all the main buildings of Vienna were pointed out to us.  Here we got to see buildings like the Parliament buildings, the Winter Palace, Museums, and the Opera House.  We were given a choice of getting off at the Opera House or going back on the bus to the Hilton.

All of us hoped off at the Opera House.  We had the rest of the day to explore and do as we liked.
We decided we wanted to go visit St Stephen's, the main church in Vienna and the very central spot of Vienna.  This is where all the divisions spread out from.

Before heading there we decided to have a coffee and try out the traditional Austrian apple strudel and some of their other specialty cakes..  The Cafe Mozart was recommended to u and it was nice to sit and take a break after all the walking we had been doing.  By this stage it was just after 11am.  The cake and strudel were delicious.  Even though it was a chocolate cake, it had like an orange flavour in the centre of it and it wasn't quite as rich as it looked. 

From here we took a side street down to the walking mall and came across an Aussie Pub with an Australian from Brisbane working in it.  We met most of the NZers here as well as Glen and Virginia from Newcastle. 

After stopping and chatting for a while we then took off again and continued walking towards the walking mall, heading towards St Stephen's Cathedral.  It was International Youth Day today and we came across quite a few musical groups of youth carrying their national flags.  There was even a flash mob which was super fun to watch.  They had people from the crowd joining in.  Steve did video some of it. 

From here we wandered into St Stephen's.  It was still a magnificent church but no where near as impressive as St Stephen' in Budapest.  It was lunch time so it was pretty busy also.  A lot of the musical youth outside where now entering the church to attend a special mass.

St Stephen's is in the very centre of Vienna and is the pivot point from where all districts radiate out from.  It is the Mother Church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna.  The current Romanesque and Gothic form of the cathedral was built between 1339 and 1365 and stands on the ruins of two earlier churches.  The first was a parish church consecrated in 1147.  It i the most important religious building in Vienna.  It has born witness to many important events in Habsburg and Austrian history and has with its multi coloured tile roof become one of the city's most recognizable symbols. 

After visiting St Stephen' we wandered back along the walking mall as Steve was still looking for a selfie stick.  We were having trouble finding one that would hold his big phone and also strong enough to handle it's weight.

By now it was probably 1.30pm and my feet were aching and it was still stinking hot  Neither of us felt like lunch so we headed to McDonalds and ordered a large diet coke for me and a strawberry thickshake for Steve.

Again we couldn't get over the number of people on their phones.  We seemed to notice it here more than the other countries we had been too.   We headed back to the hotel from here, it was quite a walk but we decided to walk back through the Stadtpark again.  It was still really busy even for a Monday and everyone was still on the phones.  It was unreal.  It appears others from our tour had also noticed just how bad it was too..

We got back to our hotel just after 3pm,  I headed up to our room for a rest whilst Steve crossed the road to one of the shopping centres there to see if he could find that illusive selfie stick.  I put my feet up and had a rest as we had a pretty big night ahead of us again.

We had to be back downstairs in the lobby by 5:45pm to go out to dinner and then go to a Viennese Classical Concert.  It wasn't that far from our hotel, just at the other end of the park.   We had a four course dinner at the restaurant .  Around 8pm we met Gary and he ushered us to our seats for the concert.  We were about three rows from the front so had a really good view.  The concert was excellent, mostly pieces by Strauss and Mozart.  We had two excellent Opera singers sing a few of their pieces, and although they sang in a language we had no idea of, their facial expressions and actions certainly told the story.  There were also a couple of ballet dancers perform to the music as well.  It was really beautiful.  At intermission we were served a glass of champagne and got to have it out on the balcony.  The last part of the concert had some more opera, and the ballet dancers dance to the Blue Danube Waltz.  It was a wonderful wonderful night and once again it was after 11pm before we got back to our hotel room.

We still had some washing to finish drying before we could crawl into bed and we needed to pack suitcases again as we had a 6am wake up call in the morning...


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