Ah, the lifestyles of the rich and famous, or even worse, the rich and royal. Schoenbrunn Palace was the summer residence or hunting lodge for the royal family that ran the Habsburg Empire. It’s just a little 1441 room Rocco abode, humble in every way, which first opened for business in 1699. The story is ‘tres recherche’ and yes it has to do with Palace envy, in this case Versailles, where the Austrian princess Marie Antoinette, married off to the Louis XIV sort of family, dwelt and incited the French Revolution with her famous remark— ‘let them eat cake!’. But I digress. When the Holy Roman Empire was on its nearly last legs, Emperor Maximillian II (aka Mad Max) purchased a large piece of land on the flood plain of the Wien river, just outside modern Vienna. If you are wondering what it looked like in its early days, say just after 1548 when it was first built, here you go….
The original ‘country house’ called Katterburg was not built by Max, but he bought it and decided in 1569 that it needed to be ‘maxed’ out. The place was renamed Schoenbrunn, which basically means beautiful spring, even though, it was mainly only used as a summer residence! Max ordered the area to be fenced in and for their to be put pheasants (not under glass), duck, deer, and boar, to indulge those who liked ‘the sporting life’. The successive Austrian rulers continued to use this palatial estate to entertain themselves and guests until the fall of the Austrian monarchy and its empire in 1918. The building became state property of the new Austrian Republic then.
Of interest for us is the ‘Mozart’ period during the reign of Franz Joseph and his beloved Cicci (she of the five feet long hair, which took two hours to comb out every morning). Here is a schematic of the place now, both the house and gardens…
The famous tale is of Wolgang Amadeus Mozart playing here for Cicci when he was only six, and so dazzling her majesty, that he ran over and jumped in her lap and gave her a kiss…. And here’s Wolfie as he was then….
You are not allowed to take any pictures inside the house so those that I share are snagged from the internet. The outside shots are all mine. I would say that this house is just as ornate, but less impressive overall than the Biltmore mansion in Asheville N.C. which similarly was a country estate of the Biltmore family, where it was possible for them to have built more, than in Newport where they also had a home
There are both the lower grounds, which I will show you first, then the upper grounds where the ‘observatory’ is on a promotory which overlooks Vienna.
There is actually a kitchen on the grounds where you can learn to make strudel! We simply ate at the little restaurant, and then retired for a nice evening concert in the orangery….. It was actually a very nice evening with some ballet, some opera arias, and some classical music from Mozart, Strauss, Offenbach, you get the picture. Here is the troupe of merry men and women….
A good time was had by all—- ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik’ anyone???