You know, like the lake house . . . . only bigger.
10.10.2008 - 10.10.2008 19 °C
First of all, welcome to the world Finleigh Amelia Burns, new daughter of Cindy and Mark Burns (and sister to Ainsley and Kenzie)! We are looking forward to meeting you!
Friday in Vienna was spent mostly at Schönbrunn Palace, the summer palace of the Hapsburgs. It was just like the lake house, only a little bit bigger, as you can see here:
We now have big plans for what to do with our "summer palace"! (Joseph wants to build a replica of the Gloriette -- a sort of Roman Imperial set of triumphal arches to mark the end of the formal garden).
We toured the apartments, first of Franz Josef and Elizabeth (Sissy), and then those of Maria Theresa and her children. For the absolute monarch of a substantial empire, Franz Josef seems to have lived a relatively spartan existence, devoted to his duty as first public servant of the Empire. The audioguide aims to humanize and contextualize the sights by talking mostly about the family life of the royals. Joseph wanted to hear more about the history of the Hapsburg monarchy, but how many political theory professors do they really get here?
We tried hard to explain to the children the significance of what they were seeing. It was a little dispiriting that, by the late afternoon, neither child could come up with the name "Hapsburg" when asked whose palace we were in! At least Margaret remembered some of the first names. Still, we're working on them.
Margaret has announced several times that she wants to live in a palace. She particularly likes the Baroque rooms, with cream or yellow silks and gilt plaster ornamentation. Frescoes on the ceiling are a plus. We've tried to explain that living that way seems to get you conquered and marginalized by the hungrier and more powerful (the fate of the dukes of Saxony, whose residences we visited in Dresden), or forced into exile by the people (the Hapsburgs), or guillotined. Those considerations seem to move her not at all. So instead, we've taken to explaining that if she wants to afford to live in such style, she'll have to found the next Google. And to do that, she'll really need to work on her math!
After the palace, we had our bag lunch on a bench in the garden and strolled around the grounds. October is clearly not the best time to visit in order to see formal gardens, since the landscapers were digging up some of the dying plantings (if you look closely in the picture, above, you can see some of the upturned mounds of dirt), but the place was far less crowded than it would have been had we been here in August. The spectacular Neptune fountain was still running, which pretty much made up for the less than splendid flowers in the gardens.
For John, the highlight of the day — it was possibly the highlight of the whole trip for him — was our visit to the hedge maze in the palace gardens. Actually there were three mazes. One was a fully grown hedge maze, leading to an elevated observation platform in the center (from which this photo was taken):
The second was a recently-planted hedge maze, with a number of games located throughout (including a dance-glockenspiel, a fountain that visitors could make spray with a sort of see-saw, and a footbridge that sprayed water on the feet of the unwary). And there was a third maze, of vines, with more games and puzzles, and, after that, an elaborate modern playground. Check out this piece of equipment — I'm sure the tort lawyers would have a field day with this one in the USA:
Last was our visit to the Apfelstrudel-making demonstration. Turns out apple strudel is much easier to make than one might have thought -- and, at least as the Viennese make it, it also involves rum.
After our return to "home base" here, we walked through a local produce market and salivated over all the fresh and dried fruits, the olives, the assortment of cured meats and cheeses, not to mention the baked breads. But rather than a picnic dinner, we ate at a relatively inexpensive restaurant, sitting outside and enjoying schnitzel, goulash -- and local beer.
We ended the night with an organ concert at the Augustinian church near the "city" palace of the Hapsburgs. There is nothing quite like listening to a ten minute lecture on the music you're about to hear in a language you cannot understand. Joseph professes to have understood every third word or so, but he didn't get much out of it either.
The performers were essentially grad students in music, and they were fine (playing three pieces by Messiaen), but they weren't as good as the organist we saw in Haarlem, nor was the organ quite as fine. At least Joseph enjoyed it.