Schloss Schönbrunn, Vienna

Although the sun would break through a bit later, Schönbrunn Palace was set off by heavy, brooding clouds when I first arrived on a Sunday morning. As I walked from the nearby subway station to the Palace gate at 7:30 am, I saw virtually no one. Though he is a little hard to make out in the relatively low-res photo for web posting, there is a lone jogger just to the right of the staircase in the photo. In any case, my plan was to take an early morning walk around the Palace grounds and later buy a ticket to go into the Palace. The walk through the beautiful grounds was thoroughly enjoyable, and went just as planned. However, when I went to buy a ticket for the Palace, the earliest I could enter was after 1:30 pm. Typically, I had done zero research or advanced planning for my visit, and thus was not aware there is a limit to the number of visitors inside the facility at any given time, and one has to reserve a time when buying a ticket. I wanted to go inside, but with only three and a half days in Vienna, it just did not make sense to spend pretty much an entire day at the Schönbrunn, so I went in search of brunch and coffee instead.

Schloss Schönbrunn served as the principal summer residence of Austria’s Hapsburg rulers from around the year 1600 until early in the 20th century. Several kilometers from the Hofburg in the center of old Vienna, even today the Schönbrunn and its extensive landscaped grounds are removed from the bustle of contemporary Vienna. The imposing Baroque-style edifice that appears in this photograph was completed in the 1740s during the reign of Hapsburg empress Maria Theresa. Wikipedia informs us that the palace has 1,441 rooms. The Schönbrunn and the grounds are preserved, restored as needed, owned and managed by a limited-liability company, which is, in turn, wholly-owned by the Austrian state (Wikipedia). Although I did not get inside the palace itself, everything I saw outside was immaculate and in excellent condition. Very impressive.

The main gate to Schönbrunn Palace.

And yes, the Schönbrunn has more statues featuring scantily clad classical figures in what appears to be uncomfortable repose.

Belvedere Garden, Vienna

Belvedere Garden is based on the design of the French garden at Versailles. The Garden slopes down gently from the Upper to Lower Belvedere, which is the building with the red roof at the end of the promenade. The Garden has great water features featuring classical or mythical characters spouting fountains of water high into the air. The domed building on the right belongs to a Catholic church, which is not part of the Belvedere.

Vienna is full of statues of mythical, bare-breasted female figures. The statues are highly stylized and, I assume, not expected to be taken seriously as representations of women. What an arm! Looks like this girl could bench press a couple of hundred pounds without taking a deep breath. This statue and a partner out of the frame to the right sit in front of the main entrance to the Upper Belvedere pictured here.

A sign tells visitors this is one of several fountain statues called the Large Cascade. Apparently, when the Garden was built some 300 years ago, a complex system of pipes was installed to force water out of the mouths of the fountains, and keep it flowing downhill towards the Lower Belvedere. Today, I presume electric pumps are doing the heavy lifting.

The Upper Belvedere from the southern entrance to the Garden. I really could not have asked for a nicer day to visit this place.

The main entrance to the Lower Belvedere is shown here. Prince Eugene, the military leader who had the entire Belvedere complex built to serve as his residence in Vienna, used this building as his house; I wonder if he ever set foot in all of the rooms the place has during the years he lived here. I have no idea what he did with the Upper Belvedere. Maybe he had a big family. Today, both facilities serve as museums.

At play in front of the Lower Belvedere.

Upper Belvedere Palace, Vienna

The Belvedere is a complex consisting of two principal buildings, the Upper and Lower Belvedere, and an extensive garden designed in the manner of a formal French garden. The Belvedere palaces, minor buildings, and the gardens were commissioned by Prince Eugene of Savoy to serve as his residence in Vienna. The Prince was a renowned field marshal in his day, commanding an army of the Holy Roman Empire, and military forces of Austria’s Hapsburg dynasty. He won a key victory against the Ottoman Turks in 1697, and helped to win important battles for Austria against the French during the Napoleonic wars.

Construction of the palaces began in 1712 and was completed in 1723. Part of modern Vienna today, at the time it was built, the land the Belvedere occupies was empty and undeveloped. The park area is a couple of kilometers distant from the Hofburg, the seat of Hapsburg imperial and political power at the center of 17th and 18th century Vienna.

After the Prince of Savoy died in 1736, the Austrian state assumed control of the Belvedere. Since that time the palaces have served, for the most part, as exhibition centers and museums for a variety of art collections.

Pictured here is the facade of the Upper Belvedere seen from the southern entrance to the park. Though I was interested in the museums , by the time I arrived at the park, it was late afternoon, and since I would get little time to see the exhibits inside, I just walked through the park enjoying a beautiful, sunny autumn day.