no matter where you go, there you are

Sunday, November 21, 2010

the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes – marcel proust

Day 2 in Vienna was all about the palaces and the royalty of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Anne and I began the morning at Hofburg, the winter palace of the kings and queens of the Austro-Hungarian Empire which ruled most of central Europe for hundreds of years until the dynasty's fall. The assasination of Franz Ferndidnand, which kick-started World War I, really did the Hapsburg family in. Anne, by living here in Vienna, knew all about the family and kept talking about them as if I knew exactly who Maria Theresa and Sisi were. Yeah, no idea. They're not in our history books.

Part of the admission price of Hofburg is the inclusion of the audio guide which would have been great had it not been abnormally crowded. The palace had run out of guides so we got pamphlets with all the same information in the guide instead. Though a good substitution, it really didn't work out well. Yes, in the beginning it was nice reading about all the artifacts they had to look at from the really cool porcelain collection, silverware, gold tables, chalices, etc...but the layout of the museum was so narrow, complicated and CROWDED that my attempt to follow along failed miserably. Anne had already been to Hofburg before so she didn't really care about the informational part. I did however, and since I don't like disorganization or crowds my patience started to thin. There was a lot to see and learn but it was just so hard.

The second section of the palace to see is the "Sissy" museum. From what I learned by asking Anne "who the hell was Sisi?" she is the Princess Diana of Austria. So famous, but never entirely the ruler in charge. And she was murdered so with life cut short, she's now immortalized in the Austrian culture. The Sisi Museum, to be truly honest, was a creepy and trippy. A dress she wore to a funeral was one of the highlights, glowing eerily in the dark. Narrow passageways, really low light, black walls and all of her posessions encased for eternal protection. Oh yeah, and people. Lots of people. All attempting to be herded through, but stuck in the worst traffic jam possible. Some people were listening to their audio guides, blocking the comb they were looking at from being seen by anyone else. Now the patience snapped. Anne really didn't like me complaining, but it was all I could do to not punch someone.

The apartments of Hofburg were much better than the earlier sections. Though still being herded through the room, the walkways were wider and at least there was light and space around me. Breathing came easier. Anne then needed to go to class so she told me how to get to Schonbrunn, the summer palace and agreed to meet there in a couple of hours with Lauren so we could do more Christmas Market shopping. There was one right there at Schonbrunn to explore.

Schonbrunn was similar to Hofburg, but gave a much better history of the family and who lived where and when, and it was mainly apartments and rooms within the palace instead of artifacts or creepy dedication special areas. There was a thing called the Sisi Pass though where you could see more of the palace than the basic pass. It may have been worth it, but I soaked in enough in what I did see. I got a real audio guide this time and it just helped so much better. It was a little less crowded and the crowd control was better so overall, I enjoyed this palace so much more. Hofburg was just like a bad nightmare, though it's probably wonderful in other circumstances.

Schonbrunn also has extensive grounds to explore. I only walked through the center part right behind the palace, all the way up the hill to the Gloriette. It was closed so we couldn't go in it or on top, but it was still great to see. The large fountain at the base of the hill was also pretty neat.

view from back of palace of gardens
back of palace
Gloriette up on the hill

I met Anne and Lauren after I finished my tour and we spent time in the Christmas Market. I had a delicious Baked Potato with a garlic sauce for dinner and then Anne and I split a chocolate waffle and caramel crepe for dessert. Great decision making on our part. We then returned to the Rathaus Market since it was so big a second time around was definitely needed. Here, I thoroughly embarassed myself in front of 2 Viennans by exclaiming to them by accident how cute one of the reindeer I was obsessed with was. I thought Anne was standing right next to me but she was on the other side of the booth. Woops. They probably just thought "crazy tourist..." But I got all my reindeer that night so it more than made up for it.

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