Saturday, May 5, 2012

Hofburg Palace & Schonbrunn Palace - Vienna

Vienna is the capital of modern day Austria, but it was also the capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire.  This empire was held by the Habsburg monarchy, and the head of the House of Habsburg was usually the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1440 until its dissolution in 1806.  The monarchy ended in 1918 with the end of WWI, and the empire was broken apart.  The Habsburgs had many residences, but their primary winter home, Hofburg Palace, and their primary summer home, Schonbrunn Palace, are both located in Vienna.

On Saturday night, we were walking around downtown and happened upon Hofburg Palace.  It is quite massive and had been built onto over the years, so this is what we approached when we reached it.

We walked through the archway and this is a picture inside the dome.

Inside the courtyard.

Gorgeous detail work.

We walked through another archway out of the courtyard and were instantly in view of the main part of the palace.  It was breathtaking and although I would have loved to have taken a picture to show it all, I couldn't.  Everything we walked through from the beginning until this picture was all connected.  Although the Habsburgs are no longer in residence, this now serves as the residence of the President of Austria.  We had wanted to come back on Monday to tour the inside, but ran out of time.

On Tuesday morning, we got up bright an early to make it to Schonbrunn Palace, which was only one U-bahn stop away from where we were staying.  Andy thought it was weird that the winter home and summer home were so close together, so why bother.  Indeed, they are only 5km (3.1 miles) apart, but the weather is usually a little bit cooler outside of the city, plus in those days, the air was cleaner outside the city.  Pictured above is the approach to the palace.

We took the tour, which had a great little audio guide, where you press a number for the room you're in and it tells you about that room.  It reminded us of the Biltmore Estate in how luxurious everything was (they were only built about 50 years apart).  They talked a little about the Habsburg family, and it's interesting when you find out how all the houses in Europe are connected.  Marie Antoinette was a Habsburg, and there were Habsbugs in almost every kingdom in Europe.  The male line became extinct in the 18th century due to extreme inbreeding causing severe genetic abnormalities.  The Habsburg monarchy was then taken over by a relative of the House of Lorraine, and the line became the House of Habsburg-Lorraine (although most still called it the House of Habsburg).

This is the back of the palace that led us out into the impressive grounds.  In addition to the palace, there are massive gardens and even a zoo!

A Roman ruin also sits on the grounds.

There was a beautiful fountain at the bottom of the hill from the Roman ruin.

It's really amazing to get to tour these palaces in Europe and we have several more scheduled to visit before we come home.  It's not something that is seen in the States, so it's quite fascinating.  The Biltmore Estate is probably one of the closest things to a European palace that we have.

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