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  • Nature | Austria
    Updated at Nov 18,2014

    Schönbrunn Grounds:

    Schönbrunn Entrance:

    Even the approach to the palace is like a skilfully staged progress towards the presence of the monarch. Avenues lead to the main gate which is flanked by two obelisks crowned with eagles as symbols of imperial sovereignty. Once through the gates, one is confronted with the vast open space of the cour d’honneur, at the other end of which stands the palace itself:

    The Palace Gardens: By walking through the planted flower beds of the park, one first does not imagine that the whole area of the palace garden extends in a legnth and width of nearly one kilometer each. The view to the backside of the castle Schönbrunn and the Gloriette that enthrones on a small hill are more than imposing. Everywhere in the palace gardens of Schönbrunn one finds nicely arranged paths with some fountains or benches for relaxing. Our view fell to widely arranged lawns and abundantly adorned fountains. The park was an integral part of this complex, as a symbol of Nature subjected to monarchical will and as a spectacular backdrop for summer festivities, evening illuminations and firework displays. Music, an art cultivated at the highest level at the Habsburg Court and one that was also deployed to serve the needs of courtly display, took the form of sumptuous operas and serenatas, dances and ballets, for which parts of the palace or its gardens were adapted. There was also a permanent stage available in the palace theatre at Schönbrunn.

    Great Parterre: The central axis of the palace formed the backbone of the gardens whose symmetry was determined by orthogonal and diagonal axes. Behind the garden façade of the palace the Parterre occupied the largest space with its strictly symmetrical beds. The beds consisted of formal patterns made with strips of box and coloured stones or sand and were known as "broderie" parterres since these formal motifs were mostly taken from embroidery patterns. To either side of the parterre were formal plantings of severely clipped hedges forming passageways, small openings and hidden enclosures:

    The great Parterre from the southern facade of the Schonbrunn Palace:

    The south facade of the Palace:

    Palm House:  Emperor Franz Joseph commissioned the construction of the Palm House in 1882 to Architect Franz Segenschmid. it is the largest Palm House on the European continent. The Palm House is located on the site of the former Dutch Garden. The Palm House is divided into three pavilions and three climate zones, which are connected to each other by tunnel-like corridors. The tallest room exhibits plants from the Mediterranean region, the Canary Islands, South Africa, America and Australia. The northern room houses plants from China, Japan, the Himalayas and New Zealand. Tropical and subtropical plants grow in the third area. There are several outstanding plants in the Palm House: a 23 meter-tall palm, the largest water lily in the world (with a leaf diameter of 1.20 meters). Temperatures in the Palm House range between 8 and 17  degrees Celsius. The Schönbrunn Palm House was the last of its type to be constructed in continental Europe:

    The Desert House (Wüstenhaus) is east to the Palm house. The vegetation in the desert house mainly consists on cacti. In the desert house right in front of the palm house, I first had the same feeling. The flora with the many different cacti is surely impressive if one has only few chances to see such things somewhere else. But if one considers that the Emperor Franz Joseph I. had this glass house built that was finally finished in the year 1904 in order to give the plants coming from Australia and Africa a good chance to grow, this house gets something interesting. Today, one can walk through subterranean alleyways with glass inserts and above the ground on solid pathways and see the flora and fauna of three different dry regions. But beside plenty of different birds we only saw one little mouse; the other animals were either well hidden or not there at all. While we took some 30 minutes time to view the palm house, 10-15 minutes were enough for the desert house. It was not the money worth. But anyway, it is a welcolmed chance to get to the tilet after those long walks in the palace garden:

    Note: The Zoo (Tiergarten) is close-by. We left its description to end of this Tip.

    Botanic Garden and the Japanese Garden: The small Japanese Garden is north to the Palm House:

    The Botanic Garden extends all along the most eastern stretch of the Schonbrunn park.

    In 1753, Maria Theresa's husband, Emperor Franz I Stephan, who was a keen amateur natural scientist, bought a neglected hedged field from the neighbouring village of Hietzing, on which he had a "Dutch Garden" laid out. This garden, which was located on the site today occupied by the Palm House, had a geometrical layout and consisted of three sections. Each section had four quadrants with a fountain at their centres. The northern section was a flower garden, the central section contained vegetable beds and spaliered fruit trees while the southern section was an orchard. A large glasshouse was also erected on the north side. During the reigns of Joseph II and Emperor Franz II/I, the old "Dutch-Botanic" Garden was extended through the purchase of additional pieces of land. A number of new glasshouses were erected in this new part of the garden, together with an arboretum consisting of exotic American trees planted in evenly-spaced rows in sandy soil and equipped with inscribed plaques. The four mighty plane trees still standing near the Palm House date from this time. An inventory of the entire stock of the Dutch-Botanic Garden dated 1799 lists 4,000 plants of nearly 800 different species. From 1828 the Dutch-Botanic Garden was transformed into a landscape garden in the English style and renamed the "Court Plant Garden". Today's Botanic Garden is located on the site of the extra plots of land acquired by Joseph II and Franz II/I:

    Neptune Fountain: The Neptunbrunnen ("Neptune Fountain") marks exactly the centre of the garden. Sited at the foot of the hill south to the palace, west to the Zoo and the Botanic Garden and north to the  Great Parterre and north-west to the Japanese Garden and the Palms House. It was conceived as part of the overall design of the gardens and park commissioned by Maria Theresa in the 1770s. Excavations for the pool began in 1776 and the fountain was completed four years later, just before the death of the Empress. It was very probably designed by Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg, while the sculptural group of Sterzing marble was executed by Wilhelm Beyer. At the centre of the figural group above a rocky grotto stands Neptune in a shell-shaped chariot, his trident in his hand. To his left is a nymph, while on his right kneels the sea-goddess Thetis, entreating Neptune to favour the voyage of her son, Achilles, who has set off to conquer Troy. Frolicking at the foot of the grotto are the Tritons, creatures who are half-man and half-fish, and belong to Neptune's entourage. They hold conch shell trumpets with which they can inspire fear in both man and beast, and are restraining the hippocampi or sea-horses who draw Neptune's chariot across the seas. Neptune driving across the seas in dominion over the watery element is a common motif in 16th to 18th-century art, being used as a symbol for monarchs controlling the destiny of their nations. The figural group was originally free-standing, but a screen of trees was planted behind it during the 19th century to provide a foil:

    The Palace from the Neptune Fountain:

    From the Neptune Fountain we had north. The fountain is in our back, we see the Palace in front of us. We bypass it, climb the hill and arrive to the Gloriette which is, immediately, north to the Palace.

    The Gloriette:  The Early Classicistic colonnaded Gloriette was built to Hohenberg's designs on the crest of the hill in 1775. The structure consists of a central section in the form of a triumphal arch, flanked by arcaded wings with lofty semi-circular arches. The central section, which was glazed during the last year of Maria Theresa's life, is crowned with a mighty imperial eagle perching on a globe and surrounded by trophies. The flat roof with its retaining balustrade was already being used as a viewing platform by the beginning of the 19th century. It can be accessed today via a stairway. Besides the external flight of steps leading up to the glazed central section, which today houses Café Gloriette, there are additional lateral flights of steps which are lined with massive sculpted trophies. These are arrangements composed of antique Roman armour with shields, standards and lions, and were executed by the sculptor Johann Baptist Hagenauer. The central eagle motif and the other sculptural decorations were executed by Benedikt Henrici.  Never completed, the palace was made over to the army in 1774 to be used as a powder magazine. Maria Theresa subsequently gave orders for the valuable architectural features to be dismantled and used in the remodelling of the park and gardens at Schönbrunn. The Gloriette has been repeatedly interpreted by historians as a monument to the notion of a "just war", which according to 18th-century ideals was not waged senselessly but with the purpose of restoring the balance of power and consolidating established order. During the 19th century the glazed inner hall of the Gloriette was frequently used as a dining room. A kitchen was built nearby so that food could be freshly prepared, but this was demolished around 1925. One year later the glazing was also removed. In 1945 part of the east wing was destroyed by a bomb, but was rebuilt in the years following the war. The Gloriette underwent complete restoration in 1994/95 during the course of which the central section was reglazed. Today, the Gloriette houses a popular café with a remarkable view over the imperial palace and its formal gardens. It seems that many visitors want to climb up the small branched paths to the Gloriette. Thus, you wo'nt be very surprised when you don't not get any seat in the small café in the Gloriette, that, with a lot of view windows, offers an attractive possibility to rest. But the seats are positioned very closely together and the lack of cosiness in the overfull room is not very inviting, as any few minutes the door is opened and people enter the room in order to look for a seat. But at the front of the café there are enough benches from which you can have a look down to the castle Schönbrunn. It is surely worthwhile to visit the Palace Schönbrunn and climb the Gloriette hill in the summer time when everything blossoms but then one surely has to count with more visitors respectively than there are in the autumn season.

    The view to the Palace and Vienna Forests during the climb to the Gloriette Hill:

    The Gloriette Restaurant:

    View of Schonbrunn Park from the Gloriette:

    View of Vienna from the Gloriette:

    We head south-west from the Gloriette to the Obelisk. The Obelisk Fountain is exactly west to the Neptune Fountain, on the most west border of the park - in its centre. Like the other features in the park this fountain was also designed by Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg and according to the inscription on the socle of the obelisk was erected in 1777. The statuary work was carried out by Benedikt Henrici partly following designs by Wilhelm Beyer. The fountain consists of a pool contained against the slope behind it by a retaining wall topped by a balustrade with vases. Projecting forward into basin from the centre of the back wall is a mountain grotto peopled with river gods and crowned by an obelisk. The water flows out of the mouth of a central mask and the vases held by the river gods via a succession of three basins into the main pool. The obelisk, borne on the backs of four turtles as the symbol of stability, is covered in hieroglyphs purporting to tell the history of the Habsburg dynasty. However, these are spurious, as hieroglyphs were not in fact deciphered until 1822. Between the mountain grotto and the retaining wall is a double flight of steps leading to a platform from where a small cave reveals a view of the avenue. As cosmic symbols, obelisks were associated with the sun cult of the Ancient Egyptians. Crowned by a golden sphere symbolising the sun, the obelisk represents the path of the rays of the sun down to earth, while the four edges signify the cardinal directions. In Baroque iconography the obelisk stood for princely steadfastness and stable government. The eagle perching on top of the sphere, held to be the only creature that can approach the sun without coming to harm, symbolises the ruler mediating between heaven and earth. The Obelisk Fountain at Schönbrunn was doubtless also intended to express the Habsburg claim to absolute and enduring dominion:

    The Rusten Allee leads from the Obelisk directly east to the Roman Ruin. Designed by Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg and built in 1778, the ensemble is completely integrated into the surrounding landscape as a picturesque garden feature. The fashion for picturesque artificial ruins had started before the middle of the 18th century in England but it had taken several decades for it to spread further afield.
    Hohenberg created the Roman Ruin at Schönbrunn as an entirely new structure on the model of the Ancient Roman temple of Vespasian and Titus, the remains of which had been recorded in an engraving by Giovanni Battista Piranesi dating to around 1756. In contrast to the Gloriette, all the architectural elements of the structure, including the columns and reliefs, were made under the supervision of the court architect, as has only recently been verified. The ensemble consists of a rectangular pool framed by a massive semi-circular arch with lateral walls evoking the impression of an ancient edifice slowly crumbling into the ground. The centre of the ensemble is the arch with its fragmented architrave and frieze, which is decorated with reliefs of various sacrificial implements based on Roman models. The lateral walls projecting forward at right angles display the same relief decoration in addition to Classicistic figures and busts. In the pool in front of the ruin is a figural group representing the gods of the Rivers Danube and Enns, executed by Wilhelm Beyer. The aisle in the woods rising directly behind the central arch was originally terraced to simulate a cascade. It leads to the statue of Hercules fighting Cerberus, the three-headed hound which guarded the entrance to Hades, as well as the personified Vices, while beneath his feet lies the defeated Hydra, a many-headed water-snake. Quite apart from the romantic or picturesque effect that the architect was striving for, the fact that the structure was commonly referred to as the 'Ruin of Carthage' indicates that it was probably intended as an allusion to the victory of Rome over Carthage. For centuries, the Habsburgs had embodied the office of Roman-German Emperor, seeing themselves as the legitimate successors to the ancient Roman Empire; this edifice was thus also intended as an expression of their dynastic claims:

    From the Roman Ruin go south along the Ruinenallee to the Round Pool. The Star Pool (its eastern counter-part) was originally sited at the centre of the Great Parterre. In 1772, during the course of Hohenberg's remodelling of the Great Parterre it was moved to its present location on the western diagonal axis of the gardens. At the same time, as a counterpart to it, the Round Pool was created at the centre of the star-shaped system of avenues on the eastern side of the park. The groups of naiads, made in both cases of marble from Sterzing in South Tyrol, were executed at the same time as the Neptune Fountain, between 1770 and 1780. Naiads are nymphs of springs and streams who belong to Neptune's followers. At the edge of each of the circular expanses that contain the Star and Round Pools at their centres are eight large marble vases sculpted by Johann Baptist Hagenauer between 1772 and 1780:

    We are still on the west side of the Schonbrunn park. Continue more southward along the Ruinenallee and you arrive to the Oranjerie or Orangery. As far back as the time of the dowager empress Wilhelmine Amalie an orangery garden was laid out at Schönbrunn which included a hothouse for overwintering bitter orange trees. In 1754 Franz I Stephan instigated the building of the Orangery by Nicola Pacassi, probably to designs by Nicolas Jadot. One hundred and eighty-nine metres long and ten metres wide, the Schönbrunn Orangery is one of the two largest Baroque orangeries in the world, the other being at Versailles. The south façade is articulated by an alternating series of large and smaller apertures with rusticated pilasters decorated with masks. The interior has a rhythmic sequence of shallow vaults and is heated by a hypocaust system. The Orangery served not only as the winter quarters for citrus trees and other potted plants but was also a winter garden used for imperial court festivities. Joseph II was especially fond of holding celebrations in the Orangery with festively-decorated banqueting tables, ranks of flowering plants and illuminations in the citrus trees. The rear part of the Orangery is still used in its original function, while the front section, which has been renovated, is used for events such as the Schönbrunn Palace Concert series:

    North to the Orangerie (Orangery) the Meidlinger Fahrstrsse leads east to the KronPrinzenGarten (Crown Prince Garden) (on your left, north of the road). Adults: 3,50 €, Children: 2,70 €, (Free admission for children under 6 years of age). Opening hours: 15th March to 30th June 09.00  to 17.00, 1st July to 31st August 09.00 to 18.00, 1st September to 25th October 09.00 to 17.00, 26th October to 1st November 09.00 to 16.00. Part of the Meidling Kammergärten, the Crown Prince Garden lies immediately in front of the east façade of the palace, outside the ground floor suite that was furnished for Crown Prince Rudolf in 1870. The four parterre sections are framed with narrow beds, and at the centre of the garden stands an old yew tree. As the garden is sheltered from the wind, fine specimens from the citrus collection of the Federal Parks Authority are transferred here during the summer months:

    From the Crown Prince Garden - head north along the Great Parterre. Arrive to its north-east edge to see the the Maze of Schönbrunn (Irr garten). the Maze was started between 1698 and 1740. It originally consisted of four different parts with a central, raised pavilion, from which one could overlook the labyrinth. During the nineteenth century, the Maze was cut back, until the last hedge was razed in 1892. Through the use of historic models, the new Maze was created in the fall of 1998. The maze exists since not earlier than the year 1998 in the way we can visit it today. On a surface of a total of more than 1700m², it has been tried to imitate the original arquitecture the way it had been arranged between the years 1698 und 1740. It finally is a small gag to explore the room that is surrounded by some high hedges. Here, there is again to consider to save some euros, as there is again some entrance fee to pay:

    The Labyrinth is rather something for sport lovers and explorers. With its total surface of approximately 2700m², it is bigger than the maze and also offers more possibilities to entertain the whole family. For the case the feet still do not ache too much, here, one can play some grope and climbing games and solve some mathematical riddles.

    Museum Of Carriages (Wagenburg): Often overlooked is the exceptional Museum of Carriages (Wagenburg) located in on the Schönbrunn Palace grounds - north-west to the palace. The highlights of the Carriage Collection include the gilded “Imperial Carriage,” the Golden Carousel Carriage of Maria Theresia, the Child’s Phaeton of Napoleon’s son, the Black Hearse of the Viennese court, the personal Landaulet of Empress Elisabeth and the only preserved Court Automobile of 1914. Daily Hours: November-April 10.00-16.00 & May-October 09.00-18.00. Cost: 6€ (5€ with Vienna Card), 3€ Guided Tour, 2€ Audio Tour:

    Schönbrunn Zoo: In the summer of 1752, Emperor Franz I. Stephan von Lothringen, Maria Theresia's husband, took his royal guests to the newly constructed park at Schönbrunn Palace for the first time. In 1906, Schönbrunn was the site of an exceptional event: the birth of an African elephant conceived in human care. Another extraordinary event occured in 2007: a Panda baby that was naturally conceived in a zoo by the name of Fu Long was born in Schönbrunn. In August 2010 the second bear cub was born. The Nature Experience Trail was opened in spring 2010. in August 2013 the third. The next generation of elephants also arrived in September 2013. In May 2014 polar bears returned to the zoo. Today the Zoo at Schönbrunn is considered one of the best and most modern zoos in the world - but the zoo's historic charm still prevails. More than 500 animal species - from Siberian tigers and Hippos to one-horned Rhinos - live here. The Tiergarten Zoo's hours follow closely to that of the palace and costs 14€ for adults, 6€ for children. Tiergarten Schönbrunn - Zoological Garden Something I have always found much more interesting (being a zoologist) was the Zoological Garden Tiergarten Schönbrunn. It claims to be the oldest in the World (wrong, Salzburg′s zoo is ways older, but had to close for a few years in the 19th century - and the bloody Viennese made us start from zero again). In any case, it′s a good one with attractive Baroque cages that used to be in a very poor shape up to the 1980ies. In the past 30 years, a massive refurbishment has taken place that transformed the zoo into the most modern institutions of its kind in Europe. The small enclosures from Baroque times are used only for old or sick animals these days. Beyond the classic zoo, there is also a park in "Tyrolian Style" (Tirolergarten), which imported a Tyrolian mountain farm into the backyard of the emperor. Open daily from 09.00 - 365 days a year – also on public holidays. Closing time varies according to the seasons and is between 16.30  and 18.30. The ticket office closes 30 minutes before closing time – this is also the latest entry time for the zoo.
    January 09.00 – 16.3.
    February 09.00 – 17.00.
    March 09.00 - 17.30.
    April–September 09.00 – 18.30.
    October (until daylight saving time ends) 09.00 – 17.30.
    November–December 09.00  – 16.30.

    Prices: Adults € 16,50, Children and adolescents € 8, children under 6 yrs old: free: