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Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Schonbrunn Palace- Vienna's exquisite gem


                                                 

                                   
                         A vantage viewing point-Stunning Schönbrunn 

Put quite simply, The Schönbrunn Palace is to Austria, what the Palace of Versailles is to France and once you have read this post, it will be easy for you to understand why.

Vienna is a city that thoroughly enjoys its past, and  ensures that all visitors and tourists and tourists who come there feel exactly the same way. Whether you're interested in the history and the long-reigning Habsburg family, classical music composed by Vienna's own Mozart, or antiques, you will be find all that you need and then some more. Most sites are located within the Innere Stadt, such as the Haus der Musik (House of Music) and the Museums Quartier.  


On our first  day in Vienna we decided that Vienna's exquisite gem, The Schönbrunn Palace, would be the ideal place to start our trip to Austria. Having heard a great deal about it, we had high expectations and must confess, they were fulfilled..to the very last degree!

The Schönbrunn Palace is the former summer residence of the imperial family and ever since it was completed in 1780 during the reign of Maria-Theresia, the palace was the favorite residence of the Habsburg monarchs.Together with the zoological garden, the Schönbrunn Palace with the bordering park area is definitely the the most popular tourist attraction in Vienna. The palace lies about six kilometers from the center of Vienna but is easily reached by the underground. The whole area, including the expansive garden, occupies about 435 acres and one needs keep at least a half day for a visit to Schönbrunn's magnificent palace and garden.

A quick background

After Emperor Maximilian II acquired the site of the current palace - then known as Katterburg - in 1569 he converted the existing castle into a hunting lodge. The story goes that his son, the Emperor Matthias, discovered a beautiful spring while hunting here and he exclaimed 'So ein schöner Brunnen' (what a beautiful spring), which led to the name Schönbrunn.


The caption as we entered 


In 1695, after the Turks destroyed the hunting lodge, Emperor Leopold the first, commissioned the court architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach with the construction of a palace that was meant to completely outshine the Palace of Versailles.Unfortunately for them, due to the high cost incurred in wars, Fisher von Erlach's proposed complex of multiple wings and terraces set on a hill (now the site of the Gloriette) was way too expensive and the emperor had to settle for a more modest, but fairly similar design. Construction started in 1696 but it was only partially completed when Leopold I died in 1705.

During Joseph I's  time, little progress was made until the mid eighteenth century when the Empress Maria Theresa commissioned court architect Nicolaus Pacassi with the completion of the palace. The monarchy ended when 
Charles I renounced involvement in state affairs, effectively ending the reign of the Habsburg monarchy, after which the palace became state owned.

Looking at it from a distance

The Palace 

A main gateway flanked by two obelisks leads to the vast courtyard, decorated with two large fountains, one with allegorical figures depicting the rivers Danube, Inn and Ems and the other with sculptures representing Transsylvania, Galicia and Lodomeria. Right ahead is the main palace building of the complex, with the large garden behind. To the right is the Schönbrunn Court Theatre, built in 1767 in Rococo style.










Gates on the right and left open up towards the garden, from where you have a better view of the whole complex. On the left seen from the garden is the Wagenburg (Coach Room), which houses the imperial collection of coaches, sledges and carriages. To the right is the Orangery, where plants and flowers were housed during wintertime to protect them from inclement weather.
We just loved this sight!

The central palace is 175 meters (574 ft) wide and has a symmetrical Baroque facade. All buildings were painted in a typical light yellow/ochre pattern, a combination that was soon copied by many residences around the country.During its heyday, some 1,000 people lived in the 1441 rooms and halls of the complex. Forty of these rooms - grand state apartments and the rooms of Franz-Josef and Elisabeth (Sissi) - are open to visitors.

The Rococo style interior of the Schönbrunn apartments is much more luxurious than the rather sober apartments in the Hofburg.




 Some, in particular the Millionenzimmer (Millions Room), are particularly sumptuous.

However, the private rooms of Franz-Joseph and empress Elisabeth have less elaborate decorations. The emperor held audiences in the Walnut room, named for the wooden Rococo paneling.

Schlosspark


The Schlosspark

The vast park is situated on a sloping site behind the palace, originally a hunting ground. It was laid out in 1705-1706 by Jean Trehet in a formal French style. Between 1753 and 1775, during the reign of Maria-Theresia, parts of the park were redesigned as a Baroque landscape by Ferdinand von Hohenberg.

The center of the park still consists of formally aligned flowerbeds 
flanked by rows of statues. They lead to the large Neptune fountain. Around the flowerbeds are formal gardens arranged in a star shape around two fountains known as the Najadenbrunnen.

Behind the Neptune fountain a curved leads to the Gloriette, an impressive arcade on top of the Schönbrunn Hill. The area around the Gloriette is less formal and even has some forest-like areas.Throughout the park, one sees a number of monuments, buildings, and architectural follies such as a mock Roman ruin and a large obelisk.

The park was opened to the public in 1779 and all visitors can come in without paying anything- a huge treat for anyone utilizing this fabulous opportunity.


The incomparable Neptune Fountain

Neptune Fountain


One of the highlights of Schönbrunn is the Neptune Fountain or Neptunbrunnen, the park's most monumental fountain. It was built in 1780 by Franz Anton von Zauner, an Austrian sculptor. The Baroque sculpture group depicts a mythical scene in which the sea goddess Thetis asks Neptune to allow her son Achilles, a safe voyage to Troy.

The plate with the details on the Neptune Fountain
Further east is one of the park's most impressive architectural follies: a tall obelisk erected on top of a monumental cascade. The mock hieroglyphs on the obelisk recount the history of the Habsburg family.

Walking through the gardens
Some other memorable sights in the park include a Botanic Garden, a Japanese garden; the beautiful Taubenhaus,  dovecote; the Najadenbrunnen - two similar fountains; the Meierei (dairy farm), now a café-restaurant; the labyrinth - a recreated version of the original seventeenth century version, and the Wüstenhaus, a hothouse near the Palmenhaus full of succulent cacti.

Avi in the centre of the gardens


Looking out and loving it.
We spent over half a day in the The Schönbrunn Palace and could easily have spent the entire day, if we hadn't been pressed for time. It was a very rewarding and culturally enriching half a day and having had the opportunity to see Versailles recently, it was obvious- there was a striking similarity but the opulence that one had seen in Versailles was missing here. 

Yet it had its own unique charm and to come back to where I started from, the Schönbrunn Palace, truly is ..Vienna's exquisite gem..   


NB- All pics used are clicked by me. 

References- Wikipedia and Time Out Travel








Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Autumn in all its glory- Our trip to Vienna,Salzburg Prague and Budapest


For all those who have been wondering why I haven't blogged in a while, we have been travelling through Europe- Vienna, Salzburg, Budapest and Prague and have just got back after an extremely memorable trip. 

It may sound cliched, but take it from me, the Autumn colours were truly fabulous and because we were there in the first half of October, the weather was tailor made for the most delightful walks, hikes and of course, indulging in the varied and exotic culinary delights. 



Glorious Autumn colours in Budapest


To make sure I do justice, I plan to write posts on different topics on this one, as well as my other blog, 'Food For Thought'-http://sunainasahluwalia.blogspot.com/

While I will  take my time sorting through the huge collection of photographs that my husband Avi and I have clicked, I just couldn't resist sharing a sneak preview with all of you in the meantime.


Hope you enjoy the visual journey and I promise to be back with more very soon...




The gardens at the Schönbrunn palace, Vienna


The Schönbrunn palace, Vienna





At the Archbishop's Palace, Salzburg


En route to Salzburg, Austria 


A view to die for- en route to Salzburg

With Avi at the Sarah Bernhardt restaurant, Hotel Paris, Prague

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Counting down to Eid Al Adha in Oman


A beautiful mosque in Shatti Al Qurum Muscat


Silver shopping at the Matrah Souq, Muscat
Three days to go and Eid Al Adha will be here in Muscat as in most parts of the Gulf. Eid al-Adha is an Islamic festival to commemorate the willingness of Ibrahim (also known as Abraham) to follow Allah's command to sacrifice his son Ishmael. Muslims around the world observe this event  and it is a a day of joy, happiness and festivity. 

Eid al-Adha begins on the 10th day of Dhu'l-Hijja, the last month of the Islamic calendar. Lasting for three days, it occurs at the conclusion of the annual Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. Muslims all over the world celebrate Eid al-Adha, not simply those undertaking the hajj, which for most Muslims is a once-a-lifetime occurrence.

After the prayers follow the celebrations which reverberate throughout the length and breadth of the country. 

A time when everyone is truly happy, that particular happiness which can only come from deep within.


A section of The Grand Mosque, Muscat
The best part about this whole week it is going to be the weather which promises to be the kind which is tailor made for spending time outdoors. 

Barbeques and long walks by the beach,the fragrance of charcoal grilled meat is something that makes one feel hungry rightaway.

And I must mention the Omani Shua, the very special grilled meat preparation that is made only in this festive season.And one that is relished by all, particularly if one is lucky enough to be invited to a festive Omani Eid Gathering

Shawarmas, Hommus and Tabouleh, another 'anytime' snack and one that almost 80 % of the population eat, as it really is so wholesome and so affordable.

Baklava, Omani Halwa, and a whole range of delectable sweets to top it all
Most importantly, the feeling of festivity, warmth and camaraderie that all the people residing here in Oman share- locals and expatriates alike. 

On that very happy note, here's wishing Eid Mubarak to all!


(NB-All photographs used here are clicked by me.)