We got up early to get ready for what turned out to be a big day. We took a tram to a more central part of the city and walked around for a while in search of breakfast. We picked a cafe where we could sit outside, but it was so windy! Things kept blowing away and it turned into a pretty bad hair day quickly, but we still enjoyed our rolls with jam and hot chocolate with whipped cream.
Then we took the train and went to see the famous Schönbrunn Palace, which was the home of members of the Hapsburg monarchy for hundreds of years. The impressive 1,441-room palace was built to its present form in the mid 1700s and was given to the Empress Maria Theresa as a wedding gift. Together, Maria Theresa and her husband Francis I, the Holy Roman Emperor, had sixteen children. The Empress faced a lot of pressure to produce a male heir and had to send many of her children away because of marriage negotiations with other political powers – an example is her daughter Maria Antonia, more well known as Marie Antoinette, who was married to Louis, the Dauphin of France, and later executed by guillotine.
Franz Joseph I and his wife Elisabeth also lived in the palace. The couple suffered many tragedies throughout their marriage, which began when Elisabeth was only 16 years old. Elisabeth struggled throughout the marriage with adjusting to court life and often refused to eat, fell ill, and disappeared traveling – especially after the death of their first daughter. The Emperor’s brother was executed in 1867, the couple’s son committed suicide in 1889, and in 1898, Elisabeth was assassinated. It is said that after his wife’s death, Franz Joseph told relatives that they could never know how much he loved her.
Needless to say, the Schönbrunn Palace is full of history and complicated truths of a very powerful family.
This photo is only of the side of their home:
By the time we arrived at the palace, it was very crowded with tourists. It was confusing where we needed to go and what kind of tickets to buy, but in the end we figured it out. We had an hour and a half to wait before our tour inside the palace started. So we decided to look around the outside, which was so beautiful with elaborate gardens, fountains, and statues. The attention to detail was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
This fountain alone is the size of a small house:
It’s hard to imagine people actually lived and walked around here calling it home.
We also were able to see the garden maze that was designed and built as a form of entertainment for the Hapsburg family.
But the maze was a little too complicated for us to figure out! It was over 90 degrees outside with the sun beaming on us and we wandered around the maze with no luck finding the right way to go. We finally gave up to go see the inside of the palace.
When we finally were able to tour the inside of the palace, I was extremely impressed. We weren’t allowed to take photos, unfortunately, so I can’t show you what it looked like, but just imagine huge rooms with giant windows and attention to detail on every centimeter. The furniture was hand carved and elegant looking with only the best materials. Some rooms even had gold built into the walls’ designs. Table settings with expensive and beautiful china was put on display. The paintings hanging on the walls were also stunning and decorative, each with their own story. We were able to listen to an audio tour all about each room, who stayed there, stories of the family, and who built what within the palace. Mozart even performed here as a child. The views from the windows of outside were breathtaking.
After touring what seemed like a small section of the palace in regards to how large the entire building is, we decided to head over to the Vienna Zoo (Tiergarten Schönbrunn)!
This is the oldest zoo in the world and was built in 1752! It was designed by Adrian van Stekhoven after being ordered by the Holy Roman Emperor, Francis I, to serve as an imperial menagerie. The zoo was then centered around a pavilion meant for imperial breakfasts with the then thirteen animal enclosures. The zoo was first opened to the public in 1779 and even had no entrance fees. Today the zoo is a center for species conservation and provides plenty of educational opportunities. Some buildings within the zoo have been preserved from the Baroque era and complement the modern architecture.
The zoo has a huge variety of animals and is one of the biggest zoos I’ve ever been to. I was surprised by the size of the location considering how old it is and that it exists within a major city.
We loved looking at all the different animals!
The zoo is even one of the few zoos in the world to house giant pandas!
The zoo has games for children and many educational exhibits.
And, of course, they have ice cream! Definitely mandatory on a hot day!
So we had a blast checking everything out, but we were exhausted by the end of it. Both of us struggled to walk to the train and find our way back to the hotel.
I went straight to bed when we got back and napped because my whole body hurt after the day’s adventures. After resting for a short bit, we decided we had both recovered enough to get dressed up and try to find something for dinner.
We searched on tripadvisor and found a Mexican restaurant that ended up being delicious!
The restaurant, Taqueria Los Mexikas, is a small place, but the people running it are so nice and the food is amazing!
We enjoyed our meal, then headed into the main part of the city again. In the station, a couple was fighting horribly on the escalator. The man stormed off after screaming at his wife. Their children looked mortified and uncomfortable. When we headed back to the hotel at the end of the night, we saw this same family again all smiling as though they were having the best vacation of all time – except you could see in the wife’s eyes how sad she was.
We found a good frozen yogurt place and enjoyed our treats outside as we talked about the day. You can never have enough desserts!
We were both so tired by the time it got dark out, we decided to head back to the hotel. On the train, this really gross looking old man leaned over and asked us if we wanted to get a beer with him. Katharina was quick to say no in a pretty harsh way, which I was grateful for because the guy looked like a total creep. We both felt really uncomfortable and quickly got off the train and ran all the way to our hotel laughing. Katharina said maybe next time we shouldn’t dress up, which made me feel kind of bad because she is right in some way, but at the same time women should be able to dress nicely without worrying about the threat of men.
When we finally made it back to the hotel, we both quickly collapsed in bed and talked a lot about other creepy stories about men, like this stalker I once had at my physical therapy place. We talked about our plans for the next day and were excited because we were going to see the city Bratislava!