Thursday, August 23, 2012

Schönbrunn Palace – Vienna, Austria

Schönbrunn Palace is a beautiful imperial palace near Vienna in Austria, which was commissioned in the late 17th century by Emperor Leopold II. It was designed by Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, a talented Baroque architect. While originally it was meant to serve only as a hunting lodge for the heir to the throne, later on a splendid Rococo edifice was built. The Schonbrunn Palace is today a World Heritage Site.

Schönbrunn means ‘beautiful spring’, and the Schönbrunn Palace has a small artesian well inside its premises, from which the Palace probably got its name. The Viennese palace has more than a thousand rooms, most of which are decorated in the Rococo style, with white-lacquered walls and ceilings, decorated with gold leaf. The exquisite design of the Schönbrunn Palace also includes the presence of sparkling Bohemian crystal chandeliers and white porcelain tile stoves.

While the Emperor’s master bedroom is quite simple, the state rooms and guestrooms are lavishly decorated. Some of the magnificent rooms at the Schönbrunn Palace in Austria are the Hall of Mirrors, the Round Chinese Room, the Blue Chinese Salon, and the Room of Millions. In fact, the Room of Millions at this Austian palace is considered to be the most opulent Rococo room ever constructed, because of its rosewood panelling, and expensive Indian and Persian miniature paintings.

Schönbrunn Palace Gardens

The Schönbrunn Palace has a beautifully landscaped garden space named the Grand Parterre, which lies between the palace and the Sun Fountain. This French garden was planned by Jean Trehet in 1695, and contains many attractions, including a maze.

Some of the other attractions at this palace are an orangerie, a palm house, a botanical garden and an enclosure for Orangutans. Lining the paths of the Grand Parterre garden are 32 sculptures of virtues and deities.

The Gloriette at Schonbrunn Palace

The Gloriette is a sculpture on a 60 metre high hill within the palace grounds, which was crafted in 1775. This sculpture was commissioned by Maria Theresa (the wife of the Emperor), and was meant to glorify Habsburg power and the Just War. Today, the Gloriette houses a charming café, where tourists can taste some of Vienna’s finest delicacies, and enjoy a panoramic view of the city below.

Roman Ruins at Schönbrunn Palace

Previously known as the Ruins of Carthage, these roman ruins are not real roman ruins. In fact, they were designed as an architectural feature of the Schönbrunn Palace complex in 1778, by architect Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg. They were meant to add an aura of grandeur to the palace gardens. The Roman Ruins at Schönbrunn Palace consist of a rectangular pool, a fountain, lateral walls, and a massive arch.

After the downfall of the Habsburg monarchy in 1918, the Schönbrunn Palace was taken over by the government of the new Austrian republic, and converted into a museum. During the Second World War, the palace served as offices for military garrisons and delegations. Later on, the Schönbrunn Palace was used as a meeting and conference centre for leading statesmen, including John F. Kennedy.

Today, the Schönbrunn Palace is used for state receptions, whenever visiting heads of state come to Austria. Various movies were shot on the grounds of the Schönbrunn Palace, including the Sissi trilogy, A Breath of Scandal, The Great Race, and The Living Daylights (a James Bond film). Every year, more than five million tourists visit the Schönbrunn Palace complex on guided tours, for which tickets have to be purchased.

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