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Monday, July 12, 2010

Schonbrunn Palace

Schonbrunn Palace is a former imperial summer residence in Vienna, Austria. One of the most important cultural monuments in the country, since the 1960s it has been one of the major tourist attractions in Vienna. The palace and gardens illustrate the tastes, interests, and aspirations of successive Habsburg monarchs. The details of Schonbrunn Palace are explained in world tour guides below.

Schonbrunn PalaceIn the year 1569, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II purchased a large floodplain of the Wien River beneath a hill, situated between Meidling and Hietzing, where a former owner, in 1548, had erected a mansion called Katterburg. The emperor ordered the area to be fenced and put game there such as pheasants, ducks, deer and boar, in order to serve as the court's recreational hunting ground. In a small separate part of the area, "exotic" birds like turkeys and peafowl were kept. Fishponds were built too. The name Schonbrunn has its roots in an artesian well from which water was consumed by the court.

During the next century, the area was used as a hunting and recreation ground. Especially Eleonore Gonzaga, who loved hunting, spent much time there and was bequeathed the area as her widow's residence after the death of her husband, Ferdinand II. From 1638 to 1643, she added a palace to the Katterburg mansion, while in 1642 came the first mention of the name Schonbrunn on an invoice. The origins of the Schonbrunn orangery seem to go back to Eleonore Gonzaga as well. The sculpted garden space between the palace and the Neptune Well is called the Great Parterre. The French garden, a big part of the area, was planned by Jean Trehet in 1695. It contains, among others, a maze.

Lining the Great Parterre are 32 sculptures, which represent deities and virtues. The garden axis points towards a 60 meters higher hill, which since 1775 is crowned by the Gloriette structure. Maria Theresa decided Gloriette to be designed to glorify Habsburg's power and the Just War and thereby ordered to recycle otherwise useless stone which was left from the almost-demolition of Schloss Neugebaude. Same material was also to be used for the Roman ruin. The Gloriette today houses a cafe and gives the visitor a view of the city.

Originally known as the Ruin of Carthage, the Roman Ruin is a set of follies that was designed by the architect Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg and erected as an entirely new architectural feature in 1778. Fully integrated into its parkland surroundings, this architectural ensemble should be understood as a picturesque horticultural feature and not simply as a ruin, which due to lack of maintenance it had increasingly grown to resemble prior to its recent restoration. The Roman Ruin consists of a rectangular pool enclosed by a massive arch with lateral walls, evoking the impression of an ancient edifice slowly crumbling into the ground. In the pool in front of the ruin is a seemingly haphazard arrangement of stone fragments supporting a figural group which symbolizes the rivers Danube and Enns. The Palace of Schonbrunn commemorative coin.

The palace was recently selected as the main motif of a high value commemorative coin the Austrian 10 euro The Palace of Schonbrunn Silver coin, minted on October 8, 2003. The obverse shows the central part of the frontage of the palace behind one of the great fountains in the open space. Following the downfall of the monarchy in 1918 the newly founded Austrian Republic became the owner of Schonbrunn Palace and preserved, as a museum, the rooms and chambers.

Schonbrunn PalaceSchonbrunn PalaceAfter World War II and during the Allied Occupation of Austria Schonbrunn Palace, which was empty at the time, was requisitioned to provide offices for both the British Delegation to the Allied Commission for Austria and for the Headquarters for the small British Military Garrison present in Vienna. Later it was used for important events such as the meeting between John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev in 1961. UNESCO catalogued Schonbrunn Palace on the World Heritage List in 1996, together with its gardens, as a remarkable Baroque ensemble and example of synthesis of the arts.

The Schloss is a very popular tourist destination today with often long lines for entrance. At the official website tickets can be purchased in advance for tours. In addition to tours, many classical concerts featuring the music of W. A. Mozart and his contemporaries can be enjoyed with the added benefit of more time in the spectacular halls, Orangerie, or Schlosstheater. Concerts, dinner concerts with tours included or packages with dinner, tour, concert and cruise are available and can be booked in advance through the firm of Classictic. The gardens and palace have been the location for various movies, such as the Sissi trilogy in 1950s, in A Breath of Scandal with Sophia Loren and briefly in James Bond's The Living Daylights.

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