Schonbrunn Palace then and now

| December 11, 2012
Shönbrunn Palace

December snow falls at Shönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

I was not confident that we would see snow in Vienna. I will admit though that I hoped we would. Somehow the thought of seeing snow while we were there seemed like it would validate our primary reason for going…to see the Christmas markets. What could be more romantic than huge snowflakes falling as people wandered the Christkindlmarkt stands and warmed themselves with hot weiner punsch? Well, my wish came true. Even though the grass was still green in the city, on several occasions we found ourselves in Vienna’s Christmastime markets as the snow gently fell. The intoxicating clam and unifying character that snow brings enhanced our experience in beautiful Vienna.

Schonbrunn Palace

One of those occasions was while visiting Schloss Schonbrunn. The palace, which is part of the World Cultural Heritage and Austria’s most visited sight, is a former imperial 1,441-room Rococo, or late-baroque, style summer residence in Vienna.  Schonbrunn Palace is very easy to get to from the city center, requiring only a short 10-minute ride on the subway. When we arrived, we were elated to see that the markets were set up outside complete with Christmas music. After touring Schonbrunn, we walked the garden to the gloriette. As we walked back snow flurries began, which evolved into the biggest snowflakes you can imagine. As I looked back to the gloriette I pulled out my camera and took the shot above. I think the photo captures the feeling I had at the moment quite well.

Schonbrunn Palace

Schloss Schonbrunn – Bernardo Bellotto (aka Canaletto) 1760

I love seeing Europe’s sights one day and seeing them again in old paintings the next. The painting above from 1760 was made by Bernardo Bellotto, also known as Canaletto in Poland and Germany. He was the nephew of the original Canaletto and sometimes used his uncle’s name, who actually trained him in the art of painting. I am always fascinated to see a historical painting of a place that I have visited. It helps transport me back in time and imagine what it was like to live among the grand structures of Europe. To think about Bellotto sketching out his painting on the very hill I was walking upon at Schonbrunn is fascinating to me.

Schonbrunn Palace

Christmas markets at Schonbrunn Palace

Instead of the horse-drawn carriages and people in lavish dress depicted at Schonbrunn in the paining, we saw one of the many Christmas markets in Vienna. They are literally all over the city and are immensely popular in all kinds of weather. It was wonderful to wander with the locals and really get a sense of the traditions in a different land.

Donna was totally in with Vienna’s fashion scene. Her fur trimmed hood and down coat topped off with a scarf fit right in. For the ladies, high boots in every style were all the rage. Donna has some boots that would have worked well but she ended up leaving them at home due to limited packing space. Oh well. At least she was 90 percent there!

Shönbrunn Palace

My wife Donna and travel partner at Schönbrunn Palace

The quality of the historical building restorations in Vienna is remarkable. From the outside, Schonbrunn Palace looks like it was built yesterday. While inside, we were able to see a room undergoing restoration, getting new plaster and gilding. Speaking of restorations, I have a dramatic interior photograph of the ceiling of Melk abbey coming up in a future post. If you are into over-the-top Roccoco, the Melk Abbey has it. It is the ultimate Roccoco monastery and is absolutely stunning!

Schonbrunn Palace

Present day Schonbrunn Palace

Below is another painting by Bellotto. I featured it only because I love the use of dramatic lights and darks along with the insanely good draftsmanship. Both of the paintings presented in this post were photographed during our visit to the Kunsthistorisches museum in Vienna. I encourage you the check out more of Bellotto and Canaletto’s works. I especially like the scenes they painted of Venice and Florence.

Bernardo Bellotto Schonbrunn Palace

The imperial summer residence, courtyard – Bernardo Bellotto (aka Canaletto) 1758


Category: Austria, Photography, Travel