We spent the morning at Schonbrunn Palace. All I can say is that, once again, we found a place that kicks Versailles ass. I don’t know why Versailles gets so much hype, really, over crowded, over done and over priced!
Schonbrunn, on the other hand, was wonderful. It was absolutely immense and we probably could have spent days seeing it. I thought this sculpture was awesome- and it wasn’t even part of the official tour! We were not allowed to take photographs once inside the castle rooms, but I really loved the art and furniture we saw. My favorite was probably the parquet floors, amazing. This was the summer home of the Hapsburg family, which ruled the Holy Roman Empire (a HUGE area, see map) from 1438 to 1740. The family continued to rule Austria after the break up of the Holy Roman Empire until 1918. They were a large family, that encouraged intermarriage – apparently this led directly to their extinction. “The Habsburgs sought to consolidate their power by the frequent use of consanguineous marriages, with ultimately disastrous results. Marriages between first cousins, or between uncle and niece, were commonplace in the family. A study of 3,000 family members over 16 generations by the University of Santiago de Compostela suggests that inbreeding directly led to their extinction. The gene pool eventually became so small that the last of the Spanish line Charles II, who was severely disabled by genetic disorders, possessed a genome comparable to that of a child born to a brother and sister, as did his father, likely due to "Remote Inbreeding". The infamous Habsburg jaw was one such prominent manifestation of inbreeding.” Guess they should have married to some commoners. Another Hapsburgian fact I found interesting was that the 15th child of the last Holy Roman Emporer and his wife, Francis I and Maria Theresa, was none other than Marie Antoinette! At the age of 14 she was married at Versailles to King Henry XVI. She ended up having 4 children with him but only one survived to adulthood. Antione was the last Queen of France during the French revolution (that would be the storming of the Bastille, etc… around the time when Les Miserables happened) and was guillotined when she was only 38 years old. You can see a painting of her, a few years before she died, and then see me, at right – wish I had that blue dress, even today. She had a fascinating life, read more about it here. As we were going through more of the palace, I did steal a few shots out the windows… rebel that I am. I wanted to get a better angle of the immense gardens.
Tour over, we braved the rain to head outside to the gardens. They were wonderful because there was every style you could think of featured and each corner was a new surprise.
I particularly liked the mermen riding on hippocampus – another mythological beast to add to my collection of favorites. Next we headed into the area that had the both mazes and labyrinths. We did one maze and one labyrinth. The maze was quite fun and hard enough to get disoriented and lost in.
We then headed for the labyrinth. In case you don’t know, a maze is when you have many choices but only one leads to the goal (i.e. the exit) but a labyrinth is a web of paths that have only one choice but lead to the center. The fun in a maze is trying to find the right path, but in a labyrinth it is more about enjoying the journey. I told the kids that, usually, people use labyrinths to meditate and that they should think of a question and hold it in their minds while they were wandering along. Zander and I did it but the others were having too much fun running around and talking. My question was: “How will I get home?”
The reason this was my question was that we had always thought we would stay 2 years, and that was to be over in September. This meant we had to decide whether or not to go back to the US or stay – and also it meant that Andre would again need to be job hunting. So we were in a kind of stressed out place facing this choice. As I was walking and breathing deep, Andre came up to me and held my hand. He smiled into my eyes and told me he loved me. Meanwhile the kids were running past, snatches of their laughter floating in the air. I breathed deep and continued to pace, slowly chanting in my mind… How will I get home? How will I get home? How will I get home? I reached the center of the maze where a small bench had been thoughtfully provided and sat down. Andre sat next to me and put his arm around me and Callie ran over to snuggle into my other side. It was then that the answer came, ringing clear as a bell in my mind. “You are home.”
And the fact is, I really was. I was in a strange place but I was surrounded by love, by my family, and by joy. That is home. I have been feeling better ever since this day about all the uncertainties in our lives. I have always tried to live in the moment, but it is getting easier recently. I have realized that, even if we end up staying here longer, that will be OK. I like it here, in fact, I love a whole lot of it – and my family is here – which is the most important of all. It is like that saying I heard the other day. It’s not about having what you want, it’s about wanting what you have. I am truly blessed to want what I have (but I must admit that I do want more, especially like my mommy!)
This is Andre and I leaning up against the Harmony Stones. The larger stone represents the male principle, the smaller the female. By touching or embracing the corresponding stone, we transferred harmony onto ourselves and onto each other. These stones were activated by the master of Feng Shui, Dr Fes Jen and his wife in 1999. Nice to find a touch of Asian spirituality in the Viennese garden! What an amazingly multicultural world we live in.
We moved on, skipping the mirror maze in favor of the amazing playground. Digging toys, water wheels and an absolutely incredible bird thing that rocked up and down – just like as if we were really flying.
It was time to head to the rest of Vienna but we passed lots more amazing gardens (and a freakishly bold red squirrel) on the way out… I was in love with the tunnel of blooming wisteria shown below – amazing – we tried to get an cute shot of Andre and I but, as usual, a kid got in the way! He loves that rainbow sweater.
We left the castle, stopping, for a few minutes, to literally smell the roses. Roses are ubiquitous here and smell amazing – much better than the roses in the US. We may travel all over, but we do take time to notice the little things – see, proof!!!
What will the afternoon bring?