After several days mostly working and enjoying ordinary life in Vienna, for Michael’s last day we visited Schönbrunn Palace – a must-see for any new tourist.
Although the grounds were barren, and it was another day of Schmuddelwetter, January is a great time to see the interiors without crowds as in the peak summer tourist months. We were not hurried through the rooms (I remember being in an absolute herd 30 years ago, with a large and noisy group of German tourists pressing on me from behind!) and we were able to learn more of the history. The opulence, while beautiful and dazzling, was also somewhat oppressive – room after room after room of gold encrusted ornament. I sympathized with Sisi (who apparently hated the place and its hidebound traditions), and also with the “huddled masses” who starved in the streets and tenements while the Habsburgs danced at their stiff and ritualized parties. It’s nice to see the public programs for children now offered here, as well as the open grounds and large public zoo. We did enjoy an elegant lunch in the Residenz Café (which is run by the same owners as the Landtmann and several others of the old traditional cafés now).