August 4 - Discovering the Treasures of Vienna

When I was a child, I used to wonder what it would be like to be a member of a royal family. Today I got the chance to find out.

The sun was shining brightly this morning and we were thankful because today's plan was to tour the greatest palace and treasures in all of Austria. As strange as this may sound, we read in our guidebook that there was an early 20th century WC in the Graben and decided to check it out. It featured sliding wooden doors, antique sinks, brass fixtures, fine towels, and even an attendant in a white jacket who kept it spotless. It represented a throwback to the Habsburg empire and was actually much more authentic than another WC down the street advertising "Opera WC mit musik."

Our first stop this morning was the Hofsburg Treasury. It was an exhibit of a staggering collection of ornate gold crowns, jewels, embroidered royal silk robes, a royal cradle made of sterling silver, and even what is said to be a nail from the true cross.

A globe museum is not something everyone would enjoy, but I could not wait to go there. Not surprisingly, it was sparsely attended with hardly a soul in sight, but with over 200 objects on display, it surpassed even my expectations that it would be great. Some of the globes dated back to the 1500s and showed only fragments of North America. My favorite item was a miniature globe in a tiny box with an accordion book called "Inhabitants of the World." Curiously enough, the book had pictures of Sandwich Islanders, Tiroleans, and the Iroquois.

Included in the ticket was a visit to the Esperanto Mueum. We thought it was a display of colorful old posters, but learned that in the 19th century, there was an attempt by a group of people to link all European languages with a new language, Esperanto. This effort failed during the war.

After a quick lunch back at Rosenberger Market, we visited Schonbruun Palace. It was a summer holiday home for the Habsburg family and also a place where dignitaries gathered. JFK met Khruschev there in 1961 during the Cold War. Today you can tour 40/1000 rooms. We used our downloaded audio tour on our ipod and it was perfect. The rooms are all in different themes giving you a real flavor for how royalty lived.

There is something for everyone at Schonbruun Palace. There's a world class zoo which includes pandas, mazes, tropical gardens, an apple strudel bakery, and even mock Roman ruins. We enjoyed a delicious Eiskaffee (ice coffee with coffee ice cream) in the same garden overlook where the family once came for a glorious view of the grounds and the city.

After a busy day touring museums, our budget did not include a restaurant fit for royalty. We headed back to our new favorite restaurant from our first night, Gigerel, where we spent hours at our candlelit table outside talking over spinach and crab strudel and salad. It may not have been a restaurant for the Habsburgs, but for us it was the perfect ending for our first visit to Vienna.


Susan Erickson said…
I think your restaurant sounds just right! How many pandas did they have?
Anonymous said…
How did they get the pandas? Do
they have to return them to China
at some point?

Susan Dean
Explorer Bear said…
I was wondering the exact same thing about the pandas. There are two of them and the video in the subway station of them is called Pandas in Love. I wonder if they get to keep the baby if there is one.

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