Schönbrunn: the Public Grandeur and Private Realities of Emperors

Schönbrunn: the Public Grandeur and Private Realities of Emperors

Schonbrunn-2We begin our encounter with the astonishing  High Baroque Schönbrunn Palace (built to rival Versailles) with a stroll through the magnificent formal gardens, exploring the Baroque landscaping principle of interlaced nature and architecture that is illustrated everywhere in the layout of the grounds. Approaching the Gloriette, a huge triumphal arch situated on a hilltop with panoramic views of Vienna’s woods, we recall the military victories that made Empress Maria Theresa’s reign (1740-1780) a highpoint of the Habsburg dynasty’s political and cultural dominance in Europe.  The park was opened not only to the court but to the general public from 1779, a populist gesture that reveals Maria Theresa’s canny charm offensive towards her subjects.  Indeed, it was under Maria Theresa’s direction that Schönbrunn Palace became the focal point of Austria’s imperial policy and the centre of court life, in addition to functioning as the summer residence of a reigning family counting not less than 16 children!  Several of this teaming brood of young royals did not survive to adulthood but the palace preserves the memory of their infancy, childhood summer activities, illnesses and early loss.

Schonnbrunn-4For example, Maria Theresa’s music room was the setting of acoustical delights attended by the imperial family in a glittering Rococo ambiance of gilt mirrors and lavish chandeliers.  The six year old Mozart performed here for the family.  The Habsburgs’ devotion to the development of classical music did not end at their support of brilliant professional composers; many of the children were trained themselves as advanced musicians and expected to exhibit their skills in private entertainments held in this space. The Empress herself acted in plays in the private theater.

Schonnbrunn-3The next generation of Habsburg rulers also put their stamp on Schönbrunn.  The Franz-Joseph & Elisabeth Apartments tell the story of a couple torn apart by the burdens of state.  In 1854, Emperor Franz Joseph married the Bavarian princess Elizabeth (known better under the affectionate nickname Sisi) who despised the rituals of court life and the ornate environment of the summer palace.  Sisi commissioned a spiral staircase leading from her official rooms to a private entry from which she could flee the palace to the gardens. Visiting one lavish room after another gives us an ample sense of the opulence which country-reared Sisi fled:  The dining room with precious tableware and “imperial napkins” in the form of a “fleur de lys” witnessed countless state dinners; the Hall of Ceremonies records the pompous Baroque celebrations it hosted, such as the wedding of Crown Prince Joseph, depicted in a series of scenes by court painter Martin van Meytens; the so-called “Porcelain Room” (office of Maria Theresa), completely done in imitation of precious china with orientalist drawings drafted by the imperial children.  The unique “Millions Room” owes its name to a fabulous price in gold ducats paid for it:  antiquated Indo-Persian miniatures with rococo-frames, wall hangings manufactured of carved rosewood from the Antilles make the “Millions chamber” one of the most accomplished combinations of Oriental and European decorative art from the Rococo era.

 

Ilse

Ilse Heigerth

Having obtained a Masters degree in Romance languages, and studied ethnology and journalism in the 1990s in Vienna as well, Ilse has served as the editor for numerous well-known Vienna-based writers.  Her interests have always been attracted to history, the arts and literature.  Born and raised in Salzburg, it is not a surprise that she also developed an early affinity for classical music, studying piano at an advanced level in Graz for 2 years.  She worked with the Sigmund Freud Museum for 3 years; and in 2013, after two and a half years of required training and study she became a licensed Austrian tour guide.  Ilse delights in sharing the fascinating history and culture of Vienna and Salzburg on a personal level, while enjoying cultural exchanges with visitors from all over the world.

 

Gilles Gubelmann

Art brought Gilles to Vienna for the first time, twenty years ago, where he works as a painter and a set designer for opera and theater productions. It was the perfect way, in Gilles’ words, to discover not only Vienna's rich cultural and artistic past as well as the splendors of baroque architecture, but also its soul, its fantastic classical, romantic or contemporary music production. Gilles specializes in guiding travelers through Vienna's history of music, visiting places where famous composers lived and worked or which they frequented. He also helps you discover the great Baroque palaces that crown the city or the hidden beauties of Vienna’s historical center, with its 2000 years of history, including the Viennese Secession, with its pivotal role in the development of modernism in art and culture globally.  

Reinhard Travnicek

Reinhard Travnicek studied literature, cultural science and pedagogy at the Universities of Salzburg, Graz and Vienna. He earned his PhD with a thesis about Henri Michaux and French post-surrealistic literature and art.  His published articles focus on literary criticism and cultural history. Since 1986, Reinhard began to work cultural tourism and cultural pedagogy. As a lecturer at the University of Graz, his main research topics are Italian and European Renaissance, Baroque and the Fin-de-siècle. At present, Reinhard is working on a study about late Italian Renaissance and the Counter Reformation. His research activities have always been very stimulating for his professional work as a cultural guide opening up the great city of Vienna and its history to travelers.

Katharina Ebner

Katharina Ebner was born in Vienna in a family of three generation Viennese. She holds a Master Degree in Art History and Cultural Studies, having studied at the University of Vienna and Rome. During her studies she has was involved in a research project focusing on the photographic representation of post-war Austrians. Since graduating with a thesis on the relationship between sounds and images in film (summa cum laude), she has been working in several fields of art and cultural production in Vienna, Rome and Amsterdam. She worked as program curator for a renowned Vienna Discussion Forum, gave tours through the collections of the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. As an independent art professional she has been involved in several international University projects, as well as writing texts for catalogues and works as an editor. She is closely associated with the Institute of Composition and Experimental Music at the University in Vienna, currently working on a research project on the history of the Institute. She has been giving talks and lectures internationally on the contemporary Viennese Art Scene as well as Film, Sound and Image relationships. Because Katharina shares a strong interest in the historical and contemporary cultural urban space, she also became a licensed tour guide, providing insightful tours through Vienna.  

Katharina Trost

Katharina Trost was born and raised in Vienna and earned an MA in History at the University of Vienna.  She gives a wealth of themed tours of her city, from the classic city tour to imperial history, music history, architecture and art nouveau, palaces, churches and cemeteries. She is well-known for her lively and specialized tours for children, which are interactive and allow kids to solve historical secrets while discovering Austria's capital.  

Gerti Schmidt

Gertraud Schmidt has a linguistics background. She decided to leave a successful career in translation to indulge her passion for history, architecture, art and culture.  After graduating summa cum laude from the two years of study to become a licenced Austria guide, she has become a involved member of the Vienna travel world, representing the Vienna Tourist Guides in the Chamber of Commerce/Association of Businesses in the Leisure Field in Vienna, as a member the Tourist Guide Training Department and as Vice Chair of the Board in the Chamber of Commerce/ Association of Businesses in the  Leisure Field in Vienna. She loves introducing travelers to Vienna’s rich history, its architecture and astonishing art collections. In her free time, she also serves as an expert lay judge at the provincial high court.  

 

Additional Costs:
Schönbrunn Palace & Park Tickets
Individual: €17,50
Students (19-25): €16,70   Please remember to wait until the beginning of your walk to purchase your tickets in the company of your guide. There will be no long lines to get your special admission ticket for a guided visit because you have a reserved tour.   Starting Location: Schönbrunn has a special new attraction that makes a great meeting point for you and your guide. A miniature scale model of the palace complex is situated just by the main gates opposite the new Visitor Centre. Please meet your guide right at the scale model. It is impossible to miss.

 

Groups of over 10 should contact us at [email protected] in order to get a special rate for their party.

Cancellation and Tipping


See all Vienna Walks