Do you know of the glorious Gloriette?

Pretend to be Austrian royalty…

If you’re smitten by lavish and ostentatious heritage of Vienna, you’re bound to fall in love with Schonbrunn Palace. The summer retreat of the Habsburg royals is a worthy candidate for travellers with a cultural bent of mind, as well those who lust after perfection in garden landscaping.

In 1726, Schonbrunn (derived from ‘a beautiful spring’) was redesigned as the largest country palace estate under the reign of the great Empress Maria Theresa. The aristocratic residence with its magnificent terraced garden spread over 120 acres of land, is an icon of imperial opulence of the Habsburg dynasty, one of the principal sovereign dynasties of Europe from the 15th to the 20th century. This UNESCO World Heritage List since 1996, located barely an hour’s drive from central Vienna by bus, is one of my most-recommended Vienna experiences…specially if time travel into the past delights you or if you fantasise about being a royal (or a loyal) courtier from the bygone era.

The drama unfolds at first glance, there’s no time to prepare…the grandeur just hits smack in the eye. Even as you walk across from the bus stop, you can see the palace through the iron grills. You are greeted by two giant marble obelisks topped by golden eagles on either side of an ornate iron gate, leading into a vast courtyard with green patches punctuated by baroque fountains. The formal design, impeccable order and rigorous symmetry is evident immediately. Across the panorama in your line of vision, stretches a wide, elegant, three-storied yellow and white facade, so harmonious that it looked more like a painted period movie-set backdrop rather than a three-dimensional building. On the left and right sides, identical single-storied facades in the same yellow-white colors mirrored each other. Not so much over-the-top. Just quietly dignified. In an overpowering sort of way. You feel tiny.

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Courtesy: Wikipedia

The usual tour includes a couple of hours marvelling at the imperial apartments inside, but we decided to skip the palace completely, having already got a taste of the Hofburg and Belvedere Palaces in the city. So, we made our way towards the the extensive gardens behind, where a breathtaking vistas awaited us. A vast square kilometer of formal tree-lined avenues, French-style lawns and flowerbeds, bordered by woods beyond and a sharply rising grass-covered hill in the distance…sheer man-made perfection.

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In the Baroque times, gardens, as a natural extension of the palace, indicated the status of the ruler…and this elaborate sculpted garden, the Great Parterre, makes more than an impression. There are 32 gorgeous statues of mythological deities and virtues lining either side of the gardens. The green lawns are adorned with pretty flower beds following traditional embroidery designs. Just imagining the gorgeous aerial view took my breath away…oh, for the vision of velvety green carpets with delicate curving tendrils in red, pink, purple, white and brown! Too bad the Habsburgs didn’t have helicopters! Some genius architects they must have had, to be able to visualise and craft such mammoth marvels without 3-D computer software! No easy feat, this.

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Hidden away within the grounds on either side, are various architectural delights…lakes, fountains, fake Roman ruins, statues, and greenhouses. It’s a Garden of Eden…minus the apple and the sin. Peek. Discover. Linger. Laze. Wander. Seek solace between the shady trees. Speak wordlessly with the speechless sculptured beauties. Soothe your soul with the soft breeze that tickles the rainbow flower beds. Just forget who you are. Where you came from. Where you are going.

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Have some fun. Head into the 630m-long head-high yew hedge labyrinth. Playfully duck into meandering paths, reverse from abrupt dead ends, trace the twelve signs of the zodiac carved on stones scattered along the hedges and finally, smirk in glee upon reaching the centre, where two ‘harmony stones’ symbolised the flow of energy between rock and mankind. Funnily, the original Irrgarten (‘lost garden’), built as a pleasurable walkway for courtly society, was demolished in 1892, owing to growing ‘disreputable encounters’ that were taking place in its secret corridors! Naughty, naughty! But you be good.

Back at the far end of the Great Parterre, we stopped to admire the flamboyant Neptune Fountain overlooking a placid pool. Trident-wielding Neptune riding a chariot, surrounded by tritons and sea horses, demonstrated dominion over the seas, a popular symbolism for the power of sovereign rulers during the 16th-18th-centuries. I studied the ripping muscles of the tritons and the flaring nostrils of the sea-horses…as if they had been frozen in real motion! What modern sculpture could even come close?

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Following one of the two zigzag paths up the hill, we ascended to the crowning feature, the Gloriette built to commemorate victory against Prussia and used later as a dining hall and festival hall for the emperor. A mighty imperial eagle perched on a globe over the central triumphal arch, flanked by arcaded semi-circular arches.

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Courtesy: Wikipedia

From this magnificent perch, facing the gardens and palace across the large rectangular pond on the hilltop, it was impossible not to stare and gawp at the sheer magnitude of the space stretching out before us. The glory of the Gloriette! People strolling along the lavish promenades like tiny specks, bunches of trees along the Grand Parterre like thick green fur and behind the neat yellow-white palace block, Vienna city…like a bed of flowers scattered into the far distance.

It seemed as if I was transported back to the 18th century…the tourists had disappeared. All I could see were ladies with flouncy silk dresses, bonnets and lace collars; and gentlemen with coloured stockings, feathered hats and velvet coats. Horse carriages were rolling past. Notes from a classical Viennese concert were wafting through the windows of the palace. A scene from a Canaletto landscape?

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Canaletto’s 18th century painting of Schonbrunn Palace

I was lost contemplating the grandeur of the Schonbrunn during its peak…when Empress Maria Theresa in the 18th century, and Emperor Franz Joseph in the latter part of the 19th century had made it their summer residence. Just think…Mozart had given his very first concert to the Empress in the Mirror Room here when he was only six years old and some of his works had their world premiere here at the Orangery too! It was here that Franz Joseph had taken word of news from the front in WWI. It was here that the destinies of countries and continents were decided by Maria Theresa’s strategic marriage plans and political plots.

All that history crammed into one stunning palace…and I was standing right here, savouring it all, centuries later! Am I lucky or what?

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91 thoughts on “Do you know of the glorious Gloriette?

  1. Other than the fact that the place is extremely beautiful and that your pictures show us so with mastery skills, let me tell you that your writing skills are amazing, you really create interest in the reader, and invite him to follow you in the story, your piece is enjoyable and created the desire to read more. It is a real pleasure to read stories like this. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved the Gloriette. I especially loved the view from up there. I am yet to write a post on it though but I did use the photo of the Gloriette in one of my posts. I however did not get time to go inside the labyrinth. I liked your way of storytelling a lot.

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  3. Loved this post, you described the palace and the whole atmosphere so well that I almost felt as if I was actually there! I’ve recently been to Vienna, but unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to visit Schoenbrunn … I will definitely put it into my bucket list for when I get a chance to go back. 🙂

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  4. It looks stunning! I’m sorry I missed visiting Schonbrunn Palace when I was in Vienna – I will have to make sure it’s on my list the next time. I love visiting places that have been listed under UNESCO. This place looks incredibly beautiful and so well preserved.

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  5. What a beautiful place to visit, I have been visiting in Asia for some time and nothing here can compare to that. Things here are in ruins most often and there the place is immaculate. We will be returning to Europe fo some time and Austria is on our list after Hungary. This is a place I will have to see and photography.

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  6. I want to go to Vienna next year, and you just made me more eager! I always love to visit the palaces, churches and so everywhere I go and this won’t be an exception. Also, it is amazing how similar to Versailles this palace is from the outside (although with a bit less gold).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I loved Schobrunn palace when I visited there many years ago but I have to say that most of the photos you have here, I wasn’t able to see. I need to go back to explore it more. I think during that tour, I was already castled and palaced out so didn’t explore much of Schobrunn. Lol.

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  8. Wow, it’s majestic indeed. Love the gardens! I can’t believe that I never heard of this place before! It’s definitely going on my list.

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  9. I love your writing style, it’s so fun and I felt like I was being led by the most enthusiastic tour guide ever! Have you thought of being one?! I’d love it here, it looks like it’s straight out of a fairy tale.

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  10. I have visited Schonbrunn and the gardens a while ago. I used to go to Vienna very often and, as a child, I was fascinated by the story of Princess Sissi. I visited both in summer and winter and it’s impressive how the scenery changes dramatically with the seasons. It is indeed quite a walk up to Gloriette, but it’s definitely worth it, the views from the top are stunning.

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  11. The Schonbrunn palace was my favorite place in Vienna, it looked straight out of a fairy tale! I had no idea the significance of the gardens, very interesting origins.

    And I must say your storytelling is immaculate! Would love to feature your favorite destination one day on my site 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Punita,
    This is a really beautifully written article. I loved the way you played with the words here.
    The place itself is quite a stunning piece of architecture. It is an absolute delight for anybody visiting here – history buff or not. Seems like an entirely different era.

    Liked by 1 person

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