In the spirit of this week’s Zigzag weekly photo challenge, I give you the garden of the stunning Belvedere Palace (1717-1723) in Vienna’s fourth district. After many hours of wandering around trying to find it, J.L. von Hildebrandt who designed this summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy does not disappoint. The best time to see it is spring or early summer with its rows of clipped hedges and great water basin putting on a spectacular display in the alpine garden.
Although not quite able to match the splendor of the Schönbrunn Palace and the Hofsburg Palace, the Rococo style architecture is still wondrous to behold even though critics at the time viewed it as fanciful and frivolous. I love this style of architecture though for its ornate grandeur which favors lighter colors and curves. The word ‘rococo’ itself which is derived from the French words rocaille (stone) and coquilles (shell) are both heavily featured motifs and lend to its opulence.
The two Baroque palaces face each other though the Upper Belvedere is more grand and gives you incredible views of the first district. You can also find Klimt’s renowned work The Kiss here as well in the Sammlung Österreichischer Kunst.
Entrance to the gardens are free and well worth seeing. From the large sphinx statues which symbolise strength and intelligence to the sculptures which depict victories over the Turkish army in 1683 it’s quite spectacular. We didn’t get to go inside but with its reception and banquet halls it’s definitely something I’ll check out if I get the opportunity to visit here again!
A short video showcasing the views from the Upper Belvedere:
Fans of the wonderful director Richard Linklater will no doubt be familiar with the story of Jesse and Celine. Played by the charming Mr Ethan Hawke and transcendental Julie Delphy, these two strangers meet on an overnight train from Budapest and spend a day together in Vienna. My trip to Vienna was every bit as fleeting, enchanting and a great deal of it was also spent walking around on foot, which in my opinion is the best way to see a city.
Image courtesy The Austrian Film Museum
Admittedly, after first seeing that film – and reaffirmed by the many re-runs since then – Vienna has been on my to-see list. I’ve always been fascinated by Empress Sisi (formally Empress Elisabeth of Austria, 1854-98) whose life bears striking similarities to that of the Princess of Wales. Vienna aside from being renowned for its concert halls and ballrooms is also home to Mozart’s only surviving apartment. So when the idea of a weekend away to Vienna was floated I was very much sold.
One word comes to mind when I think about Vienna: grand. From the old-world architecture from the Habsburg dynasty to the busy pedestrian junctions, it’s no stretch of the imagination to imagine the city in its former glory as the capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Overall better preserved than Budapest, if Prague is quaint then Vienna evokes a regality of a bygone era.
For two glorious months last year I travelled around Eastern and Western Europe. While most people prefer travelling during the warmer months, going during the low season does have its perks! The biggest I found was getting a truer glimpse of what it’s like to live in some of these incredible cities (it definitely helps when you’re not competing with hordes of elbowing tourists). As they say, winter is when Paris is returned to the Parisians and I was lucky enough to venture as far as Budapest in the East and London to the West. Here are some of the amazing cities I’ve visited and can’t wait to get back to!
- Czech Republic – Prague
- Hungary – Budapest
- Austria – Vienna
- France – Paris
- Switzerland – Lucerne
- United Kingdom – London
- Netherlands – Amsterdam
- Germany – Munich, Berlin, Dresden
- Italy – Venice, Florence, Rome