Saturday, September 08, 2007



I've got the first two rules of taking pictures of my big head in front of historic sites:
1. Hold the camera level with my head, so the picture isn't up my nostrils.
2. Smile.

Apparently, now I have to work on:
3. Don't squint.

After a much needed late start, I took the U-bahn (underground/metro/subway) out to Schönbrunn palace, the summer home of the Hapsburgs. The guide book said it was second only to Versailles in terms of magnificent European palaces. I've never been to Versailles, so I can't vouch for that, but it dwarfed most other European palaces I've seen and definitely topped the czar's digs.

The most impressive sights were the gardens, which I wandered for half an hour while waited for my timed-entry ticket to take effect. After choosing the audio guide (I guess my other option was a live guide), I got to the desk and was told they were out of audio guides, but I could have a nice pamphlet instead. Boo, Austria! That put me in a bit of a sour mood the rest of the day. The benefit of my getting the audio guide would have been that I could have looked at the palace rather than the pamphlet. The benefit of everyone else's getting the audio guide would have been that they could have watched where they were going instead of constantly bumping into me. Still, it was neat to see the room where a young Mozart first performed for the royal family (and then jumped into the Empress' lap and smothered her with kisses) and the room where the last Emperor abdicated after 600 years of Hapsburg rule.

I wonder what changed...was Austria really so horribly defeated in World War I? They had lost wars before. Was it the fact that fewer monarchies were on the victorious side, so fewer countries had an interest in preserving the monarchy? In the US, not much history east of Germany gets taught; this visit points out certain gaps in my education.
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