Travel: Palaces of Vienna

Finally summoning the willpower to leave Prague, I found myself in the capital of Austria. As home to Sigmund Freud, and a history of providing philanthropic support to inspiring composers, Vienna is indeed the ‘City of Dreams and Music.’ It is hard to miss the beauty of its streets, as merely a stroll down any avenue will greet you with gorgeous architecture, baroque décor, and green landscapes.

I never considered myself ‘Palaced-out’ until I visited Vienna. The city has enough imperial palaces to satisfy the requirements of a minor ‘Disneyland’. As such, I averaged a royal residence a day, and each had its own unique quirks. Though I will admit, my enthusiasm has begun to wane in regards to both palaces and churches.

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My first visit commenced at the Schönbrunn Palace, as it was within easy walking distance of my hostel. It consists of 1,441 rooms designed in the  Rococo Style.  Once again, as in the case of Versailles, it originated as the court’s recreational hunting ground on an estate that was purchased the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II in 1569.

A mansion named Katterburg was subsequently erected, and then an Orangery added on by Eleonora Gonzaga, wife of  Ferdinand II in 1643.

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The next palace was the Belvedere Palace complex. Prince Eugene of Savoy purchased a sizable plot of land in 1697, and chose Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt as the chief architect. His vision was to construct a landscaped garden and a summer residence. He had to wrest the upper portion of land from imperial Grand Marshall Count Heinrich Franz Mansfeld, Prince of Fondi, by taking out a large loan secured against Stadtpalais. Thus, Lower Belvedere and Upper Belvedere became a united estate.

2013-05-14 10.35.45Vienna’s last, but most renowned palace is the Hofburg Palace, the primary residence of Emperor Franz Joseph I and Empress Elisabeth. It was a rare love match for the royal couple, despite ‘Sisi’ neglecting her duties as Empress, and spending much of her time traveling abroad. The complex itself is stunning, and incorporates many buildings, which have since been converted to accommodate museums, libraries, and theatres. This area has been the document seat of government since 1279, and the residential portion is now termed the ‘Sisi Apartments.’ Although not well respected in life, due to her indifference to participate in royal court, ‘Sisi’ was remembered fondly in her death after she was assassinated by the radical Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni in Geneva.

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Overally each palace was unique and rested on absolutely gorgeous grounds! The architectural landscape is so elegantly crafted and detailed, that despite the centuries past, you can almost feel the royal presence strolling through the gardens.

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Travel: Roman Ruins of Provence

I just finished the France part of my trip, so I am back-posting amid a week of spotty WiFi. I legitimately had to get something at McDonald’s every night so that I could coordinate the next leg of my trip, leaving not so much time to keep my posts regular. I spent a few day’s traipsing the Roman Ruins in Provence.

Provence’s history dates back to the Roman Era in which it was the first province they established beyond the Alps. The outstanding architecture that still exists today is best attributed to the Pax Romana, a movement initiated by Caesar Augustus that was seen a period of peace and minimal expansion by military forces. It lasted from about 27 BC to 180 AD, a length of two centuries.

It is not hard to see the distinct culture of this heritage-filled region, and the lasting impact that the Romans have had; from the Aqueducts, to the Temples, to the Theaters  their construction methodology is precise to a tee, this has enabled the structures to last thousands of years with little weathering. This is in sharp contrast to the asian-style of construction, if you’ve ever been to the Great Wall, the rocks are jagged, disproportionate  and merely thrown together in a pile, some of the slopes require you to hike up an 80 degree grade!

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Arena of Nimes

Just imagine when this immense arena was used to proclaim the glory of Rome through the battles of gladiators versus beasts!

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BullFighting

Interestingly enough, I did not get the opportunity to watch bullfighting when I was in Spain, but the Nimes Arena is now a popular attraction for it, and we managed to watch the youngsters take on ferocious bulls. We did not expect, however, that they would actually slaughter the poor creatures, it turned out to be a pretty gory experience