Schonbrunn Palace, Schonbrunn, Vienna, Austria


We did all the requisite palace tours we could fit into our few days in Vienna, notably the Sisi Museum in the Hofburg Palace, and the royal tour in Schonbrunn, right before we sat down for dinner and a concert. Since we couldn't take any photos inside the exhibition (except for the ones I snuck in with my phone), excuse the impromptu portraits I took in the gardens during the nicest of golden hours as a vain substitute for visual content, featuring my Gary Bigeni skirt in abundance.

The way the Schonbrunn Palace and Empress Sisi exhibitions are structured is that they take you on an audio-guided route through the palaces themselves, walking on red carpet the entire time. If you want a definition of excess and opulence, you only have to look at their candlestick holders (how did anyone need so many?)


I could talk at length about the glittering, golden embellishments of decorative furniture and interior design, but this is a travel diary where I want to talk #traveltruths, and the truth is that experiencing these tours and palaces gave me a curious mixed feelings of being unspeakably awed, but also with a small, niggling feeling of disconcertedness.

There's something about seeing something in an art gallery or museum - put consciously on display and singled out as a thing to be looked at - that is very different to this kind of exhibit, where you're walking through the actual room where it happened (the room where it happened...), where the curators have attempted to simulate the state of the room in a particular time.

Objects are placed in their 'original' places, clothes are draped artfully over chairs and slippers placed out, the dinner table is set out just as it would be for the royal family. Grandiose gowns are placed on mannequins and stood in the centre of the room. It's a beautiful visual display of history and a credit to its curators. Perhaps the disconcertedness came from the dollhouse feel of the display, full of small banal objects like combs or washing basins that have been reframed to be artefacts of importance. The solemn regularity of the architecture and pristine gardens outside also added to that sense of something having been perfectly set up and then placed in a glass cloche, or taxidermied. A dollhouse, strictly not for children's hands.

Walking through the Empress' gallery in Schonbrunn where - supposedly - a young Mozart had first performed, I found myself looking for some sign of age in the corners, smudges in the doorframes, something that could mark the building for its true age. But it was too well preserved, to betray marks of its history.

Go figure.