The Hofburg. Because one palace isn’t enough if you’re a mega-wealthy royal.
What does help if you learn how to read a map. I knew at some point on this holiday that I would look at the map and walk in the opposite direction. Well, it happened this morning as I exited the metro and looked for the Hofburg. There was an initial sign, but then, the signage stopped, and I wasn’t sure which way to walk. So, of course I went the wrong way. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world – you’ll still see something beautiful in Vienna when you walk the wrong way – but I rolled my eyes, sorted it out, and went in the correct direction.
Again, I rather saved myself by booking a ticket ahead of time, securing an audio guide instead of having to wait in long lines behind tour groups. Sweet heaven, someone please give me a slap before I think of joining a massive tour group.
The first part of the Hofburg, besides its outside magnificence, is the Silberkammer. Loaded with fanciful dishes, dining sets, table sets, decorations, and other gorgeous items, the Silberkammer makes my plain white IKEA dishes look so middle class. The audio guide is a must unless you like looking at pretty dishes and copper pots.
Some things I learned about all the dishes:
The golden plate set weighs over 1000 kg when put together.
The Imperial fold of the napkin is only used during state dinners. Only two people know how to do the folding – it’s a major secret.
Nearly all of the silver dishes in the collection had been melted down for coins during the Napoleonic Wars.
The collection is still massive, along with dishes that were never used by the royals. They were just too pretty, I suppose.
After the Silberkammer, I ventured through the Sisi Museum. As one who hadn’t studied much about the Austria-Hungarian Empire, I had no idea who this woman really was, other than I’d see her busts, portraits, and pet name in different places around Vienna. Turns out, she’s a very fascinating woman, adored by her husband but preferring to travel and hang out on her own. Women were much put-on, of course, royal or not, so I admire her independent spirit.
Unfortunately, she was assassinated whilst about to board a ship. That really threw me at the end of the museum, but it’s understandable how her legendary status only grew after this.
And, since it was a palace, I visited the Kaiserappartements. There were more beautiful rooms and beautiful furniture, lovely treasures of a bygone era. It was a grand life – for a time. Eventually, it crashed in on them as it did for many European monarchs at the time.
I didn’t have a great deal of time to go to other locations within the Hofburg, but if I were to go back (and by all means, I’d love to), I want to see formal performance at the Spanish Riding School and also to visit the Kaiserliche Schatzkammer (treasury and jewels galore) and the Nationalbibliothek (National Library). It was closed the day I went, and I didn’t have enough of the day left after seeing Belvedere the following morning. It’s looks like the library from Beauty and the Beast, and I’m unapologetically a book nerd.
Simply walking around the outside of the Hofburg is a pleasant activity, particularly on a cool morning with a hot coffee in hand. Or, it’s just as easy to amble in the Volksgarten, near the Hof.
I walked around to Michaelerplatz, undeniably the very grand entrance to the Hofberg, and was assailed by the scent of horses from all the carriages, heavily brewed coffee (the Imperial Starbucks was right across the street), and perfume. I spent a few minutes walking up and down the street and listening, just listening, to sound of the noon church bells tolling.