Day 1 In Bratislava, Slovakia

Today we had the opportunity to leave Vienna for the day to see Bratislava, which is the capital of Slovakia. It was only two hours by bus from where we were staying in Vienna, so we took advantage of the opportunity.

Upon arriving, one of the first things we noticed was the fact that there is a lot of graffiti art all around the city. It turns out that the city actually designates open walls for locals to graffiti because they want people to express their artistic abilities without being punished for doing so. Therefore, graffiti art is legal in Bratislava, which was definitely unique to hear. We also noticed various columns built throughout the city. During the 17th century, the black plague swept through the city, so these columns were built with the Virgin Mary on top of them for the locals to pray to.

Bratislava is known as the coronation city and the city of the Habsburg monarchy since the 17th Century also consisted of the Turks taking over Budapest and Hungary. For this reason, coronations would take place here, including the coronation of Maria Theresa (who has been mentioned in prior posts). Throughout the city, you can see pictured crowns on the ground, which shows the coronation route.

There used to be a Jewish synagogue where we began our tour (pictured below), but it was taken down in 1967 because a new bridge had to be built for transportation purposes, and was completed in 1972. As we continued walking, we came across a memorial commemorating the Slovakian Jews who were taken to the concentration camps and to Poland since Poland was the closest country to transport them to. The word “Remember” is written on the bottom of the memorial.

As we continued walking, we came across fortification walls from the 13th century. We then spotted a building currently owned by the city that used to be a pharmacy back in the day. On the wall, there is a sign in German, Slovak, and Hungarian which is proof that the Slovaks could speak three languages during the Habsburg monarchy.

Nearby on the Royal Street, we saw a house where the noble Keglević family used to reside. Their daughter wanted to learn how to play the piano, so Beethoven actually came to their palace and taught her how to play.

Moving along, we passed by “Bird Fountain.” Red wine came out of the fountain during coronations, so all of the locals would come to drink from the fountain for free. After they finished drinking, the locals were said to have sung like birds, hence the name Bird Fountain.

Shortly after, we stopped at a building where Mozart played for Maria Theresa when he was only six years old. Following his performance, everyone in attendance clapped, and in his excitement, Mozart jumped on Maria Theresa and hugged her. Those in attendance immediately stopped clapping in shock because Maria Theresa’s own children didn’t even hug her in public, but much to everyone’s surprise, she hugged Mozart back.

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Day 1 In Vienna, Austria

Today was our first day in Vienna, and the first stop in our morning city tour was to the Schönbrunn Palace, roughly translating to the palace of the beautiful fountain. All of the property was destroyed by the Turks but the Habsburg family began the property’s reconstruction in the 18th century (although the property itself belonged to the Habsburg family since the 16th century). It took sixty years to rebuild, and the project was started by the grandfather. He passed the project over to his son after a few years, and his son continued the construction. He then stopped years later as well, and his daughter, Maria Theresa finished the construction. Her father founded the Spanish Riding Center, which will be discussed in a later post, but Marie was 23 when she took over the reign of Austria. Her father had died suddenly, leaving only her and her sister behind. Nobody thought Maria Theresa would be an efficient leader since she was not prepared for such responsibility, but she ended up exceeding expectations.

Maria Theresa had 16 children in total, although some ended up dying at a young age. One passed away at childbirth and a few others during childhood due to smallpox. One of her children was Marie Antoinette, and her other children ended up residing all over Europe. Her granddaughter even ended up marrying Napoleon Bonaparte, so you can tell they were a very influential family, to say the least.

The Schönbrunn Palace has 1441 rooms all together. This particular palace was just a summer home, because clearly 1441 rooms aren’t enough for winter, spring, or fall. Another Habsburg Palace can be found elsewhere in Vienna, which will also be discussed in a later post, but all Habsburg homes were confiscated in 1918 once monarchy ended. The State took over the Schönbrunn Palace and in 1992, two investors took over the palace and renovated its original state, and reopened the palace to the public in 1996. Shortly thereafter, the Palace became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with over 2.7 million visitors a year, which is nearly six or seven thousand people per day!

Tiergarten Schönbrunn, which is the world’s first zoo, established in 1752 can be found behind the property as well, in addition to the beautiful Gardens of Schönbrunn. An interesting and miraculous fact is that with over 200 bombs having been dropped in Vienna during World War II, only one hit the palace. Ironically enough, the bomb hit the ceiling containing a picture of a war, but luckily, the bomb didn’t destroy it!

You can’t take pictures inside of the palace, so three of the pictures I’ve included below were taken from the following link, as were their descriptions (if you click on each individual picture). And if you’re interested in seeing more of the palace’s interior, feel free to click on the link below!

http://www.schoenbrunn.at/en/wissenswertes/das-schloss/rundgang-durchs-schloss.html