Vienna Schonbrunn And The Prater
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
About three English miles from the Great Belvedere—or rather about the same number of miles from Vienna, to the right, as you approach the capital—is the famous palace of Schonbrunn. This is a sort of summer-residence of the Emperor; and it is here that his daughter, the ex-Empress of France, and the young Bonaparte usually reside. The latter never goes into Italy, when his mother, as Duchess of Parma, pays her annual visit to her principality. At this moment her son is . at Baden, with the court. It was in the Schonbrunn palace that his father, on the conquest of Vienna, used to take up his abode, rarely venturing into the city. He was surely safe enough here; as every chamber and every court yard was filled by the elite of his guard whether as officers or soldiers.
It is a most magnificent pile of building; a truly imperial residence—but neither the furniture nor the objects of art, whether connected with sculpture or painting, are deserving of anything in the shape of a catalogue raisonne. I saw the chamber where young Bonaparte frequently passes the day; and brandishes his flag staff, and beats upon his drum. He is a soldier (as they tell me) every inch of him; and rides out, through the, streets of Vienna, in a carriage of state drawn by four or six horses, receiving the homage of the passing multitude.
To return to the Schonbrunn Palace. I have already told you that it is vast, and capable of accommodating the largest retinue of courtiers. It is of the gardens belonging to it, that I would now only wish to say a word. These gardens are really worthy of the residence to which - they are attached. For what is called ornamental, formal, gardening-enriched y shrubs of rarity, and trees of magnificence —enlivened by fountains-adorned y sculpture—and diversified y vistas, lawns, and walks—interspersed with grottoes and artificial ruins, you can conceive nothing upon a grander scale than these:. while a menagerie in one place (where I saw a large but miserably wasted elephant)—a flower-garden in another —a labyrinth in a third, and a solitude in a fourth place —each, in its turn, equally be-guiles the hour and the walk. They are the most spacious gardens I ever witnessed.
It was the other Sunday evening when I visited the Prater, and when—as the weather happened to be very fine—it was considered to be full, but the absence of the court, of the noblesse, necessarily gave a less joyous and splendid aspect to the carriages and their attendant liveries. In your way to this famous place of Sabbath evening promenade, you pass a celebrated coffee-house, in the suburbs, called the Leopoldstadt, which goes by the name of the Greek coffee-house—on account of its being almost entirely frequented by Greeks--so numerous at Vienna. Do not pass it, if you should ever come hither, without entering it—at least once. You would fancy yourself to be in Greece, so thoroughly characteristic are the countenances, dresses, and language of everyone within.
But yonder commences the procession of horse and foot; of cabriolets, family coaches, German wagons, cars, phaetons and landaulets, all moving in a measured manner, within their prescribed ranks, toward the Prater. We must accompany them without loss of time. You now reach the Prater. It is an extensive flat, surrounded by branches of the Danube, and planted on each side with double rows of horse-chestnut trees. The drive, in one straight line, is probably a league in length. It is divided by two roads, in one of which the company move onward, and in the other they return. Consequently, if you happen to find a hillock only a few feet high, you may, from thence, obtain a pretty good view of the interminable procession of the carriages before mentioned: one current of them, as it were, moving forward, and another rolling backward.
But, hark! the notes of a harp are heard to the left, in a meadow, where the foot passengers often digress from the more formal tree-lined promenade. A press of ladies and gentlemen is quickly seen. You mingle in-voluntarily with them; and, looking forward, you observe a small stage erected, upon which a harper sits and two singers stand. The company now lie down upon the grass, or break into standing groups, or sit upon chairs hired for the occasion—to listen to the notes so boldly and so feelingly executed. The clapping of hands, and exclamations of bravo succeed, and the sounds of applause, however warmly bestowed, quickly die away in the open air. The performers bow, receive a few kreutzers, retire, and are well satisfied.
The sound of the trumpet is now heard behind you. Tilting feats are about to be performed; the coursers snort and are put in motion; their hides are bathed in sweat beneath their ponderous housings; and the blood, which flows freely from the pricks of their riders' spurs, shows you with what earnestness the whole affair is conducted. There, the ring is thrice carried off at the point of the lance. Feats of horsemanship follow in a covered building, to the right; and the juggler, conjurer, or magician, displays his dexterous feats, or exercises his potent spells, in a little amphitheater of trees, at a distance beyond.
Here and there rise more stately edifices. as theaters, from the doors of which x throng of heated spectators is pouring out. In other directions, booths, stalls and tables are fixt; where the hungry eat, the thirsty drink, and the merry-hearted indulge in potent libations. The waiters are in a constant state of locomotion. Rhenish wine sparkles here; confectionery glitters there; and fruit looks bright and tempting in a third place. No guest turns round to eye the company; because he is intent upon the luxuries which invite his immediate attention, or he is in close conversation with an intimate friend, or a beloved female. They talk and laugh—and the present seems to be the happiest moment of their lives.
All is gaiety and good humor. You return again to the foot-promenade, and look sharply about you, as you move onward, to catch the spark of beauty, or admire the costume of taste, or confess the power of expression. It is an Albanian female who walks yonder, wondering, and asking questions; at every thing she sees. The proud Jewess, supported y her husband and father, moves in another direction. She is covered with brocade and flaunting ribbons; but she is abstracted from everything around her, because her eyes are cast downward upon her stomacher, or sideways to obtain a glimpse of what may be called her spangled epaulettes. Her eye is large and dark; her nose is aquiline; her complexion is of an olive brown; her stature is majestic, her dress is gorgeous, her gait is measured—and her demeanor is grave and composed. "She must be very rich," you say—as she passes on. "She is prodigiously rich," re-plies the friend, to whom you put the question—for seven virgins, with nosegays of choicest flowers, held up her bridal train; and the like number of youths, with silver-hilted swords; and -robes of ermine and satin, graced the same bridal ceremony. Her father thinks he can never do enough for her; and her husband, that he can never love her sufficiently.
Whether she be happy or not, in consequence, we have no time to stop to inquire, for see yonder! Three "turbaned Turks" make their advances. How gaily, how magnificently they are attired ! What finely proportioned limbs—what beautifully formed features! They have been carousing, peradventure, with some young Greeks—who have just saluted them, en passant-at the famous coffee -house before mentioned. Everything around you ' is novel and striking; while the verdure of the trees and lawns is yet fresh, and the sun does not seem yet disposed to sink below the horizon. The carriages still move on, and return, in measured procession. Those who are within, look earnestly from the windows, to catch a glance of their passing friends. The fair hand is waved here; the curiously-painted fan is shaken there; and the repeated nod is seen in almost every other passing landaulet. Not a heart seems sad; not a brow appears to be clouded with care.
Such—or something like the foregoing—is the scene which usually passes on a Sunday evening—perhaps six months out of the twelve.-upon the famous Prater at Vienna; while the tolling bell of, St. Stephen's tower, about nine o'clock—and the groups of visitors hurrying back, to get home before the gates of the city are shut against them—usually conclude the scene just described.