Schlosspark after sunset -the Gloriette

Date Night in Vienna – Locked in Schlosspark

Of all the wonderful places in Vienna, Schönbrunn Palace and its Schlosspark are my favorite. That’s why we ended up there at least three times during our last trip. For our time in the city, we rented an apartment within walking distance from the Palace, through VRBO for a few days.

Schönbrunn Palace
Schönbrunn Palace after visiting hours.

After spending most of our day first day on Vienna in Innere Stadt, we went back to the apartment. It wasn’t dark yet, and we didn’t want to sit in our rented apartment, although the kids did.

On a “Date Night” in Vienna

Still jet-lagged and tired from walking in the city all day, I understood. Being younger than us, they did a lot more walking and exploring the city. However, my husband and I still wanted to explore. I grew up close to Vienna, and yet this was the first time I visited it. I wasn’t ready to call it a day. Every structure I saw reminded me of a story I read growing up. I have to admit; I was more excited than the rest of my family.

Our older two kids, adults by this time, assured me they could take care of their sister. Besides, my son was taking German in college, and he had a good grasp of the language already, he could communicate if they needed anything. I let them talk me into leaving.

“You and dad could use some alone time,” they said. “Think of it as a date.”

So off we went, on a “date night” in Vienna. We are not traditional in that way, dates mean walking or hiking, rarely restaurants and movies. This was no exception.

Searching for Schönbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn Palace was our destination for the next day, and since we knew we were close, we walked in that direction, and see what else we could find, or if we could find it.

We walked through a large park, with a lot of trees and benches to sit. Families with children and older people were strolling around, enjoying the last rays of the sun. We found a beautiful building once we passed through the park. It looked enough for a palace, so we thought we found our destination for the next day. Closed, we found no sign to show what the building was. So we checked the GPS on our phone. It was telling us we were at Schönbrunn palace, but I was sure this was not it. When we found a sign for it, we realized that though it was a science museum, closed.

By now my husband realized that if we crossed the road, we would be at the Palace. That’s what the GPS was telling us. We couldn’t see it because the six traffic lanes and a train in the middle separated us from it.

Once we crossed, we noticed the huge building and the gates, still open.

Schönbrunn Palace after visiting hours
Since the gates were open, we walked in after visiting hours.

Built as a summer residence for the Habsburgs, the palace is much nicer than the Hofsburg in town, surrounded by miles of manicured gardens, statues of Roman gods and goddesses, many fountains, a maze, and the world’s first zoo.

Although visiting hours were over, the big gates were open. We could still visit the gardens at this late hour, so we entered.

In the Gardens – Schlosspark

We walked behind the palace where the gardens were. It was so much more extensive than I have imagined! After a few steps on the main, wide trail, I walked through a narrow path inside the hedge.

Lost in a Maze

Walking on one of these paths, surrounded by tall hedges, I felt like I was in a maze. Pathways led in different directions, I tried following one to the left, then another one to the right, then another and another, but I could not figure out which way to get out of there, or how I got in. I know, I am terrible with directions. I tend to go North when I need to go South and vice-versa, even when I’m driving in my town.

But the thing is, I don’t ever mind being lost. I guess I’m used to it, and it always works out. Though I knew I would find my way out, at the moment I was lost, separated from my husband and alone in this narrow path where I couldn’t see out.

A Fox to My Rescue

And then, the most beautiful fox I’ve ever seen walked out of the bushes and stopped on the path in front of me. She looked at me, as if asking me to follow her, then walked ahead. I followed her, for no other reason, but I wanted to enjoy the sight of her. I also wanted a photo opportunity.

But instead of leading me deeper into the hedges, she led me out into the open, to the flower garden.

Schlosspark - in the maze
I followed the fox to this wider path that led right to the flower garden.

The fox stopped in the middle of the flower beds, turned around, looked at me again, and even stood there as if posing for the picture I wanted to take.

Schlosspark - the fox in the flower garden
The fox in the flower garden

Then she resumed her wanderings around the flowers.

Schlosspark - fox in the flower garden
My rescuer, the fox that led me out of a maze.

Back on the Main Trail

I looked around. Statues of Roman Gods and Goddesses line the wide main trail surrounding the flower beds.

Schlosspark - on the main trail
Statues of Roman gods and goddesses line the main trail in Schlosspark

Along the hedges surrounding the area, benches beckon the visitor to sit and relax in their shadows. All trails lead to the fountain of Neptune, then around it and further up, to the top of the hill where the Gloriette stands.

In Schlosspark at sunset
The main trail leads to the Fountain of Neptune and the Gloriette beyond.

This monument, erected by the Habsburgs to commemorate their victory over Prussians in the Battle of Kolin, in 1757. offers a great view of the garden, the palace, and the city below.

We took one of the side trails and walked up to the Gloriette, where we spent some time enjoying the view of the castle and the city below.

View of Schönbrunn Palace from the Gloriette
The view of Schönbrunn Palace from the Gloriette

Locked in Schlosspark

It was dark by the time we got decided to walk off the hill.

The Gloriette after dark
Looking back to the Gloriette after dark.

But we still didn’t rush, walked through side paths, watching people jog through the garden, enjoying the silhouettes of the statues in the dark.

Schlosspark after dark - statue
It was dark by the time we walked off the hill and back to the main trail of the Gardens.

When we got to the gate that leads from the Palace to the garden, we found it locked. I have a history of getting locked in different museums, starting with my college years, when my brother and I got locked in an Art Museum (but that’s another story), so I considered it funny, in a “here we go again” kind of way.

Another couple, younger than us, got to the gate about the same time. “What do we do now?” one of them asked and we realized that they were Americans, too. A young man, who looked like he belonged to the palace, came up behind us.

When he realized why we stopped, he took charge, saying “oh, well, they already locked it”, and tried to unlatch it. That’s when he realized they locked it with a key, something they don’t do often.

He searched through his pockets, then said: “I don’t have the key. We need to jump it.”

This fifty-year-old Mom Jumps a Gate

Young people look graceful when they jump fences. But for a second, imagine this fifty-year-old doing it. It wasn’t difficult, but I felt self-conscious. I imagined my kids looking at me. They might have thought I was a hip mom, or they would have been thoroughly embarrassed by me. Probably the latter.

As soon as I landed on the other side, I realized that the bigger gate leading to the street would be a problem, if it happened to be locked, too. Much taller than this one, it opened onto a major road. The young man who seemed to know what he was doing, assured us they don’t lock the main gate. But he proved to be wrong once already, so he added:

“If they did, follow me.” When we got closer to the gate, we realized that this time they locked it. So we followed our new guide, through the palace, without a clue of where he was going. He didn’t seem to be aware of us behind him.

Then he disappeared behind a door. Well, that was it. We had an idea that the gardens also open to another street since people still jogged in the park. So we planned to go back, jump the gate in the other direction, and try to find another exit. As we contemplated this, our young friend reappeared with a key and asked us to walk with him. And just like that, we entered the palace.

We Walk through Schönbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn Palace after sunset
Walking towards Schönbrunn Palace after sunset.

No, we didn’t go through the Royal rooms, open for visitors at different times of the day. Instead of walking up the stairs from the main hall, we turned right. We walked in a hallway, a long corridor, with doors on both sides. When I asked why the rooms had numbers, our “guide” told us they were apartments.

“For people who work here?”, I asked.

“No,” he said, “for people who rent here.”

I thought he was joking, and I told him so. No, he assured me, part of the palace is an apartment complex. That’s where he lives, too.

Can you imagine having your address at Schönbrunn Palace, apartment 321? I’m sure the rent is astronomical. My surprise only lasted a few seconds until I remembered my friend in Cluj whose parents live in the old Banffy-Palace.

Maybe it’s not so different, though the palace in Romania only houses an Art Museum (yes, the one I got locked in years ago), the Art Institute, and an array of small apartments. I also thought about other similarities. Both palaces date from the same era and same place since both Vienna and Cluj belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. And I got locked in both at different times in my life. Coincidence? When I realized all this, I felt like I was in an episode of the Twilight Zone.

But I was at the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna where our new friend gave us a free “tour” of the non-tourist part. Though he wasn’t talkative, his spoke good English, and he didn’t mind answering our questions. He led us out into the street through a door at the end of the building. We thanked him for his help and went on our way.

Date Night Over, Back at the Apartment

“You weren’t gone that long,” my daughter told us, as soon as we entered. “What did you do?”

We told them about the Garden and the fox, but not about getting locked in there. Maybe another time.

We showed them the pictures we took of the palace and the gardens, the flowers, the fox and the statues. They were looking forward to going back with us the next day.

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