Magic Moments in the Emperor's Private Garden
Vienna is an old city that harkens back to the Roman era. You’ll notice from the map that the first district or Old Town is a circle, which was basically the foundations of the fortifications used to keep back invaders. The walls lasted from the 12th century to the 19th century, when Napolean blew up the walls in 1809. A year later, he took Emperor Francis’s daughter, Marie Louise as his wife.
With the walls destroyed, Emperor Francis called for the development of the gardens you will visit today: The Burggarten, which was the private garden with its beautiful greenhouses, and the Volksgarten or the people’s garden with its wide walkways, random Greek temple and tons and tons of roses. In this first stop, enjoy the private garden of the emperor by grabbing a table at the beautiful greenhouse-turned restaurant, the Palmenhouse, and have a mimosa while your kids try to find Franz Joseph in the garden.
Franz Joseph ascended to the throne in 1848 when he was 18 (and Francis’ son Ferdnand I abdicated it) and ruled the Austrian Hungarian empire for 68 years until his death in 1916. Franz Joseph is actually responsible for construction of the Ringstrasse, the round road around the old town. The 50 year project is one of the reasons why the buildings in this part of Vienna look so old. They were meant to mimic the Roman, Greek and Gothic styles and to showcase the grandeur of the empire and people who lived there.
Itty Bitty Tip
The famous Lipizzaner stallions or dancing horses sometimes make an appearance in the Burggarten. You might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them summer mornings, or in July and August at 5pm, you can meet the moms and their foals.
Butterflies and the Burggarten
It may not look like it, but you are on the grounds of a palace, called the Hofburg Palace, home to the emperors. Emperors and Empresses are Kings and Queens of many countries. In this garden is secret symbol of the Austrian Empire. It’s a double-headed eagle. Can you find it? (Try looking up.) For hundreds of years, because people couldn’t read, symbols like the double-headed eagle were used to tell people who was the ruling party, or if you were on imperial grounds.
The emperor, Franz Joseph, who was the last emperor of Austrian is here in this garden. Which of the statues below do you think is the Emperor Franz Joseph? Can you find him?
Franz Joseph seems sad. He probably misses his wife, the Empress Sisi. She was so beautiful, that when they first met, he wanted to marry her immediately, even though he was supposed to marry her older sister. They got married when Sisi was only 16! Sisi had a really hard time being an empress. She didn’t like all the rules, and she often ran away. She loved being outside, and in nature. Maybe she’s hiding among the butterflies in the Schmetterling Haus. (Schmetterling means butterfly in German.) See if she’s there and while you are there, make friends with the butterflies. Did you know that butterflies taste with their feet?
Having Fun? Let's Keep Going
Sisi wasn’t with the butterflies, was she? Maybe she’s in the Royal Treasury, looking at all the jewels and crowns. To find the crowns, you’ll need to take a secret passageway. Can you find the building that looks like a grey box with windows? Go around that building and find the open door that takes you to the oldest part of the Palace, the Alte Berg. Look for the signs to lead you to the Royal Schatzkammer or Treasure Room.