Fish
Keiki squats down to look at the fish in the polar bear enclosure at the Vienna Tiergarten.

The Schoenbrunn should definitely make the top ten of every visitor attraction list of Vienna, if not the top three. It’s the gigantic former summer palace of the Hapsburgs, and the grounds alone merit at least a half-day stroll to explore fully. There are gardens, fountains, hidden playgrounds, an enormous glasshouse full of palm trees, and even a zoo.

Despite having visited the Schoenbrunn grounds many times, I’d never been to the zoo, which is allegedly the oldest in the Western world (founded in 1752). Now, with two small children, one of whom is animal-obsessed, I had good reason to go. The children and I set out early one morning to travel via the Viennese underground to the palace.

Humuhumu was keen to learn how to navigate the transport system. She got very good at spotting the way to the correct train lines, and proudly announced when the next train would be arriving after we got to the platforms.

It took us 45 minutes to get from our temporary abode to the Schoenbrunn and, conveniently, it was just about Cake O’clock when we arrived. We detoured around the palace entrance and stopped off at an Aida Konditorei, a chain of inexplicably pink cafés that serve extremely nice cakes, coffees and hot chocolates (apart from the one near the opera house – avoid that one; everyone who works there is sick of tourists and very grumpy).

We walked into the Aida and chorused “Guten Morgen” at the round-faced, unsmiling woman behind the counter. She broke into a beaming grin and showed us to the table next to a tiny play area containing toys and books, which the children pounced upon. (Throughout the trip, I encouraged the children to greet everyone we met in German, to say please and thank you in German, to order their food using the German words and, when I felt confident in my knowledge of the right phrases, I coached them to make requests in German. I was astonished at the abundance of goodwill toward us that this produced.) Humuhumu ordered her hot chocolate and cake in German, and was rewarded with an additional pink meringue, which she received with an unprompted “Danke schoen”. When we left, Keiki crowing “Wiedersehen” over my shoulder with his dimpliest smile, the server came out from round the counter and gave each of the children an extra biscuit, which, to be honest, they didn’t really need after all that sugar!

Full of energy, we bounded into the grounds of the Schoenbrunn and raced around whilst waiting for the grandparents to join us at the entrance to the Tiergarten (Zoo). As vast as the Schoenbrunn grounds are, they are not big enough to house a comprehensive collection of the world’s animals, so cleverly the Tiergarten is focused on a limited number of species and provided them with luxurious accommodation.

Keiki and Humuhumu loved the place, particularly Keiki. Once he spotted the meerkat enclosure, we couldn’t get him to finish his lunch. Neither could we readily tear him away from the penguins. In fact, Granddad had a bit of a job keeping Keiki from clambering into their pond to join them. We communed with the seals. We watched a polar bear chewing meditatively on a traffic cone. And, of course, Humuhumu found a climbing wall and had to try everything.

It was a wonderful place to spend a sunny afternoon, and we will certainly return to the Tiergarten on our next trip to Vienna.

Further photos beneath the cut.
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Our day of brilliant weather in Vienna happened on the Tuesday, which was nice as it was the one day that the bloke had off from the conference. We took advantage of it to go on a boat ride down the Danube. Granny, Humuhumu and I had done this together a couple of years before, but the others had never been before. Keiki loved it. He sat upright and alert on my lap for two straight hours, watching and commenting on everything and occasionally bursting into song.

Most of these photos were either taken by the bloke or Humuhumu.

[I had meant to add more commentary but this entry has been sitting half-finished in my documents for weeks so I figured it was best to just post it before it got any more out of date.]

IMG_0543
[Me smiling at the camera, with Keiki on my lap, riding at the front of the boat down the Danube. Photo taken by the bloke.]

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On disembarking from the boat, we discovered that one of the city’s fountains had been turned on in honour of the nice weather.

IMG_0638
[Humuhumu in her green Kenyan dress, shrieking as she runs through the fountain.]

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Owl butterfly (Caligo eurylochus) feeding on banana
[Owl butterfly (Caligo eurylochus) feeding on a banana.]
Tropical Blue Morpho (Morpho peleides) butterfly
[Tropical Blue Morpho (Morpho peleides) butterfly, at rest underneath a waterfall.]
White tropical butterfly
[White tropical butterfly perched on a fake (!) white orchid.]
Heliconius (?) butterfly
[Black tropical butterfly (Heliconius?) with red and white accents, perched on a cluster of small orange flowers.]
Malachite butterfly
[Malachite butterfly perched on a leaf at the Schmetterlinghaus, Vienna.]
Since I knew we were going to lean heavily on the grandparents for child care on Wednesday and Thursday, I used Tuesday to take the children out as much as possible. (As it turned out, I overdid it a little, both for them and myself, as I was shattered during the evening conference session.) In the morning, we explored the many playgrounds in the enormous Prater Park near our accommodation. We sampled no less than four different ones. Our favourite was the last, as it featured a generous sand pit. In the afternoon, we took the tram to the Belvedere, the mansions-turned-museums with formal gardens that we stayed over the road from the last time we were in Vienna.

Humuhumu & Gryphon 1
Humuhumu in front of one of the many gryphons guarding the formal gardens.

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We walked up to Karlsplatz and the U-bahn in the late afternoon sunshine. For the first time since we'd left the house in the morning, Humuhumu asked for a pick-up, and as she lay her head on my shoulder I suddenly realised that she'd walked (or run) at least five kilometres that day. Not bad going for three-year-old legs. And we'd even forgotten to celebrate Cake O'Clock. We compensated by having Chocolate O'Clock when we got home, with Manner wafers and Mozart balls.
Drive-by post to point out that cake-eating has been happening along with conference attendance.

Hazelnut cake & hot chocolate
Humuhumu with her slice of hazelnut cake and hot chocolate.

Have some of your cake too
Humuhumu sampling my truffle cake.
We spent most of yesterday getting here, and our reward today was the most glorious sunny weather. So we went to the Schoenbrunn, the opulent summer palace of the Hapsburgs and a regular destination for us on trips to Vienna. Still never actually been inside the main building, because when I was younger I wasn't interested, and now because tiny children + priceless furniture & artworks == bad mixture.

It's totally worth the trip for the gardens, though. Also, the cake. My Austrian colleague, bless him, e-mailed me a pictoral guide to his favourite cakes before I left, giving us whole new avenues to explore in this land of magnificent pastries. Today, we had our first encounter with Kardinalschnitte and I'm 100% certain it will not be the last.

Schoenbrunn: running outside
Humuhumu, clutching her green jelly baby, running along the pavement toward the front gates of the palace.

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The EGU conference begins in earnest tomorrow, so we may not get to do a lot of sightseeing again until Friday. I may not be posting much between now and then. Although I may do a daily cake update as I make my way through my colleague's list. Because CAKE.
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