Schönbrunn Palace’s audio tour is a serviceable guide through the grand halls of the Habsburgs’ excessive summer home. The rooms are crowded with tourists with their headsets pressed against their ears, struggling to hear the tour of the din of whispers and leaking audios over everyone else squeezed into too small studies and bedrooms.
The beloved Franz Joseph and Sisi seemed to be the only inhabitants of note. Sisi casts her shadow over Vienna, with her museum in the Hofburg, a museum complex in Vienna proper, while Schönbrunn Palace lays outside, a short train ride away, too vast to contain in a bustling city.
The audio tour takes you through the palace. You get antsy with the desire to see more of the building but want to stay in specific rooms to study all of the details laid out by the curators of the building. Fake plans are laying surreptitiously on the Emperor’s desk, as though he left for a second or, perhaps, evaporated just as a French tourist with ripped jeans entered the study at 11:30 AM.
It’s standard. It’s very usual for an audio tour. It’s far better than the Salzburg Residenz’s audio tour: too long, too boring and too much information, all squeezed into a too short period, while I was worried about catching a bus back to Vienna. The Schönbruun Palace audio tour is just fine enough until you get into the Great Gallery, a cavernous gilded room with a grubby raid rug laid protectively over the parquet floor.
Schönbrunn Palace’s staff’s genius move is to play the beginning movement of Johann Strauss’s iconic “Blue Danube Waltz.” The song opens with a horn waking up and calling, waiting for a response from a few light woodwinds. The two types of instruments call and respond, as the strings swell beyond.
I looked up at the ceiling, a huge mural of angels among clouds blue sky. It made me want to waltz, to swirl along with the Blue Danube.