Belvedere Palace, Vienna

On the last day in Vienna, we wandered down to Belvedere Palace to check out how the other half live. The site of the Palace is fairly big, comprising the Upper Palace, Lower Palace, the Stables and the Orangery.

Built as a summer home for Prince Eugene of Savoy, it was designed to show off opulence and style. Statues adorned the rooms and stairways, adding to this sense of grandeur. The central entrance was probably the most memorable, with the structural pillars being held up by statues.

The Palace buildings are now used as a museum, holding various art work – some of it downright strange!!

Despite the artwork and intricate rooms, I have to say, I was fairly underwhelmed by the Palace.

I instead found myself struck by the vast gardens between the two buildings. Although the fountains were covered and barren and the topiary was scarce due to the winter, the framework of the maze-like hedgerows was still evident and it was easy to imagine what the garden would look like in full bloom.

Being a total horror fan, I was reminded of the Stephen King story; The Shining and Jack Torrance’s desperate chase through the maze in the snow.

The two Sphinx statues guarding the Palace were reminiscent of those in The Neverending Story and the rose bushes had me yelling “Off with their heads” Queen of Hearts style.

The hedges stood high and it was pretty much impossible to escape the gaze of statues. This created quite an oppressive atmosphere – much more interesting than the buildings we were there to see.

The Most Beautiful Library

Paying my €8, I grumbled about the cost of a visit to, what was in fact, one room. I soon regretted my grumbles. This ended up being the best €8 I spent in Vienna by a country mile.

The State Hall aimed to be a demonstration of grandeur and power when it was first built. A show of grandeur and status. Baroque in style, it was designed to embody excess to the fullest, containing huge detailed domes and floor to ceiling bookcases.

Like something out of a fairytale, the artwork on the ceiling depicts the different types of books housed in the library – science, art, philosophy and music. A handy electronic guide highlighted sections of the ceiling and their meanings, providing a more detailed understanding of the imagery.

Currently housing around 200,00 books, the hall is two stories high, boasting huge bookcases that, to my delight, opened up to reveal yet more books in the hidden rooms behind. It was easy to imagine the secrets they might hold.

Darkened bookcases, ladders leading up to dusty tomes and ominous statues decorated the library. Person-sized globes were dotted between the bookcases. Imagine everything you think should be in a library located in a magical kingdom and this place would live up to the expectation.

As an avid reader and someone who loves nothing more than to curl up with a good book, this place captured my heart immediately. The romance and mystique of the hall was permeable from the first step over the threshold.

I was lost in imaginings of how this place would look when it was first built. Flickering candles lighting the towering rows of books, the watchful eyes of the central statues and the lone reader, curled into a semi- comfortable corner, surrounded by the familiar bookish smells, their world only perforated by the crinkle of the page.

Adding to the mythology of the hall, Gia and Atlas stand on the roof outside, holding up the globe and watching over the hall. The two huge pillars on either side of the hall, know as The Pillars of Hercules seem to push against the oppressive weight of the books, stopping them from closing in on the tiny visitors in the room below. It was as though this room, built by giants and filled with mythology had allowed the mortals to roam its halls for a day, sharing some of its dusty secrets.

A Caravan Trip Down Memory Lane

When we were little, we used to take trips to Cornwall, Devon, Wales – basically somewhere with a beach. Inevitably, as a lot of people did in the 80s and 90s, we stayed in a caravan. There was none of the ‘glamping’ or ‘yurt’ style accommodation that you find today, instead it was a good, old fashioned caravan.

My memories of staying in a caravan mostly extend to sleeping in strange 3/4 sized twin beds, feeling never quite warm enough and contending with bugs in the bathroom (apart from one trip which had an outside toilet – I think that this is where my fear of spiders might have originated!). Despite caravan holidays giving me the shudders, they are also a  source of lots of warm memories – spotting rabbits through a pair of binoculars (‘binos’ to me and my dad), long walks along beautiful beaches, some dodgy club house nights (usually Haven Holidays style – other holiday clubs are available!) and lots of laughter.

Whilst a caravan holiday isn’t something I’d choose, I was invited along to join my mum and dad for an evening in Cresswell Towers, Northumberland. In a caravan. With Wandering Beeb.

Whilst it was a long drive there and turning into the campground brought back a rush of nostalgia – caravans and kids running around – I was longing for the rabbits to be honest! The caravan was the archetype of all caravans, not quite warm enough, not quite big enough but at least there were no bugs that I saw!

Once we had settled in, we set off on a long walk down the beach. It was there that I remembered why I loved those trips to the beach as a child. The empty stretch of sand, the sound and smell of the sea and the lack of distractions to focus on anything but each other’s conversations. Me and my parents reminisced about the trips we’d taken when I was younger, telling Wandering Beeb stories of what we’d done and what we’d found. A pirate ship climbing frame where we were pirates off to Neverland, a giant jellyfish called Max (it looked a little like the shape of the ship from Flight of the Navigator), stories of giant pasties in Cornwall and the best fudge in the world from St Ives.

Whilst I’m not a fan of caravan holidays (I’d rather camp in a tent!), that trip reminded me of a whole host of experiences that have made me who I am today. I don’t think that I’ll be booking a caravan any time soon, but I might just think about a few trips around the UK to visit some of those places from my childhood.

Turn the Car Around

I was driving around the other day, it was cold, grey and generally typical Manchester weather.

I’d struggled getting up, I had a hectic day ahead and wasn’t really in the best of moods. Then I saw it. Nestled down one of the side streets, a beautiful, colourful, wall mural. I loved it!

Did I pull over to get a better look? No. I drove straight past. Pretty much on autopilot I drove probably half way down the road before questioning what I was doing.

Here was something that made me catch my breath. Here was something that made me smile, brightened the morning, made me feel and I was driving right past it.

When we were in Calgary, I was so excited to spot street art everywhere. The Manchester Bees had me following an art trail around the city. Yet here I was, ignoring something so beautiful on my doorstep.

I turned the car around. I went back and I parked up in front of the painting. As I got out of the car, I realised that there was a second piece of art on the opposite wall. If I hadn’t have gone back, I wouldn’t have realised the other artwork existed. I wouldn’t have taken the time to see the detail and my morning wouldn’t have gotten a little brighter.