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.

Is that a Wizard or is he just taking a selfie?

One of the most striking sights around the Diocletian’s Palace is the huge statue of, what appears to be, a giant wizard.

We found him outside the Golden Gate of the palace, towering over the walls and surrounded by onlookers and two Roman guards (actually, two dudes in fancy dress, but who’s checking?!).

Despite looking like a wizard, the statue is actually of Grgur Ninski. Playing a huge role in preserving the old Croatian language and supporting catholic practices in local languages rather than in Latin, our tour guide described him as a symbol of national pride.

She told us a further story about how the statue had moved locations a number of times, with locals protecting it from destruction before it was located in its current resting place. The way our tour guide told it, the statue had been broken down into small pieces and hidden across different locations until it was safe to reunite the statue in a safer location.

The biggest stand out feature of the statue is his huge, shiny toe! The toe has been worn smooth by thousands of visitors rubbing it for good luck or to have their wishes granted. So much so that the toe is now a completely different colour to the rest of the statue.

Although an imposing statue, it feels completely at home in its current location, watching over the palace walls.

It’s stories like this that peppered our visit to Split, learning more about the history and culture from the stories of locals – in my opinion, that’s the best way to learn.