History and Zoological Park
Feeling like a little culture, nature and history? Then take a stroll in the Lainzer Tiergarten (zoological park)! Here you can experience the wide variety of local flora and fauna, while walking in the footsteps of Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife Elisabeth, who used the forest, with its wild boars, stags and deer, as a hunting ground and retreat.
“I’ll always be afraid of ruining everything.” A resigned Emperor Franz Joseph, upon seeing the negative reaction of his Elisabeth to the ostentatious style of the Hermesvilla. Yes, even an emperor is only human.
In the Lainzer Tiergarten…
on the outskirts of Vienna, the Wienerwald (Vienna woods) ends, but not before revealing its diversity and uniqueness one last time. If you want to be convinced, there is a well-signposted network of hiking paths through the park, which covers 2,500 hectares and is surrounded by a 22-kilometre-long wall, complete with picnic areas and panoramas, as well as an enclosure for highland cattle. Younger visitors will love the six forest playgrounds and the “Naturlehrpfade”; these nature trails provide information about the Wienerwald as a natural habitat, the zoo and its history, as well as its plant and animal life. Early-risers can enjoy concerts of bird-song, nocturnal types can track bats with ultrasound – there’s something for everyone.
A centrepiece of the Lainzer Tiergarten is the Hermesvilla. It was built by Emperor Franz Joseph for his beloved Sisi as a refuge, and was intended to curb her wanderlust; a statue of the Greek god Hermes in the gardens gave the villa its name. Today the Hermesvilla houses a museum. If you’re interested in the private lives of the royal couple, this house in the countryside is the right place: personal items, many original furnishings and magnificent murals show that even in private no luxury was spared. Sisi reputedly shook her head in the face of such opulence, but acknowledged the Emperor’s efforts by referring to the Villa as “the castle of my dreams”. Nevertheless, even the “castle in the forest” was not able to seduce her into longer sojourns in Vienna.
Text: Lucia Czernin, Fotos: Christine Wurnig