When I think of the Greek and Roman gods, I picture them among the sun-drenched hills of the Mediterranean. I certainly did not expect to find them in Vienna, watching over my shoulder from the hedges of Vienna's Schönbrunn. A pure marvel, Schönbrunn is the royal Hapsburg's summer palace, and the outside and inside seem to be decorated for hedonism and as a display of power. I can easily picture Aphrodite or Helen of Troy lounging here, while servants attend to their every need.
The grounds are awash in Greco-Roman statues. Whether they crown the palace itself, dress the fountains, or adorn the art in the palace, they are clearly everywhere. One particularly striking statue is of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, defensive strategy, and crafts and Janus, the Roman god of doorways and opportunities. It is tucked against a perfectly manicured hedge. She embraces him, while looking both at him, and behind him, perfectly able to see both worlds. This is how Vienna seemed to me, a blend of classical art and royal prestige.
Nearby, fountains bubble merrily, adorned with sea creatures, all of whom insist on choking their friends in order to provoke a spray of water. The palace stands majestically as the centerpiece, while the sun illuminates the geometric and free-flowing designs of the flowerbeds. Peeking through a garden hedge, one comes upon the royal orangery, which can only be the Elysian Fields themselves. Secluded, lemons and oranges dangle just past my reach, begging to be plucked from their stems, while vines climb up a shaded walkway which disappears further into the palace grounds. The palace grounds also sport the oldest zoo in the world, a hedge maze, a labyrinth for those seeking spiritual solitude, and the crowning achievement, the Glorietta, perched above the palace grounds, a monument, and also a place to stop for lunch.
Make no mistake, the ancient Greek and Roman gods are watching this city. For nearby, at the Parliament, Athena's golden visage stands, flanked by an Austrian flag. She stands as a reminder to visitors and the Viennese that they are being guarded and guided towards a brighter future, while giving a solemn reminder to remember the lessons of the past.