Right past the wide open massive iron gates, the vast courtyard is full of tourists eager to catch a glimpse of imperial splendors of the past.
In the times of Emperor Franz Joseph, who reigned from 1848 till 1916, on Mondays and Thursdays any subject of his empire could supposedly ask for an audience with the monarch in his opulent Walnut Room.
What did it feel like, I wonder, to approach the Schönbrunn Palace, crunching gravel underfoot and petition in hand?
Schönbrunn’s size must have must have impressed even the wealthiest of the emperor’s subjects, not to mention the simple city dwellers, if they were in fact ever allowed to see the Emperor.
The grey stones covered with greenish and orange lichen look like a giant child’s play area.
Some stones still stand upright, in a circle. Others are on the ground, as if knocked down in a moment of frustration. There are gaps in the circle as if some pieces were taken away, or have not been put in yet.
Bright green grass separates the stone circle from a rounded path along which people walk around the monument, their faces turned toward the stones.
Beyond the path a herd of sheep pays no attention to stones or humans, concentrating on finding the juiciest bits of grass.
First word of advice – if you want to visit Castelo dos Mouros (The Moorish Castle) in Sintra, Portugal – get there BEFORE the parks open at 9am (10 am in the wintertime) if you can, because right at 9am the cars and busloads of tourists start pouring in, and soon every spot along the road winding toward the castle and down into the city will be taken.
And last but not least – bring a jacket or a sweater, because even if it’s the middle of the summer and hot down below, it might be colder and windy up on the mountain. It was when we were there in July 2014.