My son is obsessed with The Very Hungry Caterpillar, or “cap-a-pee-yo” as he says. We’ve read the book so many times I can recite it from memory and could probably recite it backwards too. And now that Elliott’s language skills are rapidly developing, he’s able to fill in any blanks I leave for him as we read:
“In the light of the ____,”
“… a little ____”
“lay on a ____”
Still working on those Ls.
Of course a natural result of him loving this book so much is he loves caterpillars and butterflies (a.k.a. fuh-fuh-fwyes). We talk about them all the time, mostly because he frequently sees shapes that vaguely resemble a butterfly, but to him, he’s for sure seeing that same butterfly from his caterpillar book, which means we’ve got to read the book for the 300th time that week. Cake, ice cream, pie, and cupcakes also remind him of the book because on the caterpillar’s hungriest day (Saturday) it eats through one piece of chocolate cake, one ice cream cone, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, and one cupcake among other food items of significantly less importance. It thrills Elliott to see the caterpillar munch through his favorite desserts. And since the two share a common love of sweets, whenever I tell Elliott he can’t have a second helping of ‘fill in the blank’, sometimes he grabs The Very Hungry Caterpillar, quickly turns to the page of desserts and takes solace in the fact that if he’s not enjoying a piece of cake, at least the caterpillar is.
I finally took Elliott to see caterpillars and butterflies in real life by visiting Vienna’s Imperial Butterfly House, also known as Das (The) Schmetterling (Butterfly) haus (house). (Isn’t German neat?) Das Schmetterlinghaus is located inside what was the emperor’s private garden, what we know to be the Burggarten, which is located behind the Hofburg Palace in the center of Vienna. You can find detailed information and history about the butterfly house here, but if you’re reading for a quick summary, this is what you need to know:
- The building itself is over 100 years old, though the butterflies have only been there since 1998.
- There are around 400 free flying butterflies inside. I thought this would be an overwhelming amount and maybe even a little freaky (like the free flying bats at the Schönbrunn Zoo —> NO to that), but you have to do quite a bit of looking to find them as they tend to hide in the trees and flowers.
- Kids are free until they’re 3 years of age. Adults are €6,50 which I found to be very reasonable for the experience. I’d go again in a heartbeat.
- The Butterfly House is attached to an amazing looking cafe called Palmenhaus (Palm House). I’ve most unfortunately never dined or had coffee there, but I’ve heard good things. It’s on #myviennalist.
- IT IS SO HOT INSIDE. I mean, it has to be since it’s a greenhouse. But good heavens it is sweat city in there. So if you decide to visit on a frigid Vienna afternoon, dress in layers so you don’t melt by the case of cocoons.
- If you have a stroller, I recommend leaving it outside the exhibit. I was there when it opened and had a crazy time avoiding oncoming families and serious Instagrammers. The gravel path is a narrow one which makes it difficult to navigate. Plus, there are a couple of caves with small aquariums in the walls for the kids to look at, as well as an overlook with stairs, so once I figured that out I released Elliott out into the butterfly world then tried to stash his stroller as out of the way as possible.
- They have a serious “do not touch” policy, so if you have little ones who want to touch everything (like mine!), this is a great place to practice the “keep your hands to yourself” rule.
- You can stay as long as you want. We probably went around the loop 4 or 5 times for maximum butterfly time.
- It’s lovely there. Enjoy it!
Despite my unpreparedness for the traffic jams and heat, Das Schmetterlinghaus was a definite win in my book as well as Elliott’s. My favorite part of the hour we were there was when Elliott spotted two large black and blue butterflies flying around his head. With his little arms waving wildly in the air and the rest of him spinning in circles, he yelled, “Hold you! Hold you!”, hoping to convince them of his gentle touch. He did not.
After our date with the butterflies, we went outside to play in the Burggarten, which wound up being closed for maintenance, so we explored the Hapsburg’s back porch.
All in all, it was a good morning.