Europe 2012: Day 70, Vienna

The Vienna Spanish Riding School.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Woke at 8am.   It is warm and sunny, again!

My DH and I go back to Café Mozart for coffee and Apple Strudel.   We like it there.   There is also a good selection of international newspapers that my DH thumbed through.

Today it appears that my cold has returned but I will be damned if I will let it stop me from enjoying Vienna!   So we will be taking it easy with long lunches and trips back to the hotel during the day.  Today we have tickets to view the Spanish Riding School.  In the morning we will see the horses in training.   Later on this afternoon, we will take a tour of the stables.   Even though my DH has no interest in horses, I give him a bunch of credit (and kisses) for humoring me in my love for them.

The Vienna Spanish Riding School  is a traditional riding school for Lipizzan horses.  The  Lipizzan horses are a special breed of horses that date back to the 16th century and were developed with the support of the Habsburg nobility.  These horses (40 who live and work in Vienna, the other 200+ frolic in their Alpine pastures) live and train in a white palace with crystal chandeliers filled with the music of Mozart.    They are a big deal in Vienna.

As a kid I wanted a horse.  But my father hated horses so that was that.   I have grown up with the unfulfilled image of myself as a horsewomen so watching such beautiful animals go through their paces gives me a chill.  My DH and I crammed into the galleries of the arena with other tourists to watch them train.  These horses are the world’s finest representatives of  haute école or “high school” movements of classical dressage.  These movements include highly controlled, stylized jumps and other movements known as the “airs above the ground.”  In other words, they dance about as well as any horse could dance to the music of Mozart.   It’s not barrel racing, but hey — they are still magnificent animals to watch!

We only stayed at the riding exercise for 30 minutes since there was no room to sit down and it did not look like the bus load of Japanese tourists in front of us were going to be giving up their seats anytime soon.   Here is a picture I squeezed off before I was quietly tapped on the shoulder and told “no pictures” by a tiny Austrian woman:

Lipizzan horses in training.

Outside for the Spanish Riding School, these are not Lipizzan horses but I love the hats anyway! (Vienna, Austria)

My DH surveys the Roman ruins outside the Spanish Riding School (Vienna, Austria)

Next, we decide to take a look at St. Stephan’s Cathedral.   This is a huge and imposing mass of carved stone in the center of the old part of Vienna.   It is so big, I can’t get the entire cathedral into a single camera frame no matter how far away I try to get (before bumping into a store, a bar, or a restaurant, that is).   Unlike the churches and cathedrals of France and Italy that are lacy and bright with colorful stained glass, this cathedral is heavy and dark.   It is a serious Gothic structure.   Based on my DH’s research, building this cathedral took so long that the Gothic style went out of favor before this structure was completed, thus the mixture of different architectural styles.   Also, this cathedral was partially destroyed during WWII — see the new roof?

St. Stephan’s Cathedral (Vienna, Austria)

Front entry of St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Vienna, Austria)

St. Stephen’s Cathedral is dark and heavy with no stained glass. (Vienna, Austria)

The altar of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. I like the floor treatment! (Vienna, Austria)

One of the side towers of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. (Vienna, Austria)

The back of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. (Vienna, Austria)

Around noon, we then back to Renthaler’s Beisl  for lunch to try a new Austrian specialty.   I ordered the Liver Dumpling in Beef Soup.   My DH ordered the Boiled Beef with Vegetables (carrots) and Potatoes.   Both dishes were classic Austrian.   Both dishes were excellent!   My DH even liked the horseradish applesauce served with the beef!

Liver Dumpling and a beer!

Boiled Beef with Potato Salad and Apple-Horseradish sauce.

For dessert, my DH ordered the moist chocolate cake with a thick chocolate sauce.   I had a taste (yep, it was decadent) and I finished the beer we shared.  I am convinced that Austrian beer (Gooser) is just as good for a cold as chocolate.

Yes, it was a good as it looks. Still, we could not figure out the reason for the green umbrella — other than that some tourists really like that sort of thing.

After lunch, we headed back to the room to rest before our 3pm tour of the Vienna Spanish Riding School Stables.

At 3pm, there is a mob of people for the Spanish Riding School Stables tour.  The tour started late.  We were all divided into groups based on language – English, Italian, and French.  Best I could tell, if you didn’t speak Italian or French, you ended up on the English group.

Our tour guide, a young Austrian woman with unusually red hair, was not very good.   After she reminded us that photos are not allowed of the horses and that the stables are not a petting zoo for children (people needed to be reminded of that, really?), she stumbled over her predefined script quite a bit.

I could go on and on about everything we learned about the training of the Lipizzan horses because I find it fascinating!  But if my DH is any indication, I won’t.   Let me just say that there were a couple of very disappointed young American girls in our groups when the guide told us that only Europeans are hired to be riders and trainers of  these exceptional stallions (only the male horses perform).   Here are some pictures from our tour:

Part of the exercise run for the horses at the school. Other than a couple of hours a day in training, this is how the horse stay in shape.

While the horses walk in the exercise run, they remain separated by a black barrier. The horses at this school are all “fully intact” males and they do not always get along. They also each have their own stable with marble water fountains (but I could not get a picture of that).

One of two tack rooms for the Lipizzan horses. Each horse has at least two sets of specially made gear — one for training and one for performances.

Wall of saddles — each horse has at least two saddles (all specially handmade to suit the horse); one for training and one for performances.

A better view of the performance/exercise arena of the Vienna Spanish Riding School.

After the tour, we walk around a bit and then back to the hotel to check emails and for me to work on the blog.   I prepared four blog entries and my DH proofread them.  Now I just have to download, select, fix, compress, and uploads the pictures before I publish — but I will not bore you with that either.

Vienna is wonderful in the evenings so around 7pm, we are out again.

This building just glowed in the late afternoon sun!

The St. Stephen’s Cathedral at sunset. (Vienna, Austria)

An interesting mosaic on the side of a store.

A street performer.

We find a table at Café of Europa off the main square.  We order warm ham and cheese sandwiches and drinks.   I pull out the laptop and organize my photos.  My DH reads his financial feeds on his iPod and writes in his journal.   Even though we have a rude waitress (she gave me a dirty look when I dropped an ice cube – like that has never happened before) and my wine spritzer was weak, it was nice evening.

An evening at the cafe.

Me and my laptop — working on the blog!

Around 11pm, we paid our bill and took a slow walk back to our hotel.   It was an easy and restful day in Vienna, just like a vacation should be.

Quote of the day:   “It’s a chick thing.”   — DH’s opinion of the Lipizzan horses.


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