Sunday, September 15, 2013

Day Three: In Which We See The Horsies and “Lose” Rob

When Lori and I started putting together the plans for our time in Vienna (OK, full disclosure:  When Lori started putting together the itinerary.)  one of the things all four of us wanted to see was the Spanish Riding School (Lippizaner Stallions).  Rob was going to be at the conference most of the days, and the horses only perform on the weekends, so we had to settle for second best:  Morning Exercises with Music.  The school is at the Hofbrau Palace, which is pretty much in the middle of the Old Town, so it’s not difficult to find.  The morning exercises are about two hours of different groups of five horses working with their riders, mostly just to get  the horses a bit of exercise.  They live in stables, in the middle of the city, so exercise is important.  Okay, they live for two months at a time in the city, then they go back to their mother farm in the south of Austria.  
Entrance to the Spanish Riding School,
Hofburg Palace

Anyway, we watched two groups of horses go through their paces and then they brought out a couple of younguns with three mature adults.  How do we know?  It would seem that Lippazaners are born black or dark brown and as they mature, they become the iconic white that we all think of.  In this case, there was one dappled grey one who was pretty well behaved and who did what was asked of him.  And, then, there was Justin Horsie.  Lovely dark grey, with a few dapples of white, and a full white mane, with a full forelock falling completely over his eyes.  Bad enough that he looked like an 8th grade boy, but his behavior reeked of adolescence.  When asked to do something, he would snort or nicker in objection.  Rider wants to go forward?  Nice suggestion, but I think I’ll go this other way instead.  Sideways?  When I get around to it. I’m pretty sure I know what his stall looks like.  Bedding all over the place, old stinky horseshoes scattered all over the floor, saddle blanket in one corner, posters of young fillies on the wall.  He eventually settled down, sort of.  We were told that only the horses that showed a willingness to work with people and who had potential were brought to Vienna from the farm, so my guess is that he will wind up being a spectacular horse, he just needs to get through the hormones.  And, clean up his stall. 

Exterior of the Schonbrunn Palace
During the planning, Lori had figured out that we could take a bus tour of the city, ending at the Schonbrun Palace (Schonnbrun, Shoenbrunn, pick any spelling you like).  There, we would meet Rob and have dinner and go to a concert.  The bus tour was interesting and the tour of the Schonbrun was quite fascinating.  The Palace was originally the summer residence for the Hapsburg Emperors (with the Hofburg as the main seat), but when Maria Theresa came to the throne, she moved everything out to the Schonbrun.  She didn’t seem to like living in town much, and with 11 daughters and 5 sons, I suspect she wanted some room for all those little princes and princesses to run around.  Yes, the Hofburg has more than twice the rooms (something like 2,400) but it really has no grounds to speak of.  What we saw  at the Schonbrun  was room after room after room of gilded opulence.  There’s one room called the “Million Dollar Room,” and judging from the amount of gold, not to mention all the Moghul paintings they chopped up into bits, $1,000,000 might be on the low side.  The beautiful parquet floors in the palace  are so old that they sound like walking across a bowl of Rice Krispies.  Sorry there are no pictures, but they sort of made it sound like they might borrow a guillotine from the French for you if you were caught taking pictures of the inside.  I get it.  The paintings, Flemish tapestries and other works of art are very precious and they are trying very hard to preserve them for future generations.   

After the tour, we had some time to kill before we were supposed to meet Rob and do the dinner/concert thing.  We walked through the garden for a while and then  decided this would be a good time to run over to the Orangerie and get the tickets.  Ha!  First of all, the Orangerie (part of the palace) is a very big place.  Do we go to the garden?  The street side?  Inside? Second of all, our voucher had absolutely no other directions other than “The Orangerie.”  Third, when Joel called the contact number on the voucher, the tour director had absolutely no idea where we were supposed to go, other than “The Orangerie.”  Danke, lady.  Danke. 
The gardens at the Schonbrun

This was about the time the panic began to set in.  Rob was supposed to meet us, but we had no way to contact him and tell him where.  It was decided that Lori and Joel would go in search of the elusive blue-eyed dinner tickets while I waited at the entrance to the palace.  As we rounded the corner of the palace, who should be sitting at the cafe, but Rob, quaffing a beer. He had spoken to someone who knew where dinner was and off we went for dinner.  Joel went off on what can best be described as a scavenger hunt but it probably was more like leaping down rabbit holes and he seemed to get bad information from just about anyone he asked.  He finally, through the sheer force of his will I think, found and acquired said tickets and we settled in for dinner.  

The main course was “Viennese Boiled Beef.”  Sounds yummy, doesn’t it?  The image that came to mind was some soggy, stringy glop but what was on the plate was quite different.  Tender and flavorful, all four of us enjoyed dinner very much.  After dinner, we were supposed to go to the Mozart concert but by the time we got there, none of us were in any mind to sit for 2 hours listening to Mozart and Strauss.  I’m sure they were very good, but a glass of wine at the hotel bar sounded much more appealing.  Thank the lord for cheap taxis.
Schonbrunn at night

A word about my nuew bff:  Gruner Veltliner wine (imagine the umlaut over the ‘u’, I don’t know how to put it in). The server at the hotel bar introduced us and it is yummy.  Crisp, with apple tones, it’s almost like apple juice.  Okay.  Enough said or I shall have to order up a glass right now.  

Tomorrow:  The Long Road To Salzburg and Back, or No, We Did Not See the von Trapps (They Live In New Hampshire)

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