Until today, that is, when the heavens opened up and poured down on me ALL FREAKING DAY.
Today I ended up in Vienna, Austria. It was raining as I arrived and since I didn’t have an umbrella, I had to walk most of the way to the hostel while getting rained on. Fortunately I happened across a cheap store that sold umbrellas, so I bought one. Best three Euros I’ve ever spent.
I checked into the hostel, bought some food, including sour cream and onion chips which I haven’t had in months, and then headed into the city center.
Let me first say that Vienna was beautiful. It is somewhere that I would definitely love to go back to, especially on a day in which the weather isn’t completely miserable. However, because the weather was rainy and cold, I didn’t have the greatest time there. Plus, have you ever tried to take pictures while holding an umbrella? Doesn’t work so well, especially with my camera, which requires two hands on the camera if you want to change the zoom. I ended up getting wet most of the time I was taking pictures, simply because I couldn’t manage a way to hold my umbrella and take the picture at the same time. I also have quite a few pictures that feature a stunning building and then in the top or corner of the picture, my crappy umbrella shows up. Rather annoying.
I started out by the Museums Quartier, which is full of museums as indicated by the name. Again, I didn’t go in any of the museums, but instead continued walking to see the rest of the sights. I came to Maria Theresien Platz, which had a statue in the middle and was surrounded by two stunning museums, the Natural History Museum and the Art History Museum.
I continued in the same direction, which brought me to Heldenplatz. Same kind of deal here as at Maria Theresien Platz—another museum and another statue. This time, however, there were a few horse-drawn carriages waiting to take the flocking hordes of tourists around Vienna.
Just kidding. There was hardly anybody outside because of the weather, so the carriages were waiting for nothing.
I walked just a short distance more and came to Hofburg, which is a palace complex. There are a number of things to see, including the Imperial Apartments, the Imperial Silver Collection, the Treasuries, and the Hofburg Chapel.
And most importantly, THE SPANISH RIDING SCHOOL.
I almost punched myself in the face when I got to Vienna and saw the Spanish Riding School on the map. Of course the Spanish Riding School is in Vienna! I’ve known this for at least ten years! But me, being the unprepared ditz that I am, completely forgot this fact until I was in Vienna, at which point I started geeking out and plotting ways to befriend a Lipizzaner.
Those of you who aren’t horse people are probably confused, so I will give a short explanation. The Spanish Riding School is a famous riding school, known for their Lipizzaner stallions. Lipizzaners are a unique breed of horse. Almost all Lipizzaners are born black, then as they age, they fade to grey. There are a few bay and black Lipizzaners but they’re rare. Lipizzaners are also famous for the special feats they perform, including the courbette (in which the horse raises itself onto its hind legs then hops into the air) and the capriole (in which the horse jumps into the air and then kicks out with its hind legs at the apex of the jump). It’s here, in Vienna at the Spanish Riding School, that Lipizzaners are trained, and where they also give performances throughout the year.
By the way, the riders at the Spanish Riding School are also incredible. I once heard that the riders at the Spanish Riding School can step into the stirrup and mount the horse without a girth attached to the saddle. Anybody else who tried to do this would be lying on the ground, crying, because without the girth, the saddle is not firmly attached to the horse. It just blows my mind.
Occasionally the Lipizzaner stallions and their riders go on tours around the world. About ten years ago, they came to the United States, and happened to perform in Milwaukee, near to where I was living. I went with my best friend and our mothers, and it was a truly awesome experience. I would never turn down the opportunity to see them perform again.
Anyways, as previously mentioned, I’m an idiot and can’t plan ahead, so I forgot about this until I arrived. I wandered around the gift shop for a while, looked at the ticket booth to see that performances are only on Saturdays and Sundays (and it was a Wednesday or something at the time), and that I had missed being able to watch a training that was earlier in the morning.
Well, poop. Just means I’ll have to come back to Vienna, I suppose.
I wandered in a random direction outside until I found a group of tourists who were hurriedly scurrying towards something. I followed to find that they had discovered the stables of the Lipizzaner stallions! Freak out time! Unfortunately the entrance was blocked off so you couldn’t walk right up to the horses, but you could peer into the courtyard at them, which I did for a while.
Except they’re not ponies, and they’re probably pretty huge.
I want one.
I’ve wanted a horse for my entire life. Santa and I are not on good terms because of this. I put a horse (or pony) on my Christmas list every year for basically forever, and I never ended up with a horse. No cookies for you then, Santa.
Back to Vienna now… I wandered away from the Spanish Riding School after discarding multiple plans to sneak into the stables and/or arena and then came to St. Peter’s Church. This beautiful statue was nearby the church.
Just a few streets away from St. Peter’s Church was St. Stephan’s Cathedral, which was huge, stunning, and under construction (as almost everything seems to be nowadays). Still, the parts that weren’t under construction were absolutely lovely, and the roof was really unique.
As I walked around the church, I came upon more horse-drawn carriages, complete with wet, miserable horses. As you’ve probably gathered, I love horses a lot. The urge to walk up to them and pet them was nearly irresistible, but I’m never sure how the owner is going to react to me petting their horses. I lurked around the horses for a while until I saw a small child pet one of the horses. Since she got away with it, I figured I could as well, so I moved in for a grey and black horse pair.
I petted those two horses for who knows how long, but they were so hard to leave. The black horse especially enjoyed my company, and closed my eyes when I petted him. I just wanted to hop into the carriage and take them away with me, back to the US. I’m sure I could have figured out a way to get them home.
After I tore myself away from my new friends, I continued to just wander. I decided to head back home since my tennis shoes were completely flooded and making horrible squishing noises, but then I saw another interesting building and decided to head over that way.
I came to the building, which was the Parliament building, and which was even more striking up-close. I was then going to head back to the hostel, but I saw a garden and wanted to get into it. I didn’t see how, since it appeared that I was on the wrong side of the fence, but I kept walking and eventually came to a gate. The garden is called the Volks Garden, and it was incredible. Roses of all different kinds were in bloom everywhere. Even better, the rain let up for a few minutes, though it resumed pouring again shortly afterwards.
I continued to walk to Rathaus, or the City Hall, which was just across from the Burg Theater. I was going to continue to walk towards another church I saw, but by this point I was wet, hungry, and crabby, so I just decided to head back to the hostel (for real this time) and grab a bite to eat.
So, the weather was completely horrible that day, but Vienna itself was gorgeous. I would have loved to go to the Schonbrunn Palace had the weather been nicer, and being able to see the Lipizzaner stallions perform would have been awesome as well.
Guess it just means I’ll be taking another trip to Vienna in the near future.