Saturday, May 14, 2011


We spent two days in this lovely city. Fortunately, our room was ready when we showed up at 9am. Although we couldn't technically check in until 3pm, they offered it to us right away. After showers (hmmm...maybe I can guess why they were so nice about giving us our room...) and some organizing, we headed out on the town.

I have a good friend in Vienna. We started as teen-aged penpals, and have been writing since. I saw Elizabeth on an earlier trip (2000) and this time she was able to take a day of vacation to spend with us.

We headed over toward Schonbrunn, the summer palace of the Hapsburgs. On the way, we stopped at a really nice beer garden for lunch. Mary and I shared a lovely meal, and then we went into the palace grounds. We toured the Emperors' apartments, walked in the gardens, and had coffee and torte in the coffee shop. It was very much a "ladies' afternoon."

After Schonbrunn, we decided to head somewhere for supper. That was a bit of a bust, as we headed toward the Vienna central market, to check out some market bars she had heard were really nice. Really nice, yes, but the bill was about the same as lunch! And all we had was cold cuts, cheese and salads. We headed home for a good night's sleep.

Next morning we headed over to one of Vienna's very special places; the Spanish Riding School.

This is horsemanship and dressage at the peak, and horse people, you can be jealous. The Lipizzan horses trained there are beautiful animals, their riders are well-disciplined and seem to really care for their pretty ponies, the tack and equipment are to die for, and even the stables are picture-perfect.

Grooms clean the stalls hourly, so that those pretty white coats stay white, white, white. We watched the 2 1/2 hour morning workout the horses are put through, and then toured the stables. Sadly, we were only able to touch the stable cats; I was just itching to touch those glossy, white coats.

(Yes, this horse is bay. Occasionally, a bay Lippizan is born. They are considered good luck, a "message from history," as the tour guide phrased it. Lippizans were originally colored like any other horse breed. In the 19th century, the Emperor decided he wanted all of his horses to match, and he liked white best. Turns out, white, for Lippizans, is a dominant gene. So it only took two generations to turn the breed white. Now the Riding School keeps at least one bay horse "on staff," for that measure of good luck.)

After leaving the stables, we stopped for coffee and headed back to our rooms. We had planned to meet Elisabeth again, for ice cream, but she called just as we were discussing supper. We ended up walking through yet another part of Vienna to a place she knew for Weiner schnitzel and "house beer." Yep, Italy has house wine. But Austria (and, I'm guessing, Germany) has house beer. Each place has a different one, and they're all good! We did end up at an ice cream parlor, one Elizabeth has been going to for about 40 years. It was delicious!

Thursday morning we bade goodbye to Vienna. Sadly, we never visited Stephansdom, which was the one place I really wanted Mary to see.

It was closing for Mass just as we arrived, and wouldn't open for four hours. By then we wanted to be on the road westward. Next time...

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