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The Spanish Riding School & Schonbrunn Palace

Yesterday we saw two of Vienna’s best known attractions. Tickets for the Riding School needed to be ordered in advance and Robert Tickler has chronicled his difficulties with the Viennese ticket agency. The position seems to be not unlike ticket agencies who purport to be the box office of London theatres.

Over breakfast Polly explained the various types of equestrian event: show jumping, dressage and eventing. She specialised in show jumping and, for her, dressage meant you were at the whim of a judge. Set in yet another splendid building by the Hofburg Palace, the Riding School too was a dressage performance.  The famous Lipizzaner white stallions were ridden by professional riders trained at the school. We were shown a combination of training of younger stallions and more formal quadrilles and displays by the more mature ones. How far removed from the old broken nags to whom we give sanctuary for their last days. The music of Johan and Richard Strauss accompanied the performances so there was in effect a synchronisation of classical music and riding. Our football writers would not classify this as sport but we all enjoyed ourselves. The only problem was that we had high seats in the middle from which half of the arena was excluded from sight.

After lunch at the nearby Greidenfeld cafe, a typical cafe of waiters in evening jackets and bustle, we made our way to the Schonbrunn Palace. Dear old Bob wanted to go there by horse drawn carriage as “this was the proper  conveyance for a palace”. This would have set him back €250s so Polly managed to prevail upon him a taxi. In fact we would have looked real wallies as the route to Schonbrunn Palace is an expressway flanked by light industrial units and a horse drawn carriage would have looked out of place.

Schonrbunn was truly magnificent even by the high baroque standards of Vienna and the Habsburg Empire. We had a grand tour ticket which provided access to 41 of its 1440 rooms. Mozart first performed as a six year old there and the great gallery is where J.F. Kennedy met Kruschev. Emperor Franz Josef’s wife Sisi  had a waist as thin as Polly and we learned that she (like Polly) did not partake of the rich food.

My impression of Vienna is a city grounded in its imperial past which has made few concessions to change. Many of the cafe and places we visited would have hardly changed in 175 years. You hardly see a Starbucks, estate agency, mobile phone shop or supermarket, that characterise the British metro high street.

We are leaving today and each will take their own memories with them. I can only recommend Vienna strongly for a weekend break. We did not see the Belvedere Palace, Albertina museum, the interior of the Hofburg place, the Prater Park, so my conclusion is that less is more and I cannot wait to return.


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About Nancy Bright-Thompson

A widely-respected travel editor, Nancy is a past president of the Guild of Travel Writers (GTW). She and her husband Phil now run a horse sanctuary in East Sussex. More Posts