Eastern Europe Part 2 travel blog

Lippizans heading to exercise

Happy Hour


Elevator to the top

Charles Church

Friday night at the Opera House

Instead of trying to see a performance of the Lipizzans we opted to attend a training session of these famous white horses at the Spanish Riding School where they train. For some reason I thought they would be practicing their routines but it turned out it was the morning exercise of the horses at the Winter Riding School accompanied by classical Viennese music. There were five horses and each rider worked with their horse individually. It was a large, lovely facility and there were hundreds of people joining us. The session went from 10-12 changing horses about every 30 minutes. It didn't take long for us to get bored, so we decided to leave. Walking out we came across the stables for the horses with the next group of five leaving. They crossed right in front of us so we got an upclose look at them. Beautiful animals.

Next on our agenda was the HOHO Bus. They have 3 routes--red, blue, and green. We started with the red route which took us to many of the sigificant landmarks in the old city and across the Danube to see the newest skyscrapers. There are so many majestic buildings in this city but there is also so much construction and renovation. It is really difficult to get a decent picture. And we did see a protest march. We think it had to do with the climate change demonstrations currently going on globally.

After getting off the bus, we stopped for lunch. We split a German "tarte flambe" which turns out is a pizza. Then it was to the Wiener Staatsoper, Vienna's world-renowned opera house to try and get tickets for the 3:00 tour--they don't start selling tickets until 20 minutes before each tour. There was a long line but we made it in. Turns out everyone gets in and you line up under the sign for the language you want. There were 6 different languages but English had the most so they split us into 3 groups.

The opera house was impressive, especially the stage. It was bombed in 1945 but the main facade, the grand staircase, and the Schwind Foyer had been spared. Ten years later it reopened but not in the style of the original remaining parts--budget issues. Now 350 performances are staged each year of 60 different operas and ballets--never two in a row. A different performance each night. There are 600 performers, 30 conductors, and 150 stage hands. These stage hands work in shifts and have to change out the stage twice a day. First for a rehearsal of an upcoming performance and then for the performance that night. In addition to side stages with stored scenery there is a 5-story basement plus off sight storage facilities.

We were backstage at about 3:30 and the stage was basically bare even though there was a performance at 7:30. By the time we got through the back stage portion of the tour and went into the auditorium, the stage was set. The whole process is pretty amazing. Then we stopped for a glass of wine and split an apple strudel the Opera Cafe.

We thought we would do one more stop before heading back to our apartment as there was a Charles Church close. It was built by Emperor Charles VI in honor of the saint of plague sufferers, Saint Charles Borromeo, in 1714 and he declared it a votive church for the whole Austrian empire. A votive church is a church that was built as a sign of thanksgiving for salvation from an emergency or with a request for the fulfillment of a specific desire, and sometimes atonement. We were expecting a small church as there are a lot of small churches in this town and we hadn't really read anything about it but were quite surprised to see it wasn't small at all. It was very impressive both inside and out. Inside they had scaffolding with an elevator that would take you to the top where you could step out and view the church from the ceiling. It was really high up.

We took the U-bahn back to our apartment, had happy hour and then went out for dinner to a neighborhood gast house. We shared sauages with potatoes and sauerkraut and a cutlet with mushrooms. Good but salty. And then it was back to the Opera House. They have a huge screen set up where you can watch the current performance live. Tonight it was the ballet Sheila. Of course, just as we got there, it went to intermission. But we joined the crowd and watched for a while after the intermission was over. A very busy day. JB

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