Thursday, December 19, 2013

Vienna day 2: checking items off the bucket list

We were only trying to be semi-ambitious for Vienna - not planning too much but still wanting to see everything worth seeing in the time that we had. The only thing I insisted on seeing was the Lippizaner Spanish horse riding school. When I had been here last time it was one of the only things I wanted to see (other than the State Opera, which was likewise not available as it is closed during the summer and this time it was the premiere night of Mozart's The Magic Flute...fat chance of us getting tickets that were below 250euros a pop) and unfortunately the only time of year they are closed. Apparently horses get summer vacation. Even I don't get summer vacation. I find this to be ridiculous. You can't possibly, as an animal, be being trained so hard all the time that you get the summer off and I don't. You're not a beast of burden, you're doing dressage!

In any case, they were closed last time and I instead ended up seeing a fake version of them when I was in Budapest later the same trip. To be honest, the fake version I saw was pretty spectacular, and Marge and I had a wonderful time later imitating the horse acrobatics we'd seen (yes, this is what my friends and I do). There is even a sweet video of what we saw. So few people were interested in going out that summer night because it was raining we were allowed to leave our seats, go up to the fences that surrounded the arena, and take photos up close and person. Benefits of the fake version, I suppose.

This was absolutely none of that. Because it was the official riding school we barely got in because we were five minutes late, and with standing seats no less: we decided it wasn't worth it to pay the extra 15euros to get a seat and I'm so glad we didn't (our tickets were 23euros for standing and it was only 15euros more instead of 23euros more because we were late and the show had slightly started, making them discounted). The arena is built in such a way that there are pillars every ten feet or so, blocking your view no matter if you are sitting or standing. See from this internet image:

Best seats in the house are the super upper standing deck (see the people standing at the very top) or the ground level seats which were clearly sold out and much more expensive (we're talking 80euros or so for an 80 minute show). We all chuckled that if the royal family were coming to watch the show, they would put a box over the ground level seats so they would have an elevated unobstructed view.

In any case, I still enjoyed it, slightly obstructed view or not. The stallions were gorgeous and yes, they were well trained (of course). They did fancy dressage and some of the most excellent jumps and stands the world has seen:

Naturally there was no photography during the show so I have to take these from the internet. But know that it was just as excellent in person as these photos denote. It's true, they do fly that high and yes, they are that pretty and white.

There were even synchronized horse routines where the riders and horses did complicated moves in unison. Pretty hilarious. All of this was done to classical music, btw, which just added to the atmosphere - chandeliers and all.

I'd have to say that I loved every bit of this. I am a horse dork in this way. But it was a little disappointing in comparison to the one I'd seen in Budapest, which is both surprising and unsurprising. Though the other one may not have been the official school, it's clear they pushed their animals to do more and did some pretty spectacular things. Traditional or not, they would win my best in class award.

But I enjoyed this nonetheless and now I have checked it off my bucket list. I suppose now I just need to come back at some time and finally see the State Opera. 

Next (since I'll be covering the food of Vienna in another post) we went to the Belvedere, a renowned art museum. There is a permanent collection of Klimt there, and Hong Kong P thought we should check it out.

I'm glad she insisted. I've never been a huge fan of Klimt, having seen reproductions of The Kiss everywhere for the last ten years and never thinking it that exciting. Some of his other paintings are vaguely interesting but I've never been that in love with his work.

Seeing it in person was completely different. The beauty of the metallic paints and the detail and technique he uses is completely unrecognizable in the prints. It's almost a shame his work is being reproduced in such low quality that I couldn't see what he was doing. As I stood in front of the several paintings they had there of his, you could see his amazing talent, feel the mood he was trying to express. It was breathtaking, and certainly magical. It's been a long time since I've felt that way about art, and it was impressive. I felt swept away by his paintings and it was glorious.

We saw most of the other works that were there in the permanent collection, though admittedly we blew through them rather quickly, having made a reservation at a restaurant and plans to meet more of German K's friends (one of which was her real cousin, who happened to be in town at the same time for her job).

So we left and made our way through a local Christmas market, stopping just long enough to try three flavors of alcoholic punsch, which is so popular at this time of year. What did we try? Orange, apricot (very popular fruit in Vienna), and passion fruit. Strangely the passion fruit was the best flavor. Orange was too bitter and apricot was nothing special. Passion fruit was probably made from real passion fruit juice. Genius.

The rest of the night was spent with new friends and laughter, the food of which I'll cover in another post.

Vienna was being rewritten wonderfully, and I felt privileged to have friends to make it so.

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