Friday March 16, Vienna

A free day in Vienna. And yet another day of beautiful weather. We started today over by the Hofburg Palace, watching Morning Exercise of the famous Lipizzaner Horses. What beautiful animals! The horses train for at least 6 years, and their riders for about 10 years, before they are ready to be seen in performance. That’s quite a committment! The performances are quite expensive, and we thought it would be at least as interesting to see them practicing. And I believe we all thought so afterwards too. The riders were all in their formal performance costumes, but the horses seemed to be in differing levels of formality – that is, some had plan saddles and blankets, while others were in fancy saddles with very elegant saddle blankets, only a few tails were braided, etc. Most horses were being ridden, but some were working on lead ropes with trainers instead, practicing gaits or jumps. They are very beautiful horses to watch, and the building itself is without doubt the most beautiful and ornate indoor riding hall in the world. It was built in the 1720's and has all the ornate wood carvings, moldings, and gildings of the era. Huge crystal chandeliers. Massive fireplace down where the riders hang out on break. Quite a place. Oh, and the horses work to classical music – Strauss waltzes, Mozart overtures, and the like.

After the horses, we prowled adjoining Michaelerplatz a bit, shopping, taking photos, enjoying the many horse-drawn carriages going past on the cobbled streets. Then we lunched at Café Griensteidl, a famous old café on the platz right across from the Michaeltor (the main entrance to the Hofburg Palace). Excellent food, beautiful cakes, remarkably slow and surly service. So it was well past 2 PM when we were ready to move on.

Our next destination was the Stadtsoper (the Opera House), where we were able to have a guided tour. A very beautiful place, a combination of original 19th century elegance and post-WWII reconstruction, since it was badly damaged in bombing raids. The auditorium itself is very beautiful, as are the several intermission rooms (that’s where the audience goes to hang out between acts of the opera or ballet). The tour was very interesting and informative – and we’re hoping to go to an opera too, while we’re here.

After that we window-shopped our way from the Opera House down to our usual underground station at Karlsplatz. Then we had an unexpected addition to our schedule – Nancy’s phone service unaccountably went on the fritz today, and won’t be fixed until Tuesday, so she needed to get her cell phone back from Michelle. So we went out to her place to take care of that, and do a couple of other little things as well. Of course, that took longer than we intended, so that ended the day’s adventures. Afterwards Michelle and Suzi went home to their apartment. I stopped for dinner at a Bavarian restaurant a couple of doors down from my apartment, where I had an exquisite meal of grilled? baked? some delectable and tender form of fish (it’s Friday and Lent, so fish is everywhere today). With black noodles, roasted tomatoes, wonderful basil and wine vinegar reductions. A real masterpiece, and a great way to end the day.

Tomorrow we’ve decided to go to Bratislava for the day (an hour away by train) – we’ll be there next week to perform, but we’re ready to see what the city is like. Also ready for some better prices – everything is so darned expensive here! When even souvenir T-shirts are $20-25 it’s not too much fun to shop! Especially shocking, of course, after my recent experiences in Malaysia and Thailand, where everything was so inexpensive ($2 for a fun t-shirt is more like it!)

Anyway, more tomorrow!

Love to all,


Last updated 12/07. Copyright 2007 by Richard C. Morenus. Questions? Send email to