Monday, November 23, 2015

Vienna: we admire prancing stallions on our way to Hofburg Palace

Our hotel was quite centrally located, and only a ten-minute walk from the Hofburg Palace.  The Hofburg is perhaps the most historically significant of Vienna's palaces. For more than six centuries it was the seat of the Habsburg emperors - and the official residence of every Austrian ruler since 1275. The official seat of the Austrian President, this sprawling complex consists of numerous buildings reflecting various periods, including architectural flourishes from the Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo movements. Sprawled across 59 acres are 18 groups of buildings with 19 courtyards and 2,600 rooms.

On our way to the palace we spotted the Spanish Riding School, home to the famous Lippizaner horses. Since it was somewhere we wanted to go we adjusted our plans and went inside. Dating back to the time of Emperor Maximilian II, the Spanish Riding School was established after the ruler had the famous Lipizzaner horses introduced to his courtesans in 1562. Today, it's one of Vienna's leading attractions, thrilling audiences with fabulous displays of equestrian skills in the Baroque Winter Riding School in the grounds of the Hofburg Palace, where it has been located since 1735. Since there were no actual performances while we were in Vienna we opted to see one of the morning training sessions held in the same place as the performances. The place was full of people sitting in the balconies overlooking the performance area. There were five horses practicing their moves with their riders in full uniform. The horses rode around then suddenly they would prance, take sideways steps, move backwards or ride diagonally across the ring. There was no end to the moves these horses could make under the elegant chandeliers. Most of the stallions were white but in the second session there was one brown horse. In fact these white stallions looked very similar to our Camargue horses. Sadly, we had to move on as we had a busy day ahead of us.

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