October 19th, 2013: Day 6 – Spanish Riding School
A free day on a Saturday in Vienna meant one thing to me: I was going to a performance at the Spanish Riding School, and that was that.
Of course I wanted to see a lot of things, but this was something I had wanted to see for years and years. I had actually somehow completely forgotten about this upon arrival in Austria, until on our tour I saw a rider leading a Lipizzan back to the stable, and immediately I remembered and began to let the inner horse rider take over.
So, naturally, when I walked in to the Winter Riding school, my jaw nearly hit the floor.
To the other horse riders out there, there were chandeliers in the riding school. Chandeliers. Coupled with the fantastic sculptures and the imposing portrait of, I believe, Emperor Charles VI, I could not believe it. I had never, ever set foot into a riding school that nice, and I doubt I ever will again. The show was fantastic, as they showed the best of the ‘haute école ’ or ‘high school’ of dressage. As a rider myself I completely appreciated how hard it is to do some of those movements, and I could never imagine trying to perform a successful Courbette myself (though I’d love to try one day).
I tried my hardest to get it to tie in to International Relations, but the closest I could get was that the traditional rider outfits date back to the time of the Congress of Vienna. That counts. Honestly, I was too busy gaping at the beautiful school, horses and movements.
After the performance, I headed with a small group over to the Schönbrunn Palace for the rest of the day. If you want to discuss overly ornate and ridiculously hedonistic, you’ll want to start there. In all honesty, however – it was the coolest palace I have ever been to.
What was especially interesting was walking in to the Great Gallery. It was supposed to represent the glorification of Maria Theresia’s reign. Each chandelier, for example, took 70 candles. Even after the Palace ceased to be imperial, it was still home to important political events, such as a meeting between Kennedy and Khrushchev in the ‘60s.
The story also goes that the last Habsburg Emperor never formally resigned his claim to the throne, so they sent him to Madeira. Tough life, right? Otto, his son, maintained a claim until his death in 2011.
What was also interesting was the Napoleon room, but what I found more interesting was how sad his son’s life was. After Napoleon’s defeat, his wife, a Habsburg, returned to court with their son. After she was married off again, the stipulation was that her son have no claim to power and he ended up staying at court, apparently lonely, until his death in his early twenties from a lung problem. Politics.
I also learned that the Habsburgs loved their Baroque and Rococo styles – the entire Palace is a testament to that. That may be why it looks so overly decadent. It does, however, attribute to the idea of wealth and power being synonymous with one another.
We also got to attend a strudel show, and it tasted delicious. We finished our Palace outing with walking up to the Gloriette and looking out over the Palace and Vienna. The grounds are truly beautiful.
Our day didn’t stop there, because Kloie and I headed to see the musical again – yes, it really was that good – and though there were a few different actors this time, it was still amazing. A busy last day in Vienna, but one well spent.