The number of countries that Robbie has had to drag me out of, kicking and screaming (and pouting), has increased by one. Generally, I am pretty excited to move down the road and see what the next country has to offer in terms of culture (food), camping (food), and history (wine) but, when a country sends classical music floating through the air as we sleep and wafts the scent of schnitzel and sausage on the the wind at sunrise, we set down roots.
I fully recognize that this is an insane statement that speaks volumes of my character, but there was something about the way the Austrians stacked their wood that made me feel at home.
Among our first stops was a visit to Vienna, where, placing the sort of blind faith in a navigation system that only comes having gone soft after four months on the road, this is where we tried to park:
Our otherwise faithful TomTom led us to believe that this was a reasonable place to park our vehicle – a public parking lot, even. It was, in acuality, the front entrance of the Hofburg palace, the formal imperial palace of Vienna which housed the Habsburgs, the family who ruled over Austria for about 600 years, which I now believe is the formal residence of the current President of Austria. I have come to ascertain that the vehicles parked in front of the palace belong to dignitaries of some sort of another. I regret nothing.
After crashing the front gates of the Austrian White House, my oldest dream came true when we visited the Lippizaner stallions at the Spanish Riding School. With 450 years of tradition and classical horsemanship behind it, it’s still just horses. One highlight had to be a delightfully wild four-year-old stallion that was full of beans and tried his hardest to dump his rider with exceptional perseverance and grace. In all, it exceeded even my stratospherically high expectations.
They were militant about their ban on taking photos. As a horseman myself, I am fully sympathetic of the focus necessary to complete the movements and the importance of not distracting the horses with flash photography. BUT, I was confident that my concealed non-flash amateur photography would not cause a stir (despite the numerous audio announcements to the contrary). It was only after the stern and firm hand of security on my shoulder (heavy with the knowledge of my guilt) that I realized just how serious they were about the issue. I don’t know if it was 30 years of waiting or the thrill of the classical music at full blast as the Lippizaners flew through the air performing haute ecole movements, but I felt emboldened and threw caution to the wind, managing to capture grainy and paparazzi-like photos from behind the iron curtain of my jacket and Henley’s head.
The rest of Vienna didn’t disappoint. It was one of the only cities where around every corner we couldn’t help but utter some sort of of expletive. The opulence was beguiling. Want to see what 600 years with unlimited funds and the talent of the world’s best architects, composers, and artists at your fingertips leaves as a legacy? Vienna is a good place to start.