A Weekend with Family in Vienna

Friday morning, I met my mom and aunt at the main station for an early train to Vienna. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for what should have been an easy and relaxing journey to become a nightmare. Due to an issue with the track between Linz and St. Pölten, the whole train had to disembark at Linz and take a series of buses to St. Valentin where we could board another train. Everyone traveling between Vienna and Salzburg/Munich had to go through this and naturally there was a shortage of buses. By the time we found a vehicle with room and arrived in St. Valentin, it was 11am – just when we should have been arriving in Vienna.

We finally got to the city a little after 1pm and immediately headed to our hotel. After checking in, we walked to the Spanish Riding School to buy standing tickets for the following morning. When that task was accomplished, we went to Demel for lunch, a much-needed meal after our morning adventure. Established in 1786, this famous pastry shop has held the title of Purveyor to the Imperial and Royal Court since 1874 and is well known for its window display.

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Demel’s workshop, view-able while waiting for a table.
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My choice of lunch, a tartare of avocado and Norwegian smoked salmon.
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My mom’s lunch, a roasted fillet of char with grilled vegetables and parsley potatoes.

After finishing our meal and getting some energy, we wandered around the shop, looking at their confectionery creations. I ended up buying a bag of chocolate-dusted hazelnuts, a bar of dark chocolate with pieces of candied rose, and a small Demeltorte (a walnut and chocolate cake covered in a milk chocolate icing with pieces of candied violet on top).

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Various fruit preserves available for sale.
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One of the many Easter-related confectionery creations.

We then took some time to explore Vienna, focusing on two art museums, which will be discussed in the next blog post. When we were done with our various activities, we relaxed for a few minutes at the Hotel Sacher in Vienna. Once again we tried the Sachertorte and found it just as good as in Salzburg.

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One of the restaurants in Hotel Sacher, featuring the author and my aunt, both absorbed on our phones. Photo courtesy of Pat Kuenning.

Our main reason for coming to Vienna in the first place was to see the Cirque du Soleil show Amaluna. We had a family friend, Sarah Hardy, who was performing in it as a Valkyrie on aerial straps (though, due to technical issues the night we went, her main performance was canceled) and it also seemed a good way to celebrate my birthday with family.

Founded in 2012, it is loosely based of off Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The story takes place on an island governed by goddesses; female power plays a big role in the show. During a storm, a group of men wash up on shore and the queen’s daughter falls for one of them. Their trials of love are the basis of the show’s main narrative.

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An example of lighting inside the reception tent.
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A view of the stage and audience before the start of the show.

After the performance, we met up with Sarah who took us on a short tour backstage. We saw all the different sets, the cool-down routines of performers, and met one of the directors. When it was time for us to go, security called a taxi and we went back to the hotel to sleep.

The following morning, we checked our bags at the hotel desk and walked straight to the Spanish Riding School where we stood in line for around an hour. Housed in the imperial compound of the Hofburg in Vienna, the school was designed by Johann Fischer von Erlach and completed in 1735. Because we were early, we were able to find a good standing location in the balcony.

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From left to right: The author, my aunt, and my mother, all taking part in a selfie.

The program began with the “Young Stallions”, riding to the Military March N.1 in D-major by Franz Schubert. The horses here are, as the name suggests, young Lipizzaner stallions at the age of four to six years showing the gaits of walk, trot, and canter on simple lines. The stallions are recognizable as being young by their different shades of grey and their rather boisterous character.

The next item on the program was “All the Steps and Movements of the Classical School”, performing to the Kaiser-Fanfare I by J.H. Schantl, the Anna’s Polka by Strauß, and the British Grenadiers by J. Wiedemann. Each rider, of which there are four, presents an individual performance with their highly trained stallion. The focus here is to accentuate the talent of the horse in harmony with the music.

Up next was “Work in Hand & Schools Above the Ground,” accompanied by Schmiedeck-Fanfare by J.H. Schantl and Viennese Blood by J. Strauß II. Only specialist horses can perform the following “jump” exercises – in combination with only the most expert riders. The first of three exercises is known as the Courbette, in which the horse completely lifts the front half of its body off the ground and makes a few leaps forward on his hind legs. Next is the Capriole, where the horse jumps with all four legs almost simultaneously in the air and kicks out with the hind legs. The last exercise is the Levade, in which the horse shifts his entire weight onto bent hind legs and raises his forelegs, remaining in this position for some time.

Fourth in the program was the “Pas de Deux”, the focal points in this item, which only features two riders, being total symmetry and harmony. The two horses and riders mirrored each other as they performed to music from the Symphony N.4 by Mozart.

The last performance was the “School Quadrille”, performed to pieces from the Arlésienne-Suite N.2 by Bizet, Polonaise N.1 in A-major by Chopin, excerpts from Symphony N.101 by Haydn, and lastly the Austrian Grenadiers 1784 Traditional March by J. Strauß I. Eight horses showed the exercises of the classical dressage on short lines in their choreography and it was the longest item on the program.

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The riders replacing hats after their final bow at the Spanish Riding School.

After the performance, we grabbed our bags from the hotel and headed to the main station. It was a whirlwind weekend, but we managed to pack a lot of activities into the time we had. Luckily the train trip back proved to be a smooth journey this time, and I said my goodbyes on the train before getting off in Salzburg. My mom and aunt continued on to Munich where they spent the night before their early departure Sunday.

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Various travelers waiting for the train to Munich including the author with a book and my aunt with a letter. Photo courtesy of Pat Kuenning.

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One thought on “A Weekend with Family in Vienna

  1. I’m salivating being reminded of all the wonderful food we experienced in Vienna. Lunch at Demel’s was well worth the wait. If we’d had more time to stay in the city, I’m sure I could have eaten my way through many more restaurants. It was especially lucky that we were there just before Easter and got to enjoy many of the Easter-related displays. The Austrians seem to decorate for Easter almost as much as they do for Christmas. The Cirque du Soleil show (complete with backstage tour) and the Spanish Riding School are among my favorite memories of the trip. Of course, the train/bus/train ride to Vienna will also be remembered, but what’s a trip without a bit of unexpected adventure? I was so relieved when we were finally able to procure tickets to the morning exercises at the Spanish Riding School. I knew how much it meant to you to see the horses perform, and I think we were all holding our breath worrying that the train delays would result in our getting to Vienna too late to buy tickets. Good karma worked in our favor, and it all turned out just fine.

    Liked by 1 person

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