The third day in Vienna started off with a visit to the Spanish Riding School, Vienna’s world-renowned school for Lipizzan stallions. There was a morning exercise scheduled for 10 in the morning, so we decided to get there about an hour early to get our tickets and to get a good spot in line so we could get good seats when the doors opened. Apparently, it seemed like about a hundred of other people thought the same, so when we got there, the line was already out the door! We eventually found seating on the upper level after making it into the main arena and got to witness the incredible skills of these famed horses. There was the typical Viennese waltz music playing in the background (I think I’ve listened to Strauss’ Blue Danube about a hundred times here), but what was super cool was that the horses trotted to the exact beat of the music.
After the morning exercise, we decided to go to two of the most famous palaces in Vienna: Schloss Schonbrunn and the Belvedere. The Schonbrunn is a massive estate, and when we finally arrived there by the U-Bahn, we learned that there just wasn’t enough time to visit the inside of the palace, in addition to the numerous gardens outside the palace. So, we ended up just taking photos of the outside of the palace and exploring some of the public park/gardens of the palace – next time when there’s more time, I’m definitely going to buy tickets and explore the rest of the place.
Then, we visited the Belvedere, which is famous for its collection of Gustav Klimt paintings, the most famous being The Kiss – a very impressive painting to see up close, if you ever get the chance. Klimt’s style is unique and distinctive (he does venture into some of the usual impressionism though) and although most people go to the Upper Belvedere to see this main painting, the others in the collection are also worth seeing as well. There’s also a Baroque art section, where one of the five original paintings of Napoleon Crossing the Alps by Jacques-Louis David resides, and it is definitely a sight to behold. After exploring this palace and its beautiful gardens in the front and back, we went back to the main downtown area to explore some more and get some food.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral is the center of the U-Bahn map, and rightly so, it is the heart of all the activity going on in the city. The church is open to tourists and people are constantly walking in and out of the church, admiring its gothic architecture and the vast and lofty halls. There happened to be a mass service starting right when we arrived, so we decided to listen in and observe (as it allowed us to get closer to the front of the church, where the decorations and figures were much more extravagant). I am not religious, but it was pretty cool to observe the service – it was conducted all in German, but most of the service revolved around music rather than actual sermons and stuff (at least that’s what I think happened…). There was an organist who played a variety of songs and the books that were handed out to people weren’t Bibles, but books containing sheet music and lyrics to the songs being played…much different than my limited experiences with church in the US.
Finally, we went to get some food at Cafe Sacher (very near the Vienna State Opera), known for its Sacher Torte. On the way to the cafe, we passed by Mozart’s house, which is where he lived from 1784 to 1787! Pretty cool seeing the place of this legendary composer! Anyways, the Sacher Torte is an incredible dessert – it’s much better than the Imperial torte, and combines the slight acidity/sourness of the apricot filling with the sweetness of the dark chocolate shell and the accompanying whipped cream. And the cake itself isn’t dry, which made it a very delectable dessert and a great way to end the day! Looking forward to tomorrow – our last full day in Vienna.