We had decided to spend a few days in Vienna on our own before joining up with the tour group in Prague. Everything had to go exactly right. LAX –> CDG on time! CDG –>VIE on time! Red Cab, a European facsimile of Uber, waiting for us as promised. Check in at the iconic Hotel Sacher was friendly, courteous and, oh dear, just a little shaky – be advised that they are currently under a major room renovation and the pickings are slim. We ended up changing our room twice, which put us up against the clock. We were late, late for a very important date!
Hotel Sacher lobby, later in a more leisurely moment:
A helpful staff member ushered us through a back hallway into a booth at Cafe Sacher where a line of at least a dozen people awaited out front waiting for their chance to sample a slice of the prized Sachertorte, the chocolate layer cake upon which the Hotel Sacher’s laurels rest.
But we had no time for dessert; just a quick wurst and off we went, taking fifteen confused and slightly panicked minutes to find a destination supposedly four minutes away. (Traveler’s note: we spent much of our time in Vienna being hopelessly lost.) In retrospect, how we could fail to find a venue as imposing as the Spanische Hofreitschule (that’s Spanish Riding School to us non-German speakers) is beyond me.
Several re-routes later, we finally found the box office and claimed our tickets for A Tribute to Vienna, a combined performance of two of the city’s most cherished traditions: the Lipizzaner Stallions and the Vienna Boys Choir. We just happened to be arriving on one of the dates for this performance, which only occurs a handful of times throughout the year. The scene in the box office was chaotic; we later learned that a computer glitch had canceled out some or all of the purchased ticket orders for the evening and it was only through the protracted efforts of our travel agent that ours was restored. Blissfully unaware of the reason for the delay, I gazed out the window while we waited in line and caught one of my favorite travel moments of the trip – choir boys relaxing before their performance:
We sank into our seats just as the lights were being dimmed and took in the magnificence of the show arena, all dirt floor and glittering chandeliers. Not a great photo but the best I could do:
And then the magic began, but the photos ended because of course you cannot be allowed to snap pictures while these magnificent creatures leap and prance in a most precariously precise achievement of choreography. Such an incredible sight that I simply have no words, but alas, I also have no pictures for you except for those courtesy of Google.
The Vienna Boys Choir sang sweetly, but it was the Lipizzaners we will remember. As heavily muscled as a workhorse yet with the agility of a circus dog, each horse perfectly attuned to its rider, who calmly doffs his hat to the audience at each entrance and exit. At least a few members of the audience (me!) were brought to tears and it made our twenty-four hour travel saga well worth the effort. If you ever get the chance to see them, GO! It is a memory I will cherish always.
We walked back through darkened streets to the hotel after the performance (only slightly less lost) and wondered what awaited us next in this historic city…