29 May 2011 - After breakfast it was off for the city tour of Vienna. This city is so beautiful to see. Intricate heavy wooden doors with intricate wrought iron gates, window boxes fill the luxury apartments along wide glorious boulevards.
As the former home of the Habsburg court and its various empires, the city still has the trappings of the imperial capital it once was, and the historic city centre is inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage list.
Vienna is the city of music. More famous composers have lived here than in any other city – in Vienna, music is literally in the air: Waltzes and operettas have their home here, and so do musicals "made in Vienna," which have conquered international audiences. The city’s concert halls and stages offer the whole range from classical to progressive sounds with end-to-end festivals the whole year through.
Just a few paces from Vienna's old city, trendy beach bars along the Danube Canal provide that Riviera feeling with music, cool cocktails and delicious food.
Viennese palaces once served as city residences for noble families. Today they are home to numerous interesting shops, particularly in the historic city center. The term palace was originally used to describe a noble residence that, as opposed to a castle, was neither fortified nor in a rural setting. In Vienna, where the Habsburg family resided for centuries, numerous noble families from all over the empire settled in the capital to be near the Hofburg. After World War II many of the palaces were sold by their original owners. Today they house government ministries, embassies, museums and shops.
I found the city to be so romantic, you can see horse-drawn carriages everywhere and if you close your eyes and listen to the the sound of the clip-clop of the horses on the cobbled-stoned streets you can imagine you are in the time of the "Sound of Music" or during the time of the Empress Sisi.
We drove along the Ringstrasse which is the major boulevard of Vienna which houses wonderful shops filled with all sorts of crystal, silver and wondrous findings.
Vienna is home to the world famous Spanish Riding School which is the oldest and last Riding School in the world where classic dressage is still practised in its purest form. This Institute was founded in 1572.
It's name was derived from the fact that the horses were of Spanish origin. The Lipizzaner is regarded to be the oldest classic horse race in Europe. The horses have been bread in Lipizza in Slovenia. Tody, there is a stud in Piber, close to Graz. Young Lipizzaner are black and only turn white when reaching maturity. They need to undergo elaborate training before they are able to perform their prancing Renaissance ballet to the sound of classical music. They are the Rolls Royce of horses and I always wanted to see one because of their rarity.
I was all excited to see them in person in Vienna but I was disappointed to hear that on the day we were in Vienna there was no visiting allowed.....OMG I wanted to desperately see one of these beautiful horses, I was so disappointed!
As I walked along the tour secretly sulking I heard the guide say "to the right is the world famous Spanish Riding School. I immediately perked up and to my surprise and jubilation the door was open to the inner court yard which I am told never happens and lo and behold there were two of the most beautiful horses I had ever seen!!! They were in their stalls and I stood there praying they would turn around so I could get a better look and then miraculously one looked straight at me and posed, I immediately snapped his photo! I was so pleased I could have cried, I always wanted to see one in person and my wish, however brief, was exonerated.Now I was happy to continue the tour and we had some free time to visit on our own and I had some great experiences. In one of the plazas of the old town there was an old accordianist playing Viennese music and several costumed couples danced all around in a circle.
Then it was on to St. Stephan's cathedral. This is an imposing black structure with gothic spirals that make an awesome contrast to the blue sky. It always amazes me to touch a stone that was once also touched by a crusader or monk hundreds of years ago. This building is one of the main icons of Vienna with a main square in front of it and many charming side streets lined with cafes and souvenir shops.
Here I saw young couples strolling hand-in-hand, old men in deep discussion at a sidewalk cafe, street musicians engulfing the air with classical music and many small dogs out for a walk with their masters as the Viennese populace intertwine with the visitors all awestruck with the Vienna landscape and culure.
After stopping in a small shop to pick up some famous Viennese chocolate for the cabin we continued on to the Austrian National Library. I have to admit that this was the most beautiful library I have ever seen in the world! It has 50 ft high coffered ceilings painted with the most immpressive frescoes I have ever seen. The rooms are sensational filled with books written by philosophers and scientists dating back to the 12th century. This, the largest baroque library in Europe, was erected in the first half of the eighteenth century as an independent wing of the Imperial Palace.
More than 200,000 volumes are exhibited here, among them the comprehensive library of Prince Eugene of Savoy as well as one of the largest collections of Martin Luther’s writings from the Reformation Era. In total over 7 million items are on exhibition here comprising in addition to the volumes, papyri, maps, manuscripts, sheets of music, photographs as well as rare autographs.
Among the exhibits are two exquisite Venetian baroque globes: one for the earth and one for the sky, each with a diameter of more than one meter. Sculptures are perfect ornaments to the beautiful old leather bound books which line the walls. Most shelves are so high you need a ladder to reach them. Some priceless manuscripts and books are kept in glass-enclosed cabinets and it is chilling to see the written words of hundreds of years ago on parchment paper.
Later is was back on the ship to relax, eat gourmet meals and sail towards Bratislava!