Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Vienna day 2: Horses and jewels and weapons, oh my!

The Hofburg Palace complex, primary home of the Emperors of Austria-Hungary, is a short walk from the Stephansplatz, and the existance there of the famous Spanish Riding School is prominently labled. Formal performances are infrequent and tickets hard to come by, but most every weekday from 10-1 there is the "Morning Exercise with Music" where you can see the students and the Lippizaner horses work out. This was rather fun just to watch the horses (and students) get put through their paces (literally), and to see trainers working with them on gaits and moves such as the caracole. In this mode, you can see the varying temperments and foibles of the animals, not yet worked up to the forma beauty of the performance, and see how the riders learn as well. This is rather subtle, since the horse and rider are apparently supposed to communicated by mental telepathy. Seldom if ever do you actually perceive the riders change position, or appear to actually use rein, spur, or crop, and, since the nusic was soft, it was pretty obvious they don't talk to the horses much either. I noted that all the students appear to be slim young men, and wondered what it took to be a rider there. I gather the "school" is rather more of a performing troupe than a regular riding school these days, but I wondered if you could possibly even apply if you were a bit overage, overweight, or female? Nothing I have found answers these questions.

After a couple of groups had worked out, we left the handsome and relatively austere Winter Riding Hall and made bee-line for the Royal Treasury. We ignored the State Rooms (reviewed as dull compared with other places we would see) and the Emperess Sisi Museum (more about her later), and bought a combination ticket that would admit us to the Treasury, the Armory/Musical Instrument/Ephesos Museums, also part of the Hofburg Complex, and the Art History Museum.

The Treasury is just fantastic, no other word for it. Besides the Hapsburg Crown jewels, there is an awsome collection of coronation robes for Holy Roman Emperors and a dozen kingdoms, elaborate Herald's tabards for emperors, kings, and dukes, and religious artifacts as well, including an alleged piece of the True Cross and the fabled Spear of Longinus, supposedly used to pirece Christ's side while he was on the cross. The amount of work put into some of the robes and raiments is just beyond imagining.

After that, we adjourned to the Riding School cafe for a refreshment (yes, everyone has their own cafe) since we got a discount coupon with admission for the exercise, and found the snacks good. I had my first taste of Viennese coffee here and wasn't that impressed. "Melange", which is the basic coffee drink comes with whipped cream on top, but otherwise straight. Even so, it was strong, but not that wonderful. However, I am not a coffe drinker ordinarily, so perhaps there were nuances lost on me.

The Museums in the Nuwe Berg, the newest part of the Hofburg, are not on the typical tour-package trail, and so we were often walking around in solitary splendor, able to peer as closely as we liked at the suits of armor, swords and other weapons. The Hofburg weapons collection is weighted heavily toward armor for the joust collected by Emperor Maximillian I, who was very fond of the sport, but also contains examples of weapons I had only ever seen drawings of, such as the "lantern shield", or, as we called it, the "Swiss Army shield". This early example of the gadgeteer's art is a buckler in corporating its own gaunltel dor a secure grip, and also has a small bulls-eye lantern that shines out through a hole in the shield above the boss. This was not for duelling in the dark, but supposedly to dazzle your opponent and gain you an advantage. It also has two serrated blades coming out from the gauntlet, a wickedly saw-edged eight inch spike from the boss, and a secondary sword blade that slides out from sheathe along the user's forearm!

At the end of the weapons display, you cans troll right into the Musical Instrument Museum, which is a very comprehensive collection of antique instruments of all types, many of which were new to me, and then to the Ephesos (Ephesus) Museum, which collects statuary and other objects excavated from that site in Turkey, and includes THE Diana of Ephesus. I was quite croggled to find this famous sculpture standing here quite unheralded and apparently largely ignored by the many visitors to other areas of the complex.

Vienna is quite surprising in this regard. Famous things you probably thought were elsewhere are right here. The Art History Museum has THE Blue Faience Hippopotamus you probably thought was in Cairo or New York. THE Venus of Willendorf is in the Natural History Museum. David's famous painting of Napoleon on horseback is at the Belvedere, and those are just some of the more striking ones I noted.

After that, we were museumed out for the day,and went in search of dinner before the Volksoper that evening.
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