EUROPE 2011: Lipizzaner Stallions in Vienna, Austria

Vienna Painted Steps at Albertina MuseumAlbertina MuseumWhen I left off last week, we were headed to the Albertina Museum to photograph the exterior, in particular, the Soravia Wing. I snapped off one more shot and followed Dave as he skirted the front of the museum and descended the steps, walking toward the Spanish Riding School. I stayed behind to photograph the painted steps, which you can see in the banner photo for this post.

Vienna Lippizaner stallionsI wished we had had the foresight to reserve tickets to see the Lipizzaner stallions perform at the Winter Riding School in the Hofburg, but we did not, so we had to settle for a stroll around the area and hope we might spot one. I was crossing a narrow section of street when I heard rapid footsteps behind me and someone calling out, “Excuse. Excuse.” I turned to see a man motioning for traffic to move on and for arriving vehicles to stop. I was confused as to what he was making way for. Then I saw them, and my heart skipped a beat. A training session had just ended, and the Lipizzaner horses, guided by their trainers, were being led back to their stables. I love horses but have never had the desire to own one—until I saw . . . him. At one point, he was so close that I felt his breath on the back of my neck. I had goose bumps all over. It was definitely one of the high points of the trip and a topic of many conversations. Not much could top this experience, but we moved on once the stallions disappeared and foot and vehicle traffic returned to normal.

We took our time walking through Michaelerplatz, the main attraction being St. Michael’s Church. The church has a beautiful and impressive gilded pipe organ dating back to 1714 that is the largest baroque organ in Vienna. St. Michael’s is famous for its large crypt located underneath the church. Only noblemen and rich citizens were buried there. Due to the special climatic conditions and constant temperature, more than 4,000 corpses were kept well preserved. Hundreds of mummified corpses, some still in burial finery or wearing wigs, are on display—some in open coffins adorned with flowers or skulls, and others decorated with baroque paintings or vanitas symbols. The most famous among them is Pietro Metastasio (1698–1782), the writer of opera librettos of the baroque era.

Stefensplatz Vienna, showing both the old and new architectureOur next destination was Stephansplatz. The square has an interesting mix of old and new architectural styles, and I wanted to photograph them as well as St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the heart and soul of the square. As the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna, St. Stephens is one of Vienna’s most important and symbolic buildings. The roof of this fourteenth-century Romanesque and Gothic cathedral is its glory, an ornately patterned multicolored roof covered with over 230,000 glazed tiles. The roof is so steep that rain alone keeps it clean and snow seldom covers it.

Vienna Stadtpark Johann Strauss statueFor us, no trip to Vienna would be complete without a leisurely walk through Stadtpark, the city park. It stretches along both banks of the Wein and was opened in 1862. As classical music lovers, we couldn’t resist spending some time with Mozart, even if we were only gazing upon his statue, and of course we also stopped to photograph other famous Austrian composers such as Johann Strauss II, and not far from Stadtpark, Beethoven.

Vienna Sacher TorteAs evening drew near, with only a light breakfast and snack of coffee and Sacher torte to eat all day, we thought of dinner. We had worked up an appetite by the time we reached Figlmüller and were seated. The restaurant serves a delicious wiener schnitzel that is thirty inches in diameter, golden brown, and downright delicious.


The next morning, I returned to the Spanish Riding School with hopes of catching another glimpse of a Lipizzaner stallion, but to no avail. After a twenty-minute wait, Dave talked me into breakfast at Café Central. Then, we crossed the street to our hotel to pack and leave for the airport, sorry to say goodbye to Vienna but glad to be headed home.


As of last week’s blog post, 4/23/15, I have been blogging weekly for a year. As any blogger will tell you, writing blogs is time-consuming, so I am taking a hiatus to concentrate on completing Genocide, book three of the Darcy McClain series, and to dedicate time to promoting the series as a whole. Read more about Genocide below.

When I return, I will blog on the writing experience from my perspective, then transition into more travel posts as I tour France, Monaco, Spain, and Portugal—all settings in a future Darcy McClain and Bullet thriller. After Europe, I’ll travel to Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania. Stay tuned.

GENOCIDE

Sean Ireland, the first gay presidential candidate in US history, is guaranteed the election—until he’s found dead at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.

Stunned by her friend’s murder, private investigator Darcy McClain is determined to hunt down Sean’s killer. In shock, she returns home to find someone has broken into her home, assaulted her sister, and stolen Bullet, her giant schnauzer.

While frantically searching for Bullet, Darcy’s worst fears are realized. She finds a tranquilizer dart, shot from a crossbow, lying in her backyard. Only one person she knows uses such a weapon—Solis, a rogue CIA agent who years earlier tried to kill Darcy.

After Sean’s death, more grisly murders follow, leading the police to suspect a serial killer. Darcy isn’t convinced. But before she can pursue her hunch, she is framed for Sean’s death. On the run from the law, she’s forced to go underground to solve the murders and to get Bullet back.

In the course of her investigation, she’s astounded to discover evidence of a high-level government conspiracy to exterminate gays and lesbians. Thousands are already dying horrible deaths. Is Solis part of the conspiracy? Is he the killer? Taunted by Solis, who threatens to euthanize her dog, Darcy vows to track down her adversary, save Bullet, and discover the truth.

Next week: “Subscribe Now for New Blog Posts.”

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