Christmas in Vienna

Day 1

We are docked just on the outskirts of Vienna’s city centre. Our late start to the morning allowed us for a lie in and a bit of a break from our previous early morning start times. Today we are all going to the Spanish Riding School to watch the world famous Lipizzan Stallions.

Anyone can watch the morning exercises at the school, but you can also purchase tickets to watch their actual performances. I think had we had tickets to the actual show, this would have been a fantastic excursion. However, today, we are just here to watch them warm up.

The Spanish Riding School is the oldest riding academy in the world. It was founded in Vienna in 1572 and is still being used to this day. During World War II, the Lipizzaners were close to extinction. With the Nazis drawing close, a plan was put together by the then director of the Riding School, to get these stallions to safety. They fled Vienna with the help of many men. The mares were already taken by Hitler in hopes of breeding a superior equine race. With the help of the U.S. Army, the stallions and their mares were saved from the havocs of war. My great uncle, whom I’ve never met, was one of the men that helped save these stallions from their doom during the War. Papa, who served in the military during WWII, told us of the harrowing rescue.

Once inside the School, we were not allowed to take photos of the stallions during their warm up. The flash will startle the stallions and will interrupt the rider’s concentration. We had seating right on the floor of the training centre. There are two observatory decks above us, all filled with people wanting to catch a glimpse of these famous horses.

It’s easy to be entranced while watching the riders train their horses. Each rider is practicing a different step with their stallions. An eruption of applause breaks through when the horse completes a difficult step and the rider clearly happy with the progress. It was fun to watch the horses, but more than that, watching the incredible bond the rider has with his horse. They train so long before they can even touch a horse. It’s no wonder they are so intent on their tasks during warm up. A live show must be thrilling to see!

After the Riding School, we had the option to go to Schönbrunn Orangerie for a concert, or we could explore Vienna on our own. We decided to explore Vienna. We knew we didn’t have much time here, and things would be closing for Christmas. At first we ended up in what would be a main shopping district. But we soon made our way for the Christmas markets. We were told it was not too far from the Riding School.

It was a brisk walk, but it didn’t take us long to find the market. You could smell the foods and the mulled wine from a few blocks away! As we arrived, there was a skating track that meandered through a park. It looked quite fun and had I been able to skate (without breaking a bone), I would have tried it myself! Instead, we wandered through the market. The goods were pretty much the same from every market we had seen up until this point. It was a bit disappointing that there wasn’t more hand made goods. You could tell a lot of it was massed produced. We had seen the same vendors in previous markets. I guess I had this idea of Christmas Markets in Europe being whimsical and unique. And yet, here I stand in another generic looking Christmas Market. We were all a bit disappointed in them so far.

We grabbed a taxi and made our way back to the AmaViola. It was getting late and we wanted to freshen up before dinner. There was a big celebration planned for after dinner in the main parlour.

Dinner did not disappoint, as per usual. I could have had seconds and thirds of everything we ate! But it was time to head upstairs for a little Christmas surprise. Our ABD guides and the crew had put on a little show for us. They all gathered round and were singing Christmas tunes. They even had a Santa and two angels handing out presents. I got a set of wooden ornaments for my tree 🙂

Day 2

This morning Mum and I opted out of the excursion. You could attend a Christmas Mass at Hofburgkapelle with the Vienna Boys Choir. We really didn’t feel like waking up hella early to attend, so we had a good lie in and grabbed a late breakfast in the parlour. We thought we might have been the only ones who didn’t attend, but the parlour soon filled with lots of guests not wanting to wake up early either! We all caught a bus to meet the rest of the group for lunch at Griechenbeisl Restaurant.

After lunch, we were taken straight to Schönbrunn Palace. We would be spending the afternoon here learning how to make strudel and watching a marionette show.

First up was the strudel making show. If I could have eaten strudel every day on this trip, I would have! I absolutely love it! Everyone makes it differently too. I think the one I had in Munich is still my favourite! The show was entertaining. We had our own strudel and coffees. Once we finished there, we had to race to the entrance of the marionette show because everything was tightly scheduled. We were hurried in and hurried out. The show was ok. I found it a bit boring. But I can appreciate the hard work that goes into creating a show like this! I can’t imagine having to work all the handles and strings in a way to create movement. It’s an art form indeed!

After the show we were racing to the Palace entrance to meet our guide. We were not allowed to wander the Palace on our own, which is fine. The tour was excellent. The Palace is stunning, but of course, no photos were allowed to be taken inside *sigh*. The tour was just over an hour long. By the time we left the Palace it was dark outside. It made for some very pretty photos of Schönbrunn though. We all gathered back onto the buses and we made our way back to the ship for dinner.

Tonight we sail to Budapest; our last stop on our Adventures by Disney Christmas Cruise! But it won’t be our last day on our own adventure!

Stay tuned for even more Christmas Markets and saying goodbye to our new friends onboard the AmaViola.

Until next time…

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