Mr P loves horses. He is with horses the way I am with cats — luckily, he has enough common sense to know that, at present, owning even one would be untenable. We had hoped to go to the famous riding school while we were here but knew in advance that they close for six weeks in the summer and the stallions are moved to a summer camp where they rest from their daily rigors and get some “R & R.” They also get to service suitable mares to provide the next generation of stars.
So instead of watching the horses being put through their paces I decided to offer Mr P his horse fix in the form of a horse and carriage ride around Vienna. I have to say that in the balmy sunshine the whole experience was most delightful.
We chose our carriage with care. Most of them are veteran, if not antique, and offer seats of varying comfort. As most of the inner city is cobbled, and we are both prone to the odd back ache now and then, we looked for a carriage that had well padded seats. Mr P was also keen on choosing one that was drawn by healthy looking horses who were well-groomed. we also wanted someone who looked as though they had made an effort — no jeans and T-shirt for us!
There are standard fares/charges in operation — these were 40 euros for 20 minutes, 80 euros for 45 minutes and 120 euros for 90 minutes. You also have the option to hire for the day or half day. Note this charge is for the carriage itself — not per person. Most carriages will sit four people — sometimes a 5th can sit up front with the driver. Some only sit two.
Let me introduce you to Wolfgang Fasching or Georg Fasching — otherwise known as the “Fiaker Baron” — our driver for the next 45 minutes.
Oh did we get lucky — just how lucky we were not aware of until we got home. We probably got the most infamous/famous Fiaker in Vienna. You can read an interview with him on page 34 of this online magazine and there are videos of him on YouTube in German.
He spoke excellent English and after helping us both up into his carriage asked us what we would like to see. We explained this was our first visit and the rough route we took when we walked around. We then asked to see a little more of the history and the magic of Vienna.
Here is a photographic record of our ride around the historic center of Vienna.
First landmark is the oldest Irish Pub in town.
The Clock Museum — this is on the list for the next visit — as is the Hat Museum where you also get to wear fancy hats on the guided tour.
The fire house — the first of the historic quarters of the Fire Service in Vienna were built in 1731 and have been functioning as a working fired department ever since. The complex now comprises of three buildings all covered by “protected status.” This is still the main fire station for Vienna and the building has been adapted for modern use. One of the buildings serves as a museum which is open to the public.
Stunning building — shame about the name — however Wiener Koch is also a kind of Charlotte Russe or trifle composed of ready-baked cake or biscuits combined with a variety of other sweet ingredients for flavoring and arranged in a soufflé dish and this restaurant has specialized in baking these for centuries.
Schubert’s Restaurant — so-called because he once lodged here.
City Walls — mainly interesting because of the remaining original roof structure on the building behind.
No.13 Am Hof is the fairly stolid 17th-century Palais Collalto, famous as the setting for Mozart’s first public engagement at the ripe age of six.
Beautiful Ironwork — Hofburg Palace.
Approaching the domed archway into the Hofburg Palace.
Looking up at the domed archway Hofburg Palace.
There were many more nooks and crannies and back streets explored — all telling the tale of what shaped Vienna. The coffee houses, the churches, palaces and statues. Many famous buildings are now embassies, houses for the head of government, Mayor and ministers. Understandably, there were “no photograph” signs around these buildings.
After a most enjoyable fifty minutes — we got an extra five minutes thrown in we returned to our starting point by St Stephen’s Cathedral.
The Baron then shared his photography skills by taking a photograph of us in his famous carriage.
After we had disembarked and he had watered his horses we — well Mr P — then spent about ten minutes chatting to him about the horses, their breed, their characteristics, how far he had to travel with them to work each day and all things horsey.
I can recommend taking time out and taking a look around Vienna this way — try and get the Baron — he is definitely worth waiting for.