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Postcard from Vienna

August 31st, 2015

As a tourist in Europe there is one thing you soon discover: you should have been here yesterday, mate! Either the gothic cathedral is covered in scaffolding, the museum is closed on Monday, or the best pictures in the gallery are away on loan to the National Gallery in Melbourne!

And the Spanish Riding School in Vienna is no different. The famous Lipizzaner stallions go away on vacation during July and August. This upsets the tourists enormously so they bring in some trainee stallions who are learning the art of aerial ballet.

Fortunately we were standing at the stable door when they were brought in! They are a very muscular, stocky breed with a big barrel which would put me off a bet, and they are more grey than white.

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But like the Il Palio in Siena, at least I can say that I have seen them!

Auf wiedersehen!





Postcard from Siena

August 24th, 2015


La bella moglie and I are in Italia for il matrimonia of our old neighbors. They Googled romantic villas in Toscana and chose a  village not far from Siena. So we booked our lodgings not realising it was the same weekend as the famous Il Palio, the bareback horse race around the huge square – il campo. No wonder the room was 1000 Euro a night! We hastily found lodgings elsewhere for 100 Euro. When we arrived in Siena on Monday, the day after the race, the place was still teeming with people. The race had been postponed because of rain!

We ended up watching it on TV. There were a couple of false starts and it was pretty clear that an inside draw at the dropped rope start was a huge advantage. The winner, a beautiful chestnut, looked outstanding in the pre-parade, and led from pillar to post. Three of the ten horses had nose rolls but didn’t run on.  One horse lost its rider. It was all over in about 60 seconds. 20000 people went crazy.

Il Palio

Il Palio

At least I can say that I have watched it.