December 6th was the Krampus celebration in Vienna. Krampus is the evil companion to St. Nick and while St. Nick give good children presents, Krampus goes around beating them with sticks! We went over to the Christmas market at the University to see the Krampus and enjoy some hot wine.
Before really cracking down to study in the final weeks I decided to go to the Hofburg and see the royal silver rooms, the Cici museum and the Royal Apartments. Lots of gold and silver and luxary. I also go to see the "official" state dinner napkin fold, done with 1 napkin and folded to hold 2 roles. How to fold the napkin is a state secret that only 2 people know!
For our last professional seminar we were supposed to visit OPEC. But unfortunately they are moving buildings, so we couldn't visit. Instead our professor took us to the Belvedere to see some works from Gustav Klimt (who did the famous painting "The Kiss") and several other Viannese painters. Later in the week I went to the largest of the Kristkrindle markets, over at the parliament. There were a ton of people around, so it was hard to do any shopping, but it was nice to see it and the lights around the market and then over near Stephensplatz.
As a nice break from classes I went to the ballet on the 16th to see Carmen. It was pretty good, although since I don't know the story very well I wasn't 100% certain what was going on. But it was a good time.
Once classes were done it was time for some last minute sightseeing. On Friday 18th I went to the Spanish Riding school to see the famous Lippizaner Stallions. Since tickets to actual performances are horribly expensive I went for the much cheaper option, watching the morning warm-up and then going on a tour. The facility is gorgeous and the horses even more so and this was a great way to spend the day, even if it was bitter cold. Technically photography isn't allowed inside, but I didn't "know" that until they told me. ;-) So enjoy the pictures and even a little video clip of the warm up.
The tour was fantastic, although we walked into the stables and weren't allowed to touch the horses. I had to exercise incredible restraint! During the tour I learned that there are 3 levels of "riders". The Eleve's, who are at the bottom. These are students, most of whom have very little experience on a horse, which is actually preferred by the school. The eleve works with an already trained horse and usually stays an eleve for 6-7 years. Since the horse knows more than the eleve does they refer to their horse as "professor." These students have to prove they know how to ride and balance before they become Apprentice Riders, at which point they get an untrained horse and have to train the horse in the "High School" of riding. This takes 7-8 years and if they successfully train a horse then they can become a Master Rider. There are only 4 Master Riders and these riders may be working with as many as 6 horses. So definitely a full time job. The actual "founding" of the school is hard to pin down, but there has been some form of training on that spot since the 1500's, with the modern school really coming into its own under Maria Theresa. Also, the school only opened up to women last year and they currently have one female eleve.
Friday evening I went to the Opera to see Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde" and while I'm usually a fan of opera I have to say I was not impressed. The music and singing were great, but the staging and set were bad and didn't mesh with the story and also the story just drags. But hey, now I know.
The plan for Saturday 19th (My b-day) was to get up and go in to the city to one of the major coffee houses (like Cafe Demel or Hotel Sacher) and get a cup of coffee and a Sacher torte, but when I woke up and looked outside to see all the snow I scrapped that plan and stayed inside, watched a few movies and packed my suitcases. Enjoy the couple of pics of everything I needed to cram into 2 suitcases and a duffel. Still not sure how I got it all in!
On Sunday I moved to a hotel at the airport and then in the evening went back into the city to see the Nutcracker, which was beautiful (although I have to admit I have seen better).
Monday it was up early and over to the airport for a 7:30 am flight to London and then home. The flights were pretty good, just a few tense spots with some heavy turbulence. Also, I don't know what airplane gods I pleased, but somehow I ended up with the entire row of seats to myself on both flights, so I was able to stretch out with my feet up across the seats and relax.
Thats it for now. I'm enjoying 2 glorious weeks home before off to Geneva.
So even though I'm already home and have seen or will see many of you in the coming days, I wanted to do a quick post with some pictures from the last days in Vienna. The last 2 weeks of school were certainly stressful, but I pulled it off, and even managed to write a pretty good Research Methods paper and get all A's, so I'm certainly happy about that!!!