Vienna Austria

The Hofburg Palace, home to the Hapsburg royal dynasty for 600 years. They were also the embodiment of the Holy Roman Empire that persisted more or less from the late 900s to the early 1800s. The Holy Roman Empire brought together a collection of kingdoms, duchies, free cities, etc as they pledged a common allegiance to a monarch who was formally anointed a Holy Roman Emperor by the Pope. If you thought current European politics is complicated . . . . We have learned so much history.

With such a strong connection to the pope, St Stephen’s Cathedral is the dominant feature of the Vienna skyline. Its gothic edifice was built on the site of the prior and demolished churches. The original being created in 1147.

Vienna was the capital of the great empire, and as such, the imperial court created an excellent environment for musicians and artists. Many great composers were attracted to the city — they came, stayed and wrote immortal music. The venues for the music are just as spectacular, the opera house was the first major building and was designed to set a tone of splendor. The Royal suite and box remain, the remainder was renovated to hold 2,200 people and showcases 70 operatic or ballet productions a year, never repeating a performance two nights in a row.

The angelic-voiced musicians of the Vienna Boys Choir is among the oldest of all musical organizations, having been founded pursuant to an Imperial decree of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I on July 7, 1498. This established a tradition of having the boys sing in weekly Sunday masses in the Imperial Chapel of the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, a tradition that continues today.

The Spanish Riding School is dedicated to the preservation of classical dressage and Lipizzaner horses. It is one of the most prestigious riding academies in the world. The riding arena was established in 1565. They admitted women in 2008, the first women in 436 years.

And finally, the Danube, flowing gracefully past all this history. Ever calming, and a great spot to keep our legs in shape so we can enjoy the rest of the time here in Eastern Europe. And have cake and coffee at one of the Viennese coffee shops.