Following the spectacular exchange of secret agents from the USA and Russia at the end of the week at Vienna's International Airport, the city was again centre of attention last Saturday 10th July in an altogether different set of circumstances but no less exciting.
In sizzling heat, the breathtakingly beautiful rooms of the Imperial Palace which usually house the oldest cultural breed of horses in Europe, the Lippizaner, opened their doors to a superb summer ball aptly named Fete Imperiale. In fact the manager of the world famous Spanish Riding School as well as of the equally famous hotel Sacher and former organiser of the Viennese Opera Ball, Elisabeth Gurtler, created this new festivity attracting guests from the highest echelons of society, from culture, politics and industry to subsidise with the net proceeds the maintenance of these truly wonderful horses, one of the traditional cultural symbols Wien has to offer tourists and natives alike.
Among the prominent guests one stood out from the crowd: Georg Habsburg-Lothringen, second son to the Archduke of Austria, Otto, and second in line to the Imperial throne were Austria still an Empire, together with his charming wife Eilika, walked through the rooms which had fate decided otherwise he would have called his home.
The ball which spread from the rooms of the Hofburg to adjacent streets and squares in the inner city that had been closed off for this purpose was enchanting not least because of the delightful performances by the eleves and corps de ballet of the State Opera and on top of it all the presence of a Lippizaner horse in the ballroom and the singing of the celebrated opera singer Michael Schade just before midnight.
Though the signs of the heat were written into the sweating faces of many guests, the joy of those attending was palpable. This could be the first in a long tradition, so keep your calendar open this time next year.
by Reya von Galen
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