Returning Luck in Vienna

Horseshoes and Happenstance
Vienna, Austria
Spanische Hofreitschule

Story and Media: Ben Rubin

On a rainy Friday afternoon, my trusty river bike and I arrived in Vienna - the sole survivors after an epic battle with the weather through the Czech Republic.
After parading the hobo caravan through the imperial streets in a show of victory, I retreated to a coffee shop to await Holinda, my Couchsurfing host for Vienna.  In a drizzle, she arrived and offered a quick bike tour of the city on a scenic route back to her flat.

Even in the rain, the proud streets of Vienna are impressive.  We weaved through the heart of the city dodging taxis and Fiakers; historic horse-drawn carriages that the city is renowned for.  Holinda described the history behind the Lipizzan horses - a breed of baroque horse with massive bodies and tiny feet - that have been a central fixture in Vienna for the past 450 years.  As we passed the Spanish Riding School, the oldest equestrian school of it's kind in the world, Holinda paused the tour.  In the middle of the wet empty street was a horse shoe staring up at us.

Holina has a long history with horseshoes.  She grew up riding horses in Hungary while visiting family there, and has a collection of horseshoes going back to her childhood - but this was the first one she ever found.  With cars coming up behind us, we continued the tour with horseshoe in hand.  As Holinda took me to some of her favorite buildings, I kept my eyes peeled for horses hoping to catch a photo.  Approaching the Bristol hotel, we were suddenly confronted by a fleet of horse-drawn carriages standing in the middle of the bike lane.  Swerving around them I quickly searched the hooves, imagining a cinderella story with a missing shoe to match Holida's find.  Lo and behold, as Holinda rode on ahead the horse looking down at me from the last Fiaker in the line was missing her front right shoe.

To make sure, I pulled my hobo caravan into the grass and took a closer look.  Holinda turned around as well, and began chatting with the driver.  By his accent she recognized that he came from Hungary, so they continued their conversation in Hungarian.  He had been riding in front of the Spanish Riding School earlier, but hadn't realized the shoe had fallen off.

His horse was named Lepke, the Hungarian word for butterfly.
"Looks like butterfly is missing a wing!"  She laughed and passed him the shoe.
"Am I giving my luck away?"
"No, the luck stays with you".