How to Catch a Stray Horse – Running in Vienna’s Prater
I know a place where the path is wide, the air is sweet and time stands still.
So I guess you might call me a runner. Or maybe a slow jogger. OK. Let’s face it. I run at a speed walker’s tempo. So call me what you will.
But hey! Immerhin.
And what can beat an hour along an Allee lined with majestic chestnut trees? The sun’s golden fingers stretching through the boughs creating a Spiel of light and dark along the path. The ravens with their exalted demeanor perch on the sign posts along the way. Do you see the snails, laboradors, fiakers, bicyclists, unicyclists, rollerbladers, Nordic walkers and enjoying-the-dayers? Or have you dipped for a few precious moments into the world within? Should I have? Will I? And what happens when?
But you never know what can happen along a run. Maybe someone asks directions. Or you see an injured baby porcupine and help a passer by in a rescue effort. Or maybe something happens like it happened to me this past April.
A horse. So many horses. But wait! This one was different! Galloping. So freely. Too freely! I turned abruptly. Further down, around Lusthaus were cars and sometimes construction vehicles. What if…
I raced in her direction, calling to her sweetly, in a sing song voice. She slowed, stopped and dipped her head. The blades of grass here must be particularly sweet.
Carefully, caaarefully, I approached. “Hey there, you. Where you off too? You a hungry, girl? Look at you. So gorgeous” She nibbled, two eyes minding the grass, two ears minding me. “Lose your rider, girl? Hmm?” I held out my hand and waited. Then I gently rubbed her muzzle.
“Wow! She’s yours now!” From the corner of my eye I caught a pair of black running shorts and a red t-shirt. Fit and smiling, he wiped his sweat strewn brow and called over to me from the path, about 10 meters away.
“She’d never fit in my apartment,” I responded.
“You got her though. She was fast. You a rider?”
“No but I’ve ridden.” And who doesn’t love these gigantic gentle creatures?
“Well, looks like you know what you’re doing. Need help?” He asked, still not venturing a step closer.
“I’m good,” I responded, wrapping her reins around my hand.
Promptly he placed his headphones back on. “Good luck,” he called, looking relieved as he waved good-bye.
Did he mean me, or the horse?
As I child, I had always wished for a horse. Now I couldn’t help but recognize the irony of this wish coming true. Now. Like this. A Monkey’s Paw kind of gift. But the horse remained unfazed by the recent turn of events. There was grass to be eaten.
What does one do with an Irish Cob — a horse the size and stature of an Anheuser Busch Clydesdale? Wait for the beer wagon?
I remembered the race track Freudenau behind the Lusthaus. Whatever the case, they’d have stables and what difference would one horse more or less make? I clicked my tongue and coaxed her towards Lusthaus.
“See any riders without a horse?” I asked two joggers.
They paused, eyed me and turned to my equine companion for a rational explanation.
“I found a horse without a rider,” I continued, perturbed by the slightly really-I’m-not-crazy tone they provoked.
Seek and ye shall find.
“Hey!” A distinguished looking gentleman far beyond his retirement years straight off the cover of Fox Hunting and Country Estates emerged from the woods. He was decked out in a riding cap, jacket, pants, gloves, black rubber boots and a dressage whip which seemed a bit over the top. He approached us in a hop-skip –flapping-waving arms routine as speedily as his hop-skip-flapping-waving moves allowed.
And those joggers thought I looked crazy.
We waited. Everything about him screamed rider except for one significantly lacking item – a horse. My newfound friend seemed unimpressed by this gentleman. In fact, her demeanor conveyed an unmistakably indifferent air of “Oh. There-he-is-again.”
“Such a naughty girl. Second time this week she’s gotten away from me.”
That’s right. Not once, but apparently twice, Darby girl high tailed it through the park. I patted her muzzle once more. God, I admired her tenacity.
Toss the load and take off running because I know a place where the path is wide, the air is sweet and time stands still.
Prateralle distance from Lusthaus to underpass to Praterstern subway station: One way: 4 km // Round trip: 8 km. The path can be extended an additional four km by completing the circuit from Lusthaus, past the chapel Maria Grün back to the race track Freudenau and returning to Lusthaus.
Lusthaus – Maria Grün – Rennbahn http://www.praterblueten-lauf.at/node/3
There are also numerous forest paths that lead every which way. Those more ambitious can run from Prater to the Danube or to the Danube Island (Donauinsel).
Distance markers, light paths at night
“Vienna’s green lungs” offers well-maintained running trails, paved, or with mulch or wooded.
Getting there: Parking is available for cars. Lots of people bike to Prater. If you want to take public, you can get there by subway (U1 or U2) to Praterstern or you can take the U2 to Donau Marina subway station and hop the 77A bus to the Lusthaus. Another alternative is to hop on the N tram from Schwedenplatz.