May 14, 2012
Viennese Cowboy in the Middle East
The two brown horses gallop lightly on the famous Viennese Ringstrasse. They remain calm, even when cars drive by from left and right. “This part is called Karl-Lueger-Ring, after the former Mayor, who happened to be a big Anti-Semite. Last week I heard that the city is going to rename it – and justified”, the carter explains, surprisingly in Hebrew! Well, not an academic Hebrew, “but good enough for the kitchen”, he admits.
His name is Rupert Adensamer. He’s 34, studied the history of the Middle East, originally Viennese. Most of his life, he has spent among his horses. For the last three years he was occupied with conveying the story of the Austrian Capital through the most authentic method: on the carriage. But one thing separates him from his other jealous comrades: Rupert has a connection to Israel; such as only the ones who rode across it on a horse’s back could understand.
Rupert Adensamer first came to Israel at the age of 22, for the purpose of a national service, instead of going to the Austrian military.“ I worked for the remedial community ‘Kfar Rafael’ in Beer Sheva. There I lived exactly like in a Kibbutz”, he remembers, “as the time went by, I learned the language from the residents.” The mission ended after 6 months, but Adensamer continued coming every few months during his vacation from the university. “It was the time of the second Intifada, and rockets started falling in southern Israel. Since there was a difficulty with recruiting more volunteers from Europe, they kept on calling me. I was always very happy to come.”
Eventually, it was a relationship with an Israeli ‘Kibbutz-Girl’ that led to a new passion: Horse Breeding in Israel. “My girlfriend’s dad sympathized Shagya Arabian horses, exactly the same type that my family has been breeding for the last 40 years. So I offered that we open up a stable in the Kibbutz. We started out with 3 horses that my family gave us. Today I have 11 horses together with other Israeli partners.”
Sounds like a successful business.
“From the beginning I said that it won’t turn into a business. It’s about vision, family, about love to the horses that brings people together despite their differences. And in the middle-eastern reality – this is a very important asset. Although, we do specialize the horses to compete in ‘Endurance’ competitions for distances of 120km and more. These contests are very popular in the Arabian countries, like in Jordan where even Israeli groups take part in.”
Is there a difference between owning horses in Israel and in Europe?
“The big difference is that in Europe, you could actually make a living out of it. In Israel there is a very young tradition in this field. Israelis tend to focus too much on the final goal, not on enjoying the road to it, and in the meanwhile they complain that the horses are not fast enough. Also historically, Jews had never the image of horsemen. Besides that, I’m always worried about thefts. Last week, somebody tried to steal my horses in Israel. You need to understand, that each time a horse gets stolen, there goes also his genetics. This genetics is crucial for the race’s breeding. That is why I keep my horses in different stables. The positive side is that in the northern Israel you have the ideal conditions for the horses. I think that I would be happy to be a carter along the beach of Tel Aviv.”
At a certain point, the carriage turns away from the Ringstrasse and enters the old city of Vienna. “This was the Emperor’s residence during the winter”, Adensamer says while maneuvering between hundreds of curious tourists, and then he asks: “do you see this balcony? It was installed by order of the Baron Wilsczeck so it will turn directly to Sissi’s room window.”
How do you adjust the content of your tours to the different tourists?
“Sometimes the people I take with me are not interested in history. In case they do, I try to put up a comedy show while adjusting the content to the nationality: the Argentineans are interested in Sigmond Freud’s old house, the Japanese want to know everything about Mozart. The Arabs are more interested in Shopping. The Israelis are the noisiest, but they also have the best mood. They always think that I try to fool them, but once I start to talk in Hebrew, they already feel like at home and I become a part of the family.”
So you’re addicted to the Middle East.
“Look, everything that happened in my life regarding this region was a coincident. I wanted to study history, and if you keep your eyes open, there’s no way that you miss this tensed topic. I think that Israel is, without its fault, too much in the focus of the international media. Like there aren’t any other disasters in the world. I also noticed that we in Europe are much more stressed about the possible war with Iran than Israel. Because you have bunkers.”
Do you see how the world politics also affect the world of horse breeding?
“Through horse breeding you can save entire races that almost disappeared due to the world wars. The Lipizzaner, which are so beloved by the Austrians, were almost extinct after WW1. The devotion of one man saved them. Or for instance: in the 18th century, the horses back then were considered to be too heavy for their role in the postal service and in the military. So Arabian horses were brought from the Middle East to Europe. The horses became then lighter and more human friendly. A real “Arabization”. It came to the situation in which the Bedouins have sold their entire species. Only in 1994 they managed to save their horses from extinction. Thanks to the water distribution agreement during the peace treaty with Israel.“
And there is probably a lot of politics in the world of carters.
“Everybody here are equal. If there is someone who has a wrong attitude, the things will be addressed directly. Women have it much easier in this job. Carters have also a bad image in the Austrian society: either we are gamblers and alcoholic, or we are technology deniers. Which is sometimes true. Each and any one of us has also a nickname. Mine is ‘Herr Magister’, after my academic degree. When they want to hurt me, they call me ‘Judenschwein’ (Pig-Jew). It started when I tried to help an Israeli lady during an argument she had with one of my colleagues. After I spoke to her in Hebrew, the other carter became angry since he thought that I tried to arrange something behind his back. Some of the carters here do not understand that the fact that I speak Hebrew and lived in Israel, does not make me Jewish. But they don’t care. It made me understand how deep the Anti-Semitism is rooted in some Viennese. And they never even met a Jew in their live. Even as my friends in Israel told me how common the Anti-Semitism in Austria is, I couldn’t believe it. Until I experienced it by myself. For this kind of people I’ll be a Jew on purpose.”
Why did you choose this job, even though you’re academic?
“First, I earn here much more than in the academy. Second, after many years of travelling, I had to stabilize my life. I reached the conclusion that I prefer to be with my family and my horses, especially when they eat and I can relax with them. And indeed, I managed to build my own urban Kibbutz in the middle of Vienna: I don’t need my phone because everybody know where I am, I don’t have traffic problems, I don’t need a parking lot. I have the perfect balance between city and nature. But still, this job takes over your life. When everybody are on vacation, I need to work. When they are at work, I need to take care of the horses. Either you are a carter for life, or none.”