Christmas in Vienna, 2009
Hello faithful Fluvial fans-
I’m writing to you from Vienna, Austria. Why didn’t anyone tell me that Vienna was so gorgeous? For whatever reason, Vienna completely escaped my radar and Paris maintained the title of ‘The Most Romantic City in Europe’. I’ve only been here for a few days and the city has completely captured me. We walked around the center of town today and I was blown away by the white buildings with their ornate cherub detailing, tin ceilings, perfect symmetry, all of it. How could you not be in love when you’re here?
M, for his part, has never explored the city. Having grown up here, he says that he never really appreciated it and now since a continent and the Atlantic separate him from his family, he spends his trips here mostly with them instead of being a tourist. The fact that I’m here this year gives him a chance to see all the things that he should have seen years ago.
But before we even get there, there are a few back up stories to tell first:
1. I became a medical tourist on my first day here. As is custom on trips that require an 8+ hour plane ride, I ended up in the doctor’s office but this time it was by choice. Me, the girl with no cavities, ended up having THREE. The bill that was presented to me for filling them and doing some other work totaled more than $2000. Insane and it was times like these that I’m grateful to have a boyfriend with two dentists for parents. We sent my xrays to his dad and he assured us that the work was not urgent and that he could do the work for me while I was here. Having never had a cavity filled, I was completely freaking out. There was even more added pressure because the work would be done by my boyfriend’s DAD whom I’d only met once before when his parents came to Seattle last summer. Oi.
I figured I’d let my jet lag act as natural Xanax so we headed in. All went mostly well, except for the nerve he hit on the last tooth (with no anesthesia). It was a bizarre kind of pain but in the end, I got all my teeth fixed, a night guard fitted, and sealants put on my teeth. All my M’s dad. Bonding. 🙂
2. Here, Christmas is a little different. Instead of the whole family going out to search for the perfect tree, the children are told that the Christmas Angel brings the decorated tree and all the presents. In reality, it means that one parent goes out the day before Christmas Eve and finds/decorates the tree, while the other parent takes the kids to watch a movie or something, giving Parent #1 time to find/decorate the tree and put out the presents before the kids come home. I think this is a silly way to do Christmas and M and I have decided to stick with American tradition regarding christmas trees. 🙂 So, M, his dad, and I went out to look for a tree. And the selection was AWFUL. Seriously bad. So M came up with a joke plan: Why not take the bottom from one tree and the top from another, but them down to size and bond them together? His dad thought it was brilliant so that’s what we did! Pics below:
Around 2pm on the day before Christmas, M’s dad announced that there would be a talent show and that everyone had to participate. That left us about 24 hours to find and prepare a talent for the rest of the family. M did a magic trick, his brother taught the dog to play board games, his mom got a free pass because she’d been cooking all day, his dad wrote a song about the dog (the dog is Supreme Beloved in this house), and (at the suggestion of M) I sang a traditional Christmas song in Hungarian. M’s family fled from Transylvania to escape the Communists and for a variety of reasons, Hungarian culture, language, food, etc. is revered in this house. I’ve been learning Hungarian for about 6 months now and as a show of gratitude, I decided to sing the traditional Hungarian Christmas song. Not to toot my own horn, but I totally killed it. His mom gave me the biggest bear hug and had to wipe away tears and his dad got out a recording device and asked me to sing it again so he could send it to his family still in Hungary. His family is so warm and welcoming that it felt nice to do something that they’d appreciate.
So Christmas came and went, we opened presents and played with the dog and retreated for some good sleep.
This morning, we had another epic breakfast (I’ll post a pic soon) and headed out to the city for some site seeing. Oh. My. Goodness. Again, why did Vienna escape my radar for so long? The city is completely gorgeous. We went to St. Stephen’s Dome which is right in the middle of the city, explored the church and then took a tour of the catacombs beneath the church and the city. During the plague, they would stack the bodies on top of each other all the way to the ceiling. Apparently, the stench from rotting flesh was so strong, that services could no longer be held in the church above, so the practice was abolished. Gross. On a brighter note: here is a picture. I’m the girl with the faux-furry hood. It was very very cold:
Interestingly enough, this was one of the few gothic style buildings I saw today. Downtown Vienna (at least from what I’ve seen) is comprised of wide avenues with beautiful white buildings decorated with pine boughs and white twinkly lights. The wide avenues are connected by narrow cobblestone alley ways with handsome little shops that look like something out of Harry Potter.
After the church, we went for a quick lunch. Who knew that Austria was so Vegetarian friendly?! Again, I was totally ignorant before I came here. We found a little pub and had ‘bar food’ which was amazing. I wish I could pronounce and type the names of the food we had but it was all in German and I’m only learning Hungarian:
Once we left the restaurant, we were in for a treat: Vienna at night. The whole downtown core is lit up with beautiful chandeliers strung between building lighting the wide avenues below. Completely mind blowing. So we wandered the main street until we made it to the Hapsburg Imperial Apartments which now house about 20 museums. I really wanted to see all the jewelry so made a quick stop in the Treasury. We saw the baptismal clothes and implements for the Hapsburgs, the crown for the Hungarian Emperor (made in 925 CE), coronation robes, swords, spears from 800 CE, omg. I was looking forward to seeing Empress Elisabeth’s (Sisi) jewelry collection but, oops, it’s actually all in it’s own museum. Tomorrow!
Tomorrow, we go to the Natural History Museum, Sisi’s Jewelry Museum, a concert/mass at a church, chocolate/orange cake at Hotel Sacar (sp?), and whatever else sounds good at the time.
If I’m truly honest with myself, I’ve never seen a city more beautiful.
In a few days, we’ll be taking a day trip to Budapest to see the UNESCO sites and take a dip in their world famous baths. We will spending New Year’s Eve in Salzburg at a resort at the base of the alps. Skiing during the day, relaxation in a ‘healing cave’, formal dinner and dancing at night, and a traditional lead pouring at midnight. Not entirely sure what lead has to do with New Year’s Eve but ok.
And in closing, a picture of the dog: