We’re not exactly sure how they celebrate Halloween here in Austria, but it’s definitely different than back at home. We’ve had pumpkins available to buy in the grocery stores for weeks now (just like at home) but they come pre-painted. There are a lot of pumpkin and scarecrow decorations to be found around, but very little else — no black cats, ghosts or witches, no vampires, bats, mummies or monsters. There aren’t bushels of trick-or-treat Halloween candy for sale at the stores. The focus seems to be on the harvest, on pumpkins, on the season. It isn’t a bad thing, just different.
We don’t know what to expect as we come up to Halloween. Benjamin is old enough to look forward to it, so we’ve been trying to come up with our own way to celebrate (we’ve heard rumors that there are neighborhoods that do host trick-or-treating, but we don’t know for sure, and we also want there to be a “season” to it, not just a night of candy-induced hysteria). It’s actually been a little hard to do — at home, you’d be able to go pumpkin or apple picking from mid-September, go on hay rides, shop and plan for Halloween costumes. We can’t find costumes anywhere (my mom is sending over some of mine and my brothers’ from when we were kids) and we haven’t been able to find any “Halloweeny” activities to participate in at all . . . until this weekend.
This weekend was the first of two Kurbis (Pumpkin) Festivals in Vienna. (There may be more, but my semi-extensive internet research got me information on two.) First thing this morning, we headed out on the Strassenbahn, and then the (very crowded) bus, up to the top of one of the hills overlooking Vienna, up to Am Himmel. It was chilly, and we got lost on the way. But it was FANTASTIC.
It was everything we’d been missing about celebrating fall. It was sunny, cool and beautiful. Benjamin chose pumpkins for himself and Liam — we could have carved them there at the festival (they had specialized scooping and cutting tools and everything) but Benjamin wanted to wait until we got home (and honestly, they were cleaner and easier to transport whole). Benjamin and I built and flew a kite together (with help from a VERY kind assistant who translated the German instructions for us). We drank cider, ate pumpkin soup and fresh bread, sampled pumpkin cream liquor, selected some local ham, ate langos (a kind of fried bread with pumpkin seed pesto and a lot of garlic) and enjoyed some warm apple wine. Benjamin played on an extensive playground, Liam practiced his walking (he’s not so good off road yet — he kept getting hay wrapped around his legs and trying to fall down).
Enjoying all that autumn had to offer, I couldn’t help but miss my family a lot. We all really enjoy the fall and preparing for Halloween, and I wish we could have all been together today. (Although I did feel very connected with them all — especially my Dad while building the kite — throughout the day.) We enjoyed the beautiful day, we played and ate and drank outside, and then, chilly and a little chapped from the wind, we walked back down the hill, climbed onto the bus and headed back home. It was a good day. And next week, if we want to, we can try another kurbis fest. Hooray for fall!