4th Viennaversary

We arrived here in early April of 2011, amid the persistent wind and intermittent rain that characterize what is still early spring here.  I remember standing outside of the airport in a cold drizzle wondering what I had gotten myself into and feeling slightly mystified that I had truly moved my family to another continent.

That feeling of mystification returns every year when the anniversary of our arrival passes.  Each time I have to double check my math — we’ve been here HOW long?  And this year was the same.  The weeks leading up to our “Viennaversary” were spent stressing about whether Dan’s new contract would really be signed, so then, suddenly, it was the beginning of April and I was again counting years on my fingers to ensure I hadn’t fumbled the math.  We really have been here 4 years.

This year, our “anniversary” fell on the Monday after Easter, so Dan had the day off of work and the boys were out of school, so we were able to do something to mark the occasion.  The weather was a bit chilly and breezy with lots of big, fluffy springtime clouds, but the sun that was getting through was bright and we had recently had temperatures which were some of the warmest we’d seen since the fall, so we (I) decided we should mark the occasion with a hike in the Vienna Woods to a part of Vienna we had yet to visit.

We had done the first part of this hike last spring, so the plan was to catch up with the trail (by bus) where we had left off and to complete the rest of the route, which was largely downhill.  To get to our starting point, we had to take the bus up to the hills overlooking the northwest of Vienna, and it would take us nearly an hour to get out there.  The kids were less enthusiastic than Dan and I, (when I say “hike”, the whining usually starts right away), but they, too, were suffering from a bit of Vienna winter stir craziness and were complaining more out of habit, I think, than actual objection.  They packed a few toys and supplies (i.e., candy from their Easter baskets) and dutifully suited up for the day’s adventure.

I had made a slight miscalculation, however.  While it had been breezy, sunny and warmish in the heart of the city, it was windy, solidly overcast and quite cold at the top of the hill.  We had brought hats and gloves, but we were dressed for 50 degrees and breezy with sun, not 30 degrees and windy with no sun.  We were all pretty cold, but wanted to make the most of our trip.  On the plus side, we were able to sneak a few peaks through the leafless branches, views that would have been obscured by greenery later in the spring or summer.  We were looking for crocuses and daffodils among the leaves, and attempting to keep the kids interested, which worked relatively well.  But by the time we’d been walking for 20 minutes, it has begun to snow.


I love being outdoors, and I’m up for a hike in almost any weather, but even I had to admit that this wasn’t quite what I’d meant to sign us all up for (nor was it what we’d come prepared for).  We trekked on down the hill to Kahlenberg, with a beautiful 1377(though cloudy) view over the city, and made it about another 100 yards before Liam began stridently complaining about his frozen face, and we all decided that perhaps this battle would best be fought another day.

In all, we lasted only about 45 minutes and about 1.2 miles before we gave up and headed for home.  We had walked the distance between two adjacent bus stops.

But, it was, as so much of this adventure has been, at least memorable.  I learned my lesson that marginal hiking conditions at 500 feet above sea level do not necessarily reflect acceptable hiking conditions at 1600 feet.  And, though it was brief, we did, indeed, see a part of Vienna we had not seen before.

We all went home to thaw out, and I was undaunted in my wish to one day finish the hike.  As for our 4th Viennaversary, however, we finished the celebration cozy at home.

“Die Osterhasen”

20130316-150923.jpgThe Easter markets opened today in Vienna. Unlike the Christmas markets, which are plentiful and sprinkled throughout the city, there are only two major Easter markets in Vienna each year (that I know of, at least). One of these, the Altwiener Ostermarkt is on the Freyung, which is very close to our house (on the block directly across the street from our house).

We love the Easter markets. Not only are they fun and festive, with yummy treats and intricate, beautifully beaded and hand painted eggs, but their arrival informally marks our Viennese anniversary.

Our first spring here, Easter was later, in April, and one of the first fun, Viennese things we did after our arrival was to visit the very Easter market that is now across the street from our house. (We were living elsewhere at the time, which kind of makes it a fun coincidence that we once visited what would become our neighborhood, back before we knew it would be.)

20130316-150935.jpgI look forward to the markets each spring. We take the kids and wander through, sampling treats and window shopping. The amazing eggs are wonderful to admire (although I constantly worry about knocking over an entire display). And, tucked at the back of this market, there is always a stall where the bunnies live — just two or three, hanging out (usually sleeping or snacking). The kids can stop by and visit with the bunnies, watching them do their bunny thing.

Today, when we visited the bunny stall (the bunnies this year are HUGE), B was entranced. He stood and watched the bunnies — one slept while the other hopped around and had a snack. He turned to me, after a few minutes, and said, “You know, at school, I learned that these are called ‘Osterhasen’ in German.”

20130316-150946.jpgI think that is so cool. (I didn’t know that.) Watching B enjoy the Osterhasen, and remembering back to our first Easter market trip, nearly two years ago, I’m pretty amazed at how far we’ve come. Two years ago, we barely got through a visit like that, and it was far more stressful to do it. Now it feels like a familiar tradition, and we kind of even understand what’s going on.

Celebrating: day two

050Yesterday was my & Dan’s 11th wedding anniversary, and we decided to divide the celebration into two pieces — one, because our plans included the kids and two, because then you get to celebrate on two days, and what’s the downside to that?  I say “we” decided, but it was really me — Dan & I have had a tradition (now 8 years old) of taking turns planning our anniversary celebration.  We mostly do it as a surprise for the other, and it really makes it a lot of fun — rather than compromising and collaborating every year, we take turns, so we alternately get the fun of making and executing the plans or enjoying the surprise.


Yesterday, Dan came home from work a bit early and we packed the kids up and headed out to the Schonbrun Palace.  Even though I’ve now seen a bit more of the city, 133I still think it’s the most beautiful part that I’ve seen so far.  We hired a horse & carriage, and rode all around the grounds of the palace.  It was lovely — the grounds are beautiful and peaceful, and seeing them in a carriage really lets you imagine yourself in a different era, pulling up in front of one of the grandest palaces of all time.  Pretty amazing.  And the kids did great:  Benjamin loved it (he’s been asking to go on a “horse trailer ride” since we got here) and even Liam did pretty well for most of the ride.  We finished up with a quick dinner (it was getting late) at the cafe at the palace, and then made it home before the rain started.

016I had also picked out a restaurant that I thought would be reasonably romantic and kid-friendly at the same time (not the easiest of tasks).  We saved that for tonight, so this evening we rode the tram and a bus out to the west of Vienna, and up onto the closest “berg” to the city.  It was perfect.  It was reasonably busy without being crowded, but there was plenty of room for Benjamin to run laps around the table without being in anyone’s way.  The outside seating was shaded from all but some dappled sunlight, and as the evening came on, it was cool but not too chilly (reminded me more of late September than June).  The view was amazing:  you could look across the garden and outdoor seating and look right onto Vienna and the mountains beyond.  There was a little overlook at the edge of the yard where we went and found exactly where we live (or, at least, the church on the next block, so near enough).  And there was a wedding reception going on in a little hall beside the garden seating, which just seemed perfect.  We ate, we drank wine, we explored with Benjamin and cuddled Liam.  We stayed out much later than we usually do and then we trekked back home and put the kids to bed.  It was lovely.


And, it wasn’t diminished in the least by having the kids with us.  We usually make a point of going out on our anniversary alone together, but that wasn’t an option this year, as we don’t have childcare established yet.  I thought it was wonderful to have Benjamin and Liam with us, both for our “horse trailer ride” yesterday and for our dinner today.  We explained to Benjamin that we were celebrating our anniversary, and he asked lots of questions and told us both “Happy Anniversary!” several times.  It was wonderful to include them in our celebration.  I’m sure there will be times in the future where we’ll enjoy some alone time for our anniversary, but this year, our celebration was absolutely perfect and I would not have changed a single thing.

Anniversary . . . mit kinder

11 years ago today, Dan & I got married.  It really does not feel like it’s been that long, in that I don’t feel like the time Dan & I have been married encompasses nearly 1/3 of my life so far.  If I look at what we’ve done in that time, though, I guess it does seem like 11 years.

Many things have changed in that time.  Dan & I have each changed (I think, mostly, for the better and more mature), our jobs have changed (at least twice, each), our continent of residence has changed and we’ve had two children (not at all in that order).  When we got married, we didn’t even know if we wanted to have kids — neither of us could imagine a time where we would feel like we were grown up, responsible enough or “ready” to have kids.  We didn’t think there would ever be a time where we’d want to put our needs, desires and ambitions on the back burner for the sake of being the kind of parents we wanted to be if we ever had kids.

What we didn’t know is that it doesn’t work that way.  (How could we know?)  I never looked around and said, “Hmm, I think I’d like to radically change my life, my priorities and my goals so that I can have kids.”  Instead, I literally sat up in bed one night, in shock at the realization that I didn’t know how to imagine my future without picturing myself as a mommy.  It wasn’t a lack of imagination — I could think of things I’d do with my time/money/energy/youth in the event that I didn’t have children.  It was realizing that what I wanted for my future was to be a mom . . . and after I realized that, nothing else mattered.

At first, we had plans that involved staying in our careers as dance instructors.  We devised complex strategies for childcare, travel, competitions and finances that included being parents and full-time dance instructors.  I worked until I was over 38 weeks pregnant, on my feet and in high heels, so that I could insure that my job and income would be secure for me to return to.  We had plans to return to our students and to competition.  And it all evaporated within the first 12 hours after Benjamin was born.

In that first day, I knew I didn’t want to go back to work at the studio, and I didn’t want to go back to work at all if we could figure out a way to make it happen.  I don’t know that Dan & I have ever been so much on the same page about something without needing to talk much about it.  We immediately set about making new plans, with new priorities and new goals, for our new lives as parents.  We have ended up in places (literally and otherwise) that I never saw coming.

We are more to each other than just the other halves of Benjamin’s and Liam’s parents, but that honestly accounts for most of what our relationship is to one another right now.  That’s ok — that’s where our energy needs to be right now.  But looking back over the past 11 years, I don’t think I could have chosen a better person to take this particular journey with . . . and I’m as surprised as anyone.

Happy anniversary, Dan.  Thank you for being on this grand adventure with me.  I love you.