To the outhouse

This is our eighth day of having only a semi-functional toilet in our house.

Thus far, I’ve refrained from writing about this, because most likely no one wants to read about a broken toilet.  But I think I’m on the verge of having post traumatic stress flashbacks to our early days of living in a small hotel room here in Vienna.  This is completely different — we had functional bathrooms in both of our temporary apartments — but for some reason it brings me right back to that sense of transience and instability.

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Glittery snow

We woke up this morning to an unexpected dusting of snow.  Not enough to make it tricky to get around, just enough to be a little pretty.  As soon as Benjamin saw it, he suggested making a snowman.  I explained that it probably wouldn’t be enough for that, but that we could go out onto the terrace and play in it a little, anyway.  He was excited, so we went (my only additions to his pajamas were boots and a coat — we didn’t stay out long).  He “skated” around and caught a few flakes on his toungue.  Liam came out and wandered around, too.  Then we all got cold and went back in.

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The cold and the warm

It’s cold here now.  Really cold.  (I’ve heard, though, that it gets colder.  I know, what was I expecting?  I moved to Vienna.)  This is the kind of cold I’ve only had a passing acquaintance with — as in, once every few years of my life I’ve experienced cold like this, only for a few moments, on the way from my house to my car or my car to wherever I was going, and on very few occasions, for longer — when I would have to do something for one of the horses at the barn (but I usually avoided the barn when it was this cold).

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Keeping warm

It’s Vienna, it’s nearly winter.  It’s cold — that isn’t exactly shocking.  The temperature does different things here than I’m used to, though — for example, the high temperature for the day here is usually very late in the day (often just after sunset) and then the temperature plummets, often dropping several degrees an hour.  It’s not unusual to go out, in the late afternoon or early evening to nearly 50 degrees, only to come back, just a few hours later, absolutely frozen.  It’s also very common for the temperature to very widely in different parts of the city — I can leave the house very comfortable and step out into frigid conditions when I get off the train to pick Benjamin up at school.  And none of this is made easier by the fact that the weather forecast often lists a temperature as much as 15 degrees off from what we really experience.


We’re getting used to it, though.  If we go out, pretty much anywhere, I carry with me a bag of extra cold weather accessories:  hats and mittens, scarves and gloves, plus a warm blanket for the stroller.  The boys have warm winter coats, and Liam also has a IMG_2627few buntings to choose from (or rather, for me to choose from — I don’t trust his judgement yet, he still likes to eat chalk).  I also recently did some shopping for myself — I bought some new gloves and a cape/cloak/poncho (I have no idea what it really is, and makes me sound like I’m trying to be a superhero/a wizard/a Mexican depending on what I call it).  Even when it feels REALLY cold outside (below freezing, with a breeze), when I put on my new, woolly things, the cold doesn’t get to me too much.

We’re starting to get used to the cold here.  I know it’s only going to get colder — winter is just around the corner.  I hope we can stay well equipped as the temperatures drop — it’s nice to stay warm and cozy.

Wearing a hat

I live in Austria.  I don’t have a car, I go out every day (rain, shine, cold or wind) at least to pick up Benjamin at school.  It’s only October, and we’re already below freezing in the mornings.  I can’t avoid it any longer:  I need a hat.

I do own a few hats — wooly, winter hats, built for warmth rather than appearance.  At home, that was fine, since I hardly ever wore them unless I was bundled up to go out in the snow with the kids, or out to the barn with the horses, and in either situation, function outweighs form in terms of selecting apparel.

But, with my new location, and the inevitability of it becoming more a daily accessory, I want to do better — I want to do what I can to find something warm and cute.  It’s a challenge.

Vienna has many specialty hat stores.  Hats are a ubiquitous item here, and people also like to be fashionable, so there are lots of options.  This is both good and bad.  On the one hand, I get to try on a lot of different things:  if I don’t like the first thing I see, that’s no problem — there are dozens of other choices.  On the other hand, there are dozens of choices and I really have no idea what I’m looking for, and that makes it a little overwhelming.

I went to the closest hat store (located on my block) and threw myself on the mercy of the first English speaking shopkeeper I found.  She was great — she asked me about my winter coats, about where and how often I’d be wearing a hat, and made a few suggestions.  I tried them all on, and felt silly with every single one.  Why is that?!?  I see other people wearing hats, all the time, looking cute — looking warm and fashionable and as though wearing a hat is a totally normal thing.  Each one I put on looks like part of a costume, or like it belongs to someone else and I just stuck it on to keep from being frozen.  The ones that I like the best on the shelf look the most ridiculous on me, the ones I liked the next best made me look like I’d borrowed something from an elderly person and the ones I like the least turned out to be the least offensive when I actually put them on my head and looked in the mirror.

056I still felt silly, though.  It still feels like playing dress up in something that belongs to someone else.  I narrowed it down to my favorite three choices, and then asked my new hat sales clerk friend for an opinion.  She picked the one I was the least drawn to, but I went with her idea (she is a professional, and she looks at people in hats all day long — AND she was honest with me about some less than attractive choices I tried).  It’s warm, but it’s BIG (apparently, it’s fashionable).  I feel silly when I put it on, but I’m glad my head is warm.  My hope is that I’ll get used to it, and that maybe, as the winter goes on, I’ll grow bolder and more comfortable with the idea of a hat, and maybe even be able to bravely experiment with other styles.  If I need to wear one every day (and if I need it in October, I imagine it won’t really be an option in January) I’m hoping I can find something that I really like — and maybe become one of those cute hat wearing people, too.

1 degree


It’s cold in Vienna, already.  We’ve already hit the freezing mark (not officially yet — officially we’ve gotten down to 1, apparently, but there was ice on the sidewalk when we left for the zoo yesterday morning) and the warmest it’s gotten in the past several days is about 12 degrees (low 50s).  This week is forecast to be more of the same, with lots of nights nearly hitting the freezing mark and several days of high temperatures in the single digits.

I absolutely love the onset of colder weather.  I’d much prefer to have a slightly chilly October, rather than a warm one — I much rather be bundled up in scarves, hats and sweaters than to be wearing shorts while pumpkin picking.  This is my kind of October.

I do have to admit, though, that as much as I like the chill in the air, the smell of woodsmoke and the sparkle of frost, it puts me more in mind of November or December than October.  (I’ve already caught myself singing Christmas Carols with the kids a few times!)  And, despite my careful research into relative temperatures, I’m a bit worried about what December, January and February have in store for us.

So far, though, our apartment is warm, I can find coffee and hot chestnuts on the street corners, and (most of) our sweaters and cold-weather clothing safely arrived from home.  If I could just find someplace that sells hot cider, I’d be all set.

First prayer

It was cold here today — not cool, cold.  Our high was 14 Celcius, it varied between rainy and drizzly all day, and the wind went from a strong breeze to “Oh dear, what was that?!?”  If you had been plopped down in Vienna today, you would absolutely have believed it was April if that’s what you’d been told.  (I was thrilled, actually — I think it’s beautiful weather, and a real treat to have in July, especially after the heat we’ve had lately . . . but I think it may have been a bit too much for our fair-weather-dwelling houseguests.)

Today was, however, our first planned day of sightseeing with our visitors.  They arrived Friday, we did our “chores” yesterday, and today our plan was to see two of the most essential sights of Vienna:  St. Stephen’s and the Hofburg.  Well, it rained and it was cold.  We went anyway.

We went to St. Stephen’s.  We had planned to perhaps do a tour or climb one of the towers, but Dan’s parents weren’t really interesed in the tour and the weather didn’t make the climb in the tower sound too inviting, so we were just going to explore the cathedral on our own.  Of course, when we got there, the cathedreal wasn’t available to visit, but we still were able to wander around in the entry area and get to experience the beautiful church a bit.

It is amazing inside.  It’s huge, and beautiful, full of statues and stained glass.  It smells like incense and it’s just the right amount of dark and mysterious.  There are basins of holy water in the entrance and there are prayer candles in the nooks and alcoves — Benjamin was fascinated (as he was the first time we went, on Easter).  He really wanted to see the candles, so I took him to look.  He asked about them and I did my best to explain.  He asked if a prayer was like making a wish, and I told him that it was — that it was making a wish for good things to happen for people that you love, and that you tell it to God so that he can help you make it happen.  He wanted to make a wish, so we purchased a candle and lit it.  He wished for, “All the people that I love to be happy”.  (I am amazed by him — by his kindness and his understanding.)

And then he asked me if he could blow the candle out, and I had to explain the difference between a prayer candle and a birthday candle.  He seemed ok with it.

On the way home we walked past the Hofburg, through the Volksgarten, past the Parliament and the Rathaus and back to home, where we stayed for the rest of our rainy and cold afternoon.  To me, it was a lovely Sunday, but I’m not sure we did a very good job as hosts and tour guides.  That’s ok — we have 7 more days.