Vienna by night

In Vienna, in the winter, so much of our time is spent in the dark, and in the summer, so little of it is.  From sometime in November until early February, Dan and Benjamin are almost never home during daylight hours.  From early in May until mid-August, my kids hardly ever experience darkness — they wake up and go to bed completely in daylight, for months on end.

The transitions to Daylight Saving Time and back happen at a different time here than at home, too.  Not only does that give me two weeks in the spring and one week in the fall where I have no idea what time it is anywhere, but it means we have 3 weeks more of dark evenings than we had at home.  This year, the Monday after the time change in October was a holiday (Austrian National Day) and we celebrated the fact that the whole family had a day off together by spending it at the swimming pool.

We were out most of the afternoon, and when we started to head home, it was already dark, thanks to the time change the day before.  I found it particularly odd and a little disconcerting, in large part because, strange as it may seem, I am pretty much never out in Vienna at nighttime between April and October.  Stepping out of the brightly lit swimming facility into the dusky evening was like suddenly stepping out into an unfamiliar city.  It happens every year, but it always takes me a little time to get used to experiencing Vienna in the dark … and then once I get used to it, I get to spend months getting REALLY used to it.

Just last week, I picked B up from school and we arrived home with enough daylight that we didn’t immediately have to turn on all the lights — for the first time in nearly 3 months.  It’s the first sign that we’re on our way back to seeing Vienna only by day and likely forgetting, once again, what it’s like here in the dark.

Turning on the lights


Took this at 12:13 pm

I think it’s the dark of winter that gets to people, more so than the cold.  At a latitude as far north as Vienna, the days are short and the sunlight we get is very indirect — walking to pick up B from school today, at noon, the sun was at an angle that makes me think of late afternoon.  The evening comes early.  Even now, with over a month of shortening days to come, my boys typically wake from their naps in the dark of the evening, groggy and a little disoriented.  Benjamin gets up for school in the dark, and he wakes from his nap in the dark, so he seems to be having trouble separating nap time from bed time — he often wakes from his nap asking me if it’s time to go to school.  (His body isn’t fooled, though, as evidenced by the fact that he sleeps for 10 hours at night and 2 during the day.)I love the symbolism and ritual of using light, in the winter, to push back the darkness, to bring brightness into the night.  We do it at Halloween with jack-o-lanterns, and we do it at Christmas with candles in the windows and lights on our trees.  Vienna is already using its lights to push back on the darkness.  The horse drawn carriages still roll down the streets, illuminated by lanterns.  The cafe windows all glow with warm coziness.  And the lights of the Christmas decorations have begun to be turned on.  The huge Christmas trees at the markets are lit with white lights, and on one street near our house, huge, cylindrical chandeliers of lights have been hung.

I like winter.  I’m not bothered by the dark or the cold.  But part of the reason I’m not bothered, part of the reason I like this season so much, is that we find so much to enjoy in defying the dark and the cold.  I love the warmth and the light, the coziness and the brightness, of this season.  Vienna is full of light right now, and the depth of the darkness around us makes it all the more wonderful.