An introvert’s great night out with friends

I am an introvert.  I like (most) people, and I love spending time with my friends, but, as an introvert, I typically find that spending time with people, no matter how much I like them, wears me out.  If a social occasion goes on a long time, I can get twitchy, uncomfortable and grouchy, regardless of how much I like the people I’m with.  So, when I find myself in a situation where I am hanging out with friends, and I am able to feel relaxed and happy throughout, it feels like magic to me.

It happens very rarely for me, but as I get older I do spend more time with people who are more likely to put me in this state.  That being said, it’s in no way the fault or a failing of my company when it gets to be too much for me.  It’s just how I am.  I have a good friend here who is also an introvert.  Though we’re both very fond of each other, if we see each other every few weeks to a month, it’s “a lot” to us.  As a natural introvert, the frequency or duration of my social interaction with someone is not a reflection of how much I like them.  If I make an effort to see you at all, it means you must be someone I REALLY like, because my natural state is at home by myself (immediate family counts as “by myself” — kind of).

I was lucky enough to spend a lovely evening with some friends this past spring.  We went out for pizza at my favorite spot in Vienna.  It wasn’t a “perfect” evening — the restaurant either lost or messed up our reservation, and we ended up having to switch tables partway through our meal (further evidence that “perfect” and “happy” do not actually share a causal relationship).  We enjoyed a tasty meal, and then decided to walk a bit to get gelato (this is the moment where I usually decide I need to go home to recuperate).  But I was still enjoying myself.  And, as an extra bonus, because it was an unseasonably warm evening for March, it was our first outdoor gelato of the year.  We sat, ate our gelato, chatted and enjoyed the evening.  Eventually, it really was time to say goodnight, and even then, I was sorry the evening had to end.  It was a great evening, and I feel so lucky to have had such a nice time out with my friends!

Heurigen, again

We’ve tried out a heurigen (a Viennese wine tavern) before.  We’ve been intrigued by the idea since we first saw the concept recommended on the Rick Steves episode about Vienna — in theory, they’re small restaurants (often buffet style) attached to micro-vineyards located within the city of Vienna.  They are only allowed to sell the wine that is produced by the vineyard associated with the heurigen (again, in theory — I’ve read that this is usually, but not always, the case, although that is part of the historical context for them).  The originally developed as a way for the vintners to showcase their wines, the young wines in particular (which is a Viennese thing), without paying tax on the sales.  Generally, the wines are good, and the food is ok, but the setting can be beautiful — a cozy outdoor courtyard with live music, a set of picnic benches with a great view, a warm dining room with candles and a lot of ambiance.  (There’s a lot of variation, of course, but this is the general idea.)  They’re very popular with both tourists and locals — last time we went to a more touristy one, this time we wanted to try one that catered to locals.


We met our friend, Krishana, for lunch today at Heuriger Wieninger, a heurigen I had read good things about, in the 21st district.  It was a long Strassenbahn ride for us (nearly an hour) but we found success.  It definitely catered more to locals than tourists — no one spoke English to us the entire time we were there (I don’t doubt that they could have, but it’s a sign of how far outside of the tourist track we were that they didn’t snap into English, even when we struggled a little).  The food was quite good.  The wine was amazing (I had an Orange Cinnamon Prosecco).  Benjamin and Liam both enjoyed the food (no wine for them) and running around in the pretty courtyard.


I love the idea of the heurigen, and so far, we’ve enjoyed all of our visits.  I really had fun being a bit further off of the beaten path this time.  Every time I explore a piece of Vienna that I wouldn’t have seen if I’d just been here for vacation, I feel more at home here, more connected to this place.  My next project — a heurigen with a great view.  I’ve heard there are some which are really remarkable, so that’ll be next.


Adventure at the Belvedere


We went out and had a lovely dinner this evening in honor of Dan’s birthday at his favorite Viennese restaurant.  (Turns out it’s also now my mom’s favorite restaurant in Vienna so far.)  Good food and good company.

037Afterwards, we decided to go (literally) next door to walk around the grounds of the Belvedere Palace for a few minutes before it closed.  It was a beautiful evening.  There’s something about summer evenings at dusk — the warm, moist air, with just a hint of the coolness of the coming fall — it really gets to me.  There’s something . . . exciting, expectant, about it.  Tonight was one of those evenings.  The moon was up, the sun had set, but it wasn’t quite dark yet.  We walked around a bit, showed my mom the gardens and the fountains, let Benjamin run around a bit, and then started to head out.

On our way in, we had noticed that we only had about 15 minutes until the posted closing time of 9:00.  We’d been in longer than 15 minutes, although not by a whole lot.  As we finished our mildly long walk back to the gate, though, we noticed that the gate up ahead looked like it might be closed, and we watched the couple who had been walking ahead of us to see if they were able to exit.  They weren’t.  (Another example of Austrian thinking — I could just imagine the groundskeeper saying, “Well, what did you expect?  The sign said 9:00!”)

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Luckily, we’ve been to the Belvedere twice before and knew there was another gate . . . on the entirely opposite end of the grounds.  We encountered a man (who may actually have been the groundskeeper — not sure, but he had a bike and more information than we did) who told us the other gate was the only way out.  So, we set off.


It was a lovely walk on a lovely night in a lovely place.  It was truly dark now, and I was glad we were in such a safe place (as Vienna is).  But we enjoyed a pleasant evening walk together.  It was a little longer than we’d intended to be out (we asked Benjamin if he was having fun, and he told us “no”, and Liam got fed up with the stroller and needed to be carried most of the way) and uphill, but really, very nice.  We made it out of the far away gate, eventually found the right bus, then the right tram, and made it home.

It was a long evening, with an unexpected, but beautiful, adventure.  Neither of the boys got a bath before bed.  We are all tired.  But, it was certainly an adventure, and not one we could have had anywhere else.

Enjoying Sachertorte

After a relatively quiet day and a disastrous encounter between a glass Snapple bottle and our kitchen floor, we decided we had spent enough time in our kitchen and opted to eat dinner out.  We went to one of our favorite restaurants, which is in the next building over from ours and has a nice outside patio area, and enjoyed a lovely meal.

At the end, I decided to splurge on a dessert I’ve been eyeing for about a month and my mom wanted to try Austrian apple strudel.  Benjamin asked if they had chocolate cake — repeatedly.  He asked me, he asked my mom, he asked the waitress twice (although she didn’t hear him either time, but he was so very cute trying to ask).  When we looked at the menu, we saw that they did indeed have chocolate cake — Sachertorte, which is a famous Viennese treat.  We tried to get him to order it himself, but when the moment was upon him, he smiled and batted his eyelashes at the waitress and we ordered for him.  (Dan, who is on his strict, self-imposed diet, didn’t order anything.)

047Our desserts arrived, all lovely and delicious looking.  Benjamin’s was the most impressive — a slab of dark chocolate cake and a pile of whipped cream.  He took one look at it, picked up the cake in both hands, and started eating.  I tried to get him to use a fork, but gave up once he was about a third of the way through it.  Once I got over being mortified, it was really fun to watch him eat.  He was so enthusiastic about it — he paused only to take bites of the other desserts or to take the time to dunk his entire piece of cake into the whipped cream.  Even though he was obviously loving his chocolate cake, he shared with all of us — even Liam had a little whipped cream.

Benjamin is fully enjoying the experience of being in Vienna.  I am fully enjoying his experience.

Language traffic jam spoken here

When we first moved here, we found ourselves paralyzed when it came to language — the prospect of trying to communicate at all when we knew so little prevented us from even trying most of the time.  Shortly after arriving here, I had an experience of being so traumatized when it came to communication that I even had trouble speaking English to another native speaker.  One of Dan’s friends described the experience as “a language traffic jam in your head”.  That’s exactly what it’s like — the brain processes dealing with language become so overloaded that even simple communication becomes difficult, slow and stressful.

Luckily, that first phase was temporary — we’re doing a lot better now.  We have some German we’re pretty comfortable using (“excuse me”, “I’m sorry”, words used in restaurants and grocery stores and various other words and phrases we’ve picked up) and we’re getting less embarrassed about resorting to English when we need to.  Dan will use Spanish when both English and German fail, and I’ll throw in some of the French I know.  Usually, between all those options, something will work out, and when it doesn’t, improvised sign language will.

Tonight, we tried a new restaurant near our house — an Italian place.  We had an Italian waiter who spoke less German than we do, and no English.  That threw us, a bit, at first.  We’ve gotten to the point of being really comfortable reading menus and ordering in German (even though many places offer English menus, we won’t always request one) and I think this is the first time we’ve failed with both German and English.  After a couple of failed attempts, Dan ended up using Spanish, and although we understood very little of what the waiter said, he apparently understood enough Spanish to make things work.

041Over the course of the meal, we chatted a bit (really) and learned that he’s been here as long as we have and that he, also, has two little kids (although his kids are a little older than ours, and he’s a little younger than we are).

At one point, watching this scene where our Italian waiter, Austrian hostess, Dan, myself and the kids were all interacting, I realized how far we’ve come in terms of communication, and very little of it is because we’re getting better at German.  We’re being more confident and less self-conscious, and ever more aware of the benefit that we can get just from putting ourselves out there a little.  This is quite an adventure, and it’s changing us.


I’ve wanted to go to a Heurigen since before we got here, and today we went.  They are Viennese wine taverns, which were, historically, run by vineyards to sell their new wine.  Now, they seem to have evolved as restaurants that sell “microbrew” wines, locally cultivated (many even within Vienna itself).  We first learned about it while watching the Rick Steves episode on Vienna (which we watched several times as our “homework” before moving here) and it seemed like it would be a very Viennese experience, so I’ve wanted to go ever since.

111We went this evening.  It was fun — we had some of the “new” wine (from last fall) which they say is an acquired taste, but for those who like sweet, white wine and who know absolutely nothing about what they’re drinking, it was pretty good.  The food was simple and served buffet style (which was fun, because you get to try a little of everything).  We ate outside in the wine garden, which was lovely (if a little hot today) — there was live music and pretty landscaping (including a fountain, which Benjamin loved).  It started raining just as we were packing up to leave, and the rain followed us all the way home.

I do think it’s a fairly unique experience to Vienna, and I’m really glad we went.  I would like to go again.  The one we went to was effectively chosen at random (we had a recommendation from a friend, but we ended up finding a different one by accident) and we really didn’t know what we were doing.  Having been, I would choose a different location, order different things to eat and have a different expectation of the experience.  It was less about the food and drink and more about experiencing Vienna — which is what we’re here for, anyway.


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.