Skating with the kids

Last year, we took the boys ice skating at the Wiener Eistraum.  We tried to take them back, last week, for the 2013 opening, but the kids’ area was closed.  Dan & I went on Friday (as an actual date), and we were finally able to take the boys again yesterday.

014We had a good time, but our experience was quite different from last year.  The children’s area was surprisingly crowded — probably over 40 kids and nearly as many parents — and, to share between all of them, only 6 practice penguins.  We found the number of people and lack of penguins frustrating and a little daunting — a sentiment that seemed to be shared by many other families.  Overall, we did fine, and I’m glad we went, but I was a little shocked by how crowded it was.  We were there on a Sunday morning, which I think is the same as when we went last year . . . although last year we went much later in February — maybe it gets less popular as the season goes on?

018It was still a generally good experience.  The kids had a pretty good time, although they got tired quickly (as did I) and it was a fun, inexpensive way to get some skating practice.  Like last year, Liam’s skate rental was free, the helmets for both boys were free, and the adults didn’t need skates at all, so our total bill was 4 Euro for about 2 hours of skating.  Not bad.

My guess is that Sunday mornings, early in the season, when the weather is good, are just too popular to be manageable for little ones who need lots of practice and support.  We’re going to experiment a bit — we’re going to try going during the week, going later on a weekend day and going later in the season.  Hopefully we can find a time that isn’t quite so overwhelming.  We definitely like it, so we’re looking forward to an even better experience next time.020

Skate date

026Last year, we took the kids to the Wiener Eistraum (“Viennese Ice Dream”) — which is a massive, temporary skating complex constructed on the grounds of the Rathaus (city hall) here in Vienna. We loved it. The kids had a great time learning to skate a bit, and it was fun to be part of a big, festive Viennese activity.

There are two main parts of the skating facility — a large area with two skating rinks, connected by long ice paths that meander through the woods (on the paved walking trails through the park), and a smaller, enclosed area where the kids can play and practice during the day (it turns into a curling area in the evenings). When we took the boys, we stuck to just the kids’ area. It didn’t require a ticket, and we didn’t even have to rent skates as adults — we rented skates for the boys and we just walked around in our regular winter boots. It made for a fun (and inexpensive) outing.

023Somehow, though, we managed not to have a chance to go over and explore the bigger, “grown up” section last year, and I’ve regretted it since. The Wiener Eistraum reopened just over a week ago for 2013, and Dan & I went over last night, just the two of us, to check out the whole thing.

First of all, I am not a good skater. I’ve skated a few times, but never enough to get good at it. So, at first, my goal was just not to fall down and injure myself. After a few minutes of getting my feet under me, though, I got to relax and really enjoy it. It’s pretty wonderful. Skating on the colorfully lit pathways, through the woods, with the brightly illuminated Rathaus in the background is pretty magical. I was, by far, not the worst skater there (I even managed to help hold Dan up once when he fell!) and I really enjoyed myself.

029The skating part was definitely a challenge though. Although the wooded paths are fun and scenic, they also include very gentle uphill and downhill slopes — something I’d never attempted on skates before. It was pretty tough. The uphills weren’t so bad (as long as someone coming up from behind didn’t run into you — it’s hard to go fast up the hills) but the downhills were a bit scary. Especially after the Zamboni came though, it was easy to get going WAY too fast down the little inclines. (I managed not to crash, but I attribute a lot of that to just luck.)

We had a great time. We skated around, explored the pathways, circled the ice rinks with a few hundred other skaters and just had a fantastic time. We’ll definitely go back. It makes for a fun date night.

Eistraum: opening night

035After the Christmas markets have been cleared away from the area in front of the Rathaus, Vienna makes space for a huge ice skating venue.  It fills the space of the Rathausplatz, and extends through the walking paths all along one side of the Rathaus.  The whole area is lit, temporary restaurants are constructed, and one of Vienna’s popular music radio stations moves in.  It’s quite an event, and it lasts from the end of January until early March.

036Last night was the preview night for Wiener Eistraum — the night before the official opening, they open up for a few hours, for free.  We went over to check it out.  We were hoping to skate, but the children’s area wasn’t open.  Instead, we wandered around a bit.  It was quite a party — there was a performance — we didn’t get a good view, but it had ice skaters, music, acrobats and some kind of fire juggling.

We did get to have our picture taken with some polar bears (or at least people in polar bear costumes).  It’s yet another one of those Vienna events that I really love — everyone being enthusiastic about being outdoors, and about being social.  It was definitely fun, and we can’t wait to go back and actually get to skate.039