High water

New Danube, churning water and some kind of debris . . .

New Danube, churning water and some kind of debris . . .

Although we’re having our sixth straight day of rain in Vienna (which is unusual), we’ve been spared from the massive, devastating flooding that other parts of Austria and much of central Europe are suffering through.  I’m not entirely sure why it’s not so bad here — being further downstream on the Danube, I would have thought we’d get the same water, just later.  But there doesn’t seem to be any panic about potential flooding in Vienna.  I’m grateful, especially because our home is on the opposite side of the Danube from both Dan’s work and B’s school.

More of the New Donau -- angry brown water (taken from the U2 over Praterbrucke)

More of the New Donau — angry brown water (taken from the U2 over Praterbrucke)

Sadly, many beautiful places that we have visited in Austria and Bavaria — including Salzburg and nearly the entire course of our cycling trip along the Danube — are being profoundly impacted by these floods.  It’s sad to think of these places being damaged by the floods, and heartbreaking to think of the struggles that the people in these areas are enduring.

That's not usually under water . . .

That’s not usually under water . . .

Today was my first trip across the Danube since the rains started and the water levels rose.  Given that flooding does not seem to be a great concern in Vienna, I was surprised to see how swollen and raging the Danube and the Donaukanal are today.  There is a lot of water moving through there right now, and it’s moving fast.  The Danube, always imposing, looks unquestionably deadly today.  The water is brown and churning, the trees along the shoreline are mostly submerged, and I saw a massive piece of some kind of debris in the water.  The gates that control the flow of the water on the New Danube were completely open today, and I saw some kind of metal barrier I hadn’t seen before out there, too.  Stopping by the canal on the way home from dropping B at school, I noticed that the stairs leading down to the water, usually unappealing and slippery looking, are mostly underwater now — the water level, usually 4 or 5 feet below the level of the edge of the promenade, is now only about 5 steps down.  If they say there isn’t concern about Vienna flooding, I believe them, but it looks to me like we probably got pretty close.

Donaukanal -- the distance from the promenade to the water is usually several feet, not several steps

Donaukanal — the distance from the promenade to the water is usually several feet, not several steps



Spring thunderstorm

I woke up to thunder yesterday morning.  I was grateful that it was just me that woke up, and not the kids, since it was just after 5:00 a.m. — early enough that I did not want to really be up but late enough that if they had woken up they’d probably have been up for the day.  We don’t get thunder all that often here in Vienna (notable to me because in the mid-Atlantic US, where I’m from, thunderstorms are a near-daily reality in the summer months).

We usually have a fairly rainy and windy April, but we didn’t this year, which made the thunderstorm yesterday more remarkable and very welcome.  We got the thunder first.  It continued for nearly half an hour before the rain came.  I was surprised that the birds kept singing throughout the thunder — I feel like they don’t do that at home.  Or maybe I am just now noticing because we keep our windows open.  They didn’t stop singing until the rain got really intense, almost an hour later, which also necessitated getting up to close the west-facing windows.

It rained most of yesterday and part of this morning.  It’s the most rain we’ve had here in a while, and I know we haven’t had thunder since last summer.  I’m glad to have the rain, and the thunder.  For a while there, it felt like we skipped right over spring — we went from a snowy early April to summer-like weather by the middle of the month.  These last two days have felt like spring, finally, and I’m glad to have it.

Spring, finally

I’m afraid to get my hopes up after the seemingly endless winter we had this year, but I think spring has finally arrived in Vienna.

20130411-145229.jpgYesterday, we actually got rained on (I don’t remember the last time we got precipitation that wasn’t snow). And although it was wet and chilly in the morning, by the afternoon, it was nearly 60 degrees outside. And we’ve had more of the strong, steady breeze I’ve learned to associate with springtime in Vienna.

Today, we’re nearly up to 60 again, and all of the temperatures I see on the forecast are actually positive. (In fact, they’re all above 40, and Saturday is supposed to get up to the mid-60s with sun!)

I haven’t seen much evidence of spring around Vienna yet, but I think it’s here. I hope it’s here. I’m ready to enjoy it.



We woke up on Thursday of last week to an unexpected snowstorm.  “How nice!”, I thought, “One last chance to enjoy a little snow before we get started on spring for real.”  Because, you see, Vienna isn’t really like the Washington, DC area, where I’m from, which can pretty much count on getting completely slammed by a major March snowstorm at least every other year.  Winters here, although cold, aren’t particularly wet, so we don’t really get all that much snow.  (Your mental image of snow covered mountains in Austria is perfectly legitimate — just not for Vienna.  You’re thinking of the Alps . . . which are further west.)And, what snow Vienna got this year, we mostly managed to miss with travel — the biggest storms this year came while we were (ironically) skiing in the Alps, and while we were in Italy.  So I was happy to enjoy our last winter snowfall last week.

But, not so fast.  Let’s not get excited.  Spring may officially arrive in just a few days, but when we stepped out of B’s school this morning after dropping him off . . . it was snowing again.

007I love winter, I really do.  I love snow.  I think it’s pretty and white and sparkly and makes everything more beautiful and creates this lovely, hushed, glittering, snowglobesque (I just made that up) environment that I LOVE to spend a few days inhabiting.  But today’s relentless mix of rain, snow and sleet did nothing but my turn my wistful attention towards Thursday and the first day of spring.  Seriously, I got rained on, snowed on and sleeted on all during the 10 minute walk to my German lesson tonight (and then again on the way back).

And yet . . . we’ll be in Salzburg for the weekend where . . . they’re calling for snow.

Winter rain

20130129-191909.jpgAs I’ve mentioned before, Vienna in winter is not the snow-covered city that most people seem to imagine.  I, too, was surprised to learn how little snow typically falls here, and how close, climatically, in many ways Vienna is to my home in the US mid-Atlantic.  It averages a little bit colder here (about 5 Fahrenheit degrees lower high temperatures during the winter, on average) so we certainly get plenty of cold weather here — especially when coupled with the often intense wind.  However, it’s a lot drier here — we get significantly less precipitation here, throughout the year, than the DC area weather I’m used to.  But, since it’s colder, when we get precipitation in the winter months, it’s usually snow, and when we do get snow, it tends to stick around.

20130129-191919.jpgWe had a pretty significant snowstorm here about 12 days ago (just as we were leaving Vienna to go skiing).  We’d been getting little bits of snow, almost daily, for a few weeks leading up to the big snow, and we’ve gotten a little bit of snow several times since then.  And nearly all of it has stuck around, since only one day in the past 2 weeks has had a high temperature above freezing (and then, it was only above freezing for about an hour).  Over the past few weeks, we’ve gotten pretty used to the scene of Vienna alternating between fresh whiteness and the less lovely gray/beige of days-old snow that has been sanded, gravelled, and walked in by many feet.

Back at home, the weather often feels like it can’t pick a season.  It’s perfectly expected that a heavy snow or ice storm may be followed, within days (if not hours) by springtime temperatures and sunshine.  But not in Vienna.  We’re just a little colder, and a little drier, but typically, winter stays winter until it’s time for spring.  So today, when the rain started falling, it was very strange.  Just as the temperatures came up above freezing for the first time in a while, the rain started to fall.  It looked, sounded and felt really foreign.  Just the sight of it on the windows was odd, and the splashing in the gutters and on the roof felt like a completely alien sound.

It’s just another one of those little differences that you don’t notice until it happens and then it feels so very strange.  I’ve acclimated to winter in Vienna, I suppose, and my brain wasn’t expecting rain.

Happiness is a Spider-Man umbrella

Benjamin saw it in the window of a shop down the block, and he’s been talking about it ever since.  It’s a clear, plastic child’s umbrella, featuring Spider-Man.  He fell in love with it.

026He doesn’t have any particular affinity for Spider-Man — in fact, I think this may be his first exposure to the concept (he’s been calling it the “spider umbrella” — I think it’s the spider part of the design that attracted him).  But, since the first time he saw it, he’s been asking us for it.  I asked him if he’d rather us find him a Lightning McQueen umbrella (which is his current favorite character), but he said no, he’d actually prefer “the spider one”.

The truth is, an umbrella is a pretty reasonable purchase for him (I just bought myself one, as too) since he’s out, back and forth to school, every day.  Besides, we wanted to indulge him.  His asking (very sweetly, with lots of “please”s) over and over was actually really cute — he managed stay persistent without getting annoying.

031So today, after school, we went and got it.  I had completely forgotten, but the second I touched, heard and smelled the plastic, I remembered exactly the sensation of holding a plastic umbrella as a little girl.  I used to have one just like it (not with Spider-Man, though — my mom remembers it as Hello Kitty).

He is thrilled.  He carried it all around the store, all the way home, and around the house for a while.  He was so excited to show it to his Grandma on Skype today, and then to Daddy when he got home from work.  Later this evening, when he went out with Dan, to pick up dinner, he took it with him (it was raining, so it got its first real use).  It was so much fun for me, too, to get it for him.  It’s fun to be able to spoil him sometimes (and I’m so glad to be able to do that).


We’re getting a pretty massive thunderstorm in Vienna right now.  It’s been windy all day (and getting cooler since about 3:00 — woo hoo!) and raining on and off, and then a few minutes ago, the thunder and lightning started.  I don’t know enough about the weather patterns in central Europe to speak with any authority, but I imagine these winds and storms blowing right down from the Alps.  They have that kind of gravitas.

Back at home, everyone is hunkering down for a massive storm of their own:  Hurricane Irene is upon them with flooding, winds and general, low-level panic.  All up and down the east coast of the US, people are evacuating and bracing for intense damage.  In the DC area, they get it all:  hurricanes, massive snowstorms, flooding, tornadoes . . . even earthquakes, as proven earlier this week.  They don’t really specialize in any one kind of disaster.  We got to do all of them from time to time, with neither enough practice nor enough local funding to handle anything perfectly smoothly.  Everyone stocks up on toilet paper, milk and water and stays in.  I’m not criticizing — I think it’s a pretty good plan, and has served us well for everything from hurricanes to “snowmageddon”.

I think I’m safely out of the path of any hurricanes while I’m living here in Vienna, but I’m thinking of everyone at home and hoping that they all stay safe and dry.  I’m sitting here in a big storm, too — I’m with you all in spirit.


It had been about a week since I’d had an hour “off”, so after I got the kids down for their naps today, and after Dan got home (he only worked a half day today to be able to spend extra time with his parents while they’re visiting) I grabbed my book and headed to Starbucks to have lunch all by myself.  It’s a good thing for me to do — even just having a little time off from the moment-to-moment demands of being a mom does wonders for my resiliency.  I got myself a sandwich and an iced tea, grabbed a seat at the very last outdoor table, and sat down to read.

A few minutes after I sat down, the threatening clouds gave way to a little drizzle and then a decent rain.  I scooted my table over a bit to be better covered by the umbrella and continued on with my lunch and my book.  Looking around a few minutes later, I realized that the packed outdoor seating area had been deserted by all but me and two others.  After a few minutes, the wet and the cold started to bother me a little, and I decided that I really needed a warm cup of coffee.  So, I grabbed my wallet, but arranged my book and bag to make it very obvious my seat was still taken — I wanted hot coffee, but not at the expense of my seat.

I went inside to wait in line to order my coffee, looked out the steamy window into the rain at the deserted patio and laughed at myself.  In the steady rain, on a chilly afternoon, I decided I needed to save my seat at the outdoor cafe.  (In that moment, I failed to realize that just because I enjoyed my arrangement so much did not mean that anyone else would want to be in it.  I managed to get my coffee and get back outside without losing my seat, strangely enough.)

057Later this afternoon, we all went to the Belvedere Palace to do some sightseeing.  It’s one of the places I went with Dan last year when I came to visit — I was amazed by the scale and beauty of the grounds, and that was in February.  It was even more magnificent today — the flowers are in bloom, the trees are full and green and all of the fountains were on.  It was Benjamin’s first time there, and he loved it.  He loves fountains and flowers, and the palace grounds offered a ton of freedom for running and playing.  He ran around in circles, ran up a ramp and down the stairs and challenged all of us to races.  (I haven’t run so much in years.)

070At the end of his exploring, we came upon some fresh puddles from this morning’s rain.  He wanted to splash, and he did, with enthusiasm.  I explained that his shoes and socks might get wet, and that we still had to go to dinner afterwards.  He started with small splashes, but worked his way up until the water was flying and he was getting soaked.  At one point, I opened my mouth to tell him I thought he had saturated himself thoroughly enough . . . and then I realized:  I spent my lunch sitting outside in the rain.  Who am I to tell him to stop splashing because he’s getting too wet?  So, I let him splash.  (And I give him credit:  he didn’t complain once about being wet.)

The rain

What a day.  I woke up this morning to my first humid day in Vienna.  (That is something I do NOT miss about home.)  It made the heat so much more unpleasant.  The kids and I were all sticky and grumpy by 10:00 in the morning.  It was forecasted to get warmer, and I was imagining just being miserable by mid-afternoon.

026But then, the rain came.  A real, torrential downpour.  We’ve had rain since we’ve been here (although it’s astounding how dry it is here) but nothing like this.  This was a good, pouring rain that lasted for a little while.  As the rain started in earnest, I ran around the house, closing windows, doors and the skylight to keep it outside (where it belongs).

The effect was glorious.  I got to sit in my attic apartment and experience the storm for a while, and when it cleared, the air was cooler, cleaner and drier.  (In fact, the air here is so dry that about 20 minutes after the rain had stopped, our terrace was completely dry.)  It was lovely.

Then, we had a heck of an evening.  Liam tried to choke (quite seriously) on a piece of a toy, which turned me into a trembling mess on the floor after rescuing him.  We went out to dinner and then the rain started again, so we walked home in a thunderstorm (which Benjamin later said was the best part of his day, so that wasn’t a total loss).  Then, Dan got stuck in the elevator coming home from dinner and had to be rescued by the fire department.

What a day.  The rain is nice.  I am tired.

Splashing in Puddles

This morning started off rainy (and cold).  While Dan & Liam napped together in the living room, Benjamin and I decided to take Bailey out for his morning walk.  I got B all suited up in his rain gear (which I haven’t been able to do for over a month) and we headed out into the rain.

Benjamin loves to jump in puddles.  I know that’s a kid thing, but I don’t know that I’ve ever seen someone with the endless enthusiasm he has for it.  He just doesn’t get tired of it.  I don’t think he would stop on his own until he fell down from exhaustion.  All along our path to Bailey’s walking spot, B splashed in puddles.  He doesn’t discriminate:  big or little, clean or dirty.  He splashes in them all, and all with great vigor.  He gets soaking wet.  He gets really dirty.  He doesn’t care.  (I am grateful that we now have our things, so we have plenty of clean pants for him to wear.)  He also doesn’t care what anyone thinks about what he’s doing (we sure did get some looks — this is apparently something Austrian grandmothers do not approve of).  He is completely “in the moment” and it’s a great thing to witness.  I feel so lucky to get to be a part of things like that.  We walked along with Bailey, and B jumped in puddles and asked me to help him put his hands in his pockets when he got chilly.  He is just the cutest thing.

Then, Dan & Liam joined us, and we headed to McDonald’s (I know, it’s a theme) to get coffee.  Dan & Liam went inside to order, while Benjamin and I stayed outside with Bailey (and the puddles).  After a few minutes, B decided he wanted to go in to join Dan, and not thinking about it overly much, I opened the door to let him in.  The floor was unbelievably slippery (Dan later said even the stroller had trouble) and B got a few steps away from me and fell flat on his face on the floor.  (My poor, sweet, little guy.)  I was still in the doorway, and when I went to go towards him to pick him up, I ended up with Bailey on the other side of the door and me still holding the leash.  Eek!  So, poor Benjamin is on the floor, crying, I’m stuck trying to extricate myself from Bailey and the door.  Two very nice guys who were standing there helped Benjamin up and helped him over towards me (which I am incredibly grateful for, but I don’t think I actually thanked them — I only had eyes for Benjamin).

Ugh.  Not one of my best mom moments.  We were having such a lovely morning, and then I do something short-sighted and poor B ends up getting hurt.  (He is fine — I don’t know how he managed it, but he ended up with only a little bruise.)  I had a really hard time not berating myself for it the rest of the day.  I think this is one of the hardest things about being a parent — I don’t mind suffering if I make a mistake, but it is torture to see one of my kids suffer for a mistake that I’ve made.  I hate it.

He’s ok.  To him, we still had a nice morning, and a great day.  I ended up the complete opposite of Benjamin and his puddles:  embarrassed, guilt-ridden and stressed out.  I’m trying to hold on to his perspective.  I *want* that to be my perspective.  But I also wish that the results of my imperfection could be visited only on myself.