Outside seating!

I’ve always loved being outside.  I don’t mind the weather — getting cold or wet doesn’t bother me.  I don’t even mind the summer heat if I’m outside and can stay out of the sun.  When I was in middle school and high school and my friends and I would get bored, I always suggested going for a walk.  (Which also partly explains why I have so few interestingly wild stories from that era.)

So I wait, all winter.  During the coldest and darkest months of the year, I still get out a fair bit, but winter takes away one of my favorite pieces of European living — sitting in a sidewalk cafe.  Going out for a cup of coffee is a treat anytime of year, but getting to enjoy it on the sidewalks of a grand Viennese square, reading a good book and watching the horse-drawn carriages go by is especially sweet.  And going out to eat, especially with the kids, is much more relaxed and enjoyable under the stars, where volume matters less and there’s always a place for them to get down and play.

I don’t really know if I can adequately convey how much enjoyment I get from sitting in the open air, enjoying Vienna and soaking every bit of it in.  It is one of my favorite parts of living here.  I like it way more than is probably reasonable.  I think it’s fantastic and wonderful and it brings together so many things I like at the same time — being outside, drinking coffee, relaxing, great people-watching opportunities and getting to really BE in Europe (because the inside of cafes are pretty much the same anywhere).

And now, my long, indoor, winter hibernation is ending.  The cafes are spilling out onto the sidewalks again, the street side tables are out, the umbrellas are going up.  Vienna is preparing for spring, and I am so happy to be able to enjoy the city in this way again.

Sitting outside

It’s still chilly in Vienna.  When I went out to get coffee (and an hour to myself) this morning, it was about 40.  Not too bad, but not yet quite springlike (especially with the nearly ever present wind).  But it must be almost spring here, because when I got to Starbucks, they had set up the outdoor seating area.

I hadn’t expected it, so I wasn’t dressed for it — I was dressed to spend an hour sitting inside drinking tea, which calls for significantly different attire than sitting outside in the wind drinking tea.  But I got my chai and grabbed a spot outside — not under an umbrella — I wanted to absorb every small bit of sunlight that managed to straggle through the clouds.  (I was surprised and impressed at how popular the outdoor seats were.  I don’t know if the rest of Vienna is as glad as I am to be able to enjoy their coffee outdoors again, or if all the smokers are just grateful to be able to drink their coffee and smoke at the same time.)

I was cold.  By the end of my hour, I was wrapped in my coat, had pulled my wool hat on as far as it would go and struggled to turn the pages in my book with my thickly gloved hands.  But it was glorious.  I hadn’t realized just how much I missed getting to enjoy the center of the city with a cup of tea and a good book.  My hours spent on my own will be more therapeutic and restorative now that they get to take place in the open air.

I had forgotten, too, how quiet Vienna has been in the winter.  It’s like the city has been hibernating since Christmas.  The squares have been sparsely populated.  By contrast, today was bustling — tourists with cameras bumping in to each other to get the best shot of the dome of the Spanish Riding School; bicycles flying up and down the streets, with and against traffic; horse drawn carriages, full of bundled people taking in the sights.  It reminded me that this is just a fraction of the activity that will fill the square as the weather gets warmer.

Being out on the square, being able to take all of this in while I relax and enjoy the city, is really why I love being able to sit outside.  I feel like I’m able to see and experience so much more, and, since I’m just sitting, I’m able to quietly observe the sights, sounds, smells and feel of Vienna much more deeply.  Sitting outside at Michealerplatz every week is part of what helped me fall in love with living in Vienna, and I’m so excited to have that back.