4th Viennaversary

We arrived here in early April of 2011, amid the persistent wind and intermittent rain that characterize what is still early spring here.  I remember standing outside of the airport in a cold drizzle wondering what I had gotten myself into and feeling slightly mystified that I had truly moved my family to another continent.

That feeling of mystification returns every year when the anniversary of our arrival passes.  Each time I have to double check my math — we’ve been here HOW long?  And this year was the same.  The weeks leading up to our “Viennaversary” were spent stressing about whether Dan’s new contract would really be signed, so then, suddenly, it was the beginning of April and I was again counting years on my fingers to ensure I hadn’t fumbled the math.  We really have been here 4 years.

This year, our “anniversary” fell on the Monday after Easter, so Dan had the day off of work and the boys were out of school, so we were able to do something to mark the occasion.  The weather was a bit chilly and breezy with lots of big, fluffy springtime clouds, but the sun that was getting through was bright and we had recently had temperatures which were some of the warmest we’d seen since the fall, so we (I) decided we should mark the occasion with a hike in the Vienna Woods to a part of Vienna we had yet to visit.

We had done the first part of this hike last spring, so the plan was to catch up with the trail (by bus) where we had left off and to complete the rest of the route, which was largely downhill.  To get to our starting point, we had to take the bus up to the hills overlooking the northwest of Vienna, and it would take us nearly an hour to get out there.  The kids were less enthusiastic than Dan and I, (when I say “hike”, the whining usually starts right away), but they, too, were suffering from a bit of Vienna winter stir craziness and were complaining more out of habit, I think, than actual objection.  They packed a few toys and supplies (i.e., candy from their Easter baskets) and dutifully suited up for the day’s adventure.

I had made a slight miscalculation, however.  While it had been breezy, sunny and warmish in the heart of the city, it was windy, solidly overcast and quite cold at the top of the hill.  We had brought hats and gloves, but we were dressed for 50 degrees and breezy with sun, not 30 degrees and windy with no sun.  We were all pretty cold, but wanted to make the most of our trip.  On the plus side, we were able to sneak a few peaks through the leafless branches, views that would have been obscured by greenery later in the spring or summer.  We were looking for crocuses and daffodils among the leaves, and attempting to keep the kids interested, which worked relatively well.  But by the time we’d been walking for 20 minutes, it has begun to snow.


I love being outdoors, and I’m up for a hike in almost any weather, but even I had to admit that this wasn’t quite what I’d meant to sign us all up for (nor was it what we’d come prepared for).  We trekked on down the hill to Kahlenberg, with a beautiful 1377(though cloudy) view over the city, and made it about another 100 yards before Liam began stridently complaining about his frozen face, and we all decided that perhaps this battle would best be fought another day.

In all, we lasted only about 45 minutes and about 1.2 miles before we gave up and headed for home.  We had walked the distance between two adjacent bus stops.

But, it was, as so much of this adventure has been, at least memorable.  I learned my lesson that marginal hiking conditions at 500 feet above sea level do not necessarily reflect acceptable hiking conditions at 1600 feet.  And, though it was brief, we did, indeed, see a part of Vienna we had not seen before.

We all went home to thaw out, and I was undaunted in my wish to one day finish the hike.  As for our 4th Viennaversary, however, we finished the celebration cozy at home.

Another Easter

I love Easter time in Vienna.  They really celebrate it here, and not just with chocolate bunnies and going to church — not that I’m opposed to either of those things, but both of them have limited appeal in my life these days.  Easter is widely and truly celebrated in Vienna, and though its roots are religious, not all of the celebration is.  It is similar to (though of a different scale) than the wonderful Viennese Christmas celebrations.  In Vienna, there are Easter markets, several days off from work and school and a general feeling of festivity that flows through the city.  In the same way that Christmas feels very much like a celebration of having made it through darkest part of the winter, Easter feels like a victory celebration — spring has returned, with brighter days and (slightly) more warmth.

Easter is also our unofficial anniversary in Vienna.  We arrived just before Easter and visited an Easter market right after having found our apartment.  The best Easter market in all of Vienna (in my opinion) is that same one we first happened upon, and it is right across the street from our house.  So, as always, we visited that market several times in the weeks leading up to Easter.

I always enjoy wandering through all of the markets.  I love seeing the intricate, painstakingly decorated eggs.  I enjoy the food and the shopping, and I always make a point to visit the bunnies in their market stall.  This year, the silver lining to the catastrophic mirror crash of last spring was that I actually got to shop for eggs — after our first few years, I had put myself on an “only one a year” plan, because we were collecting so many.  But, after about half of our collection met its end under a very heavy broken mirror last year, we “needed” some new ones.



We also enjoyed some fun Easter activities.  The boys painted eggs and played games at the markets, and we colored eggs at home (a process I’m finally getting the hang of here).  The boys did sweet arts and crafts at school, too.  I just love it.  I love being out in the city as the days begin to get noticeably longer, and as the sun begins to be ever slightly warmer.



1255As is our tradition, the boys celebrated Easter morning with a hunt for eggs, and we followed that with a trip outdoors.  For the first time, we actually visited an Easter market on Easter morning — I had no idea they were open on the big day!  But, it turns out that they are (or at least the one close to us is), and it was a fun way to observe the morning.  We visited the bunnies at the market again (closely scrutinized by the boys so they could attempt to discern which one was THE Easter Bunny), bought some flowers, and even stopped in to an ACTUAL church during Easter service — though just for a minute (which was actually really nice).


Then, in the afternoon, we were lucky enough to have been invited to join some friends and their family for Easter dinner, which was lovely.  Holidays are incredibly hard when you’re far from home, and getting to be with friends, rather than just celebrating with ourselves, was a nice change.  (Plus we got the added benefit of someone else preparing most of the meal — and it was someone who actually enjoyed doing it!)

All in all, we had another great Easter here in Vienna.  We had a lovely lead up to the day, enjoying the markets and the springtime weather.  And then, on Easter itself, we enjoyed the company of good friends, and the boys got to eat way more chocolate than they probably should have.  In short, a good time, and a happy Easter, was had by all.

The light in autumn

The light here is different than it was at home.  The summer days are longer, the winter days are shorter.  The angle of the light changes more noticeably throughout the year — in the winter here, even at noon, the sun is not overhead and we get, at best, a kind of weak sunlight that is neither very cheering nor very warming, even on the brightest of days.  In the autumn, the light is beautiful.  It is mostly golden, and has that wonderful “late afternoon” look all day long.  Everything touched by the sunlight looks like it’s glowing, and the trees, already golden, look like they’re on fire when the light catches them.  Sometime in the fall, the sun stops coming in directly through our kitchen window in the afternoons, and in the mornings, it no longer comes through our living room windows.  We have to wait again until spring comes around again to see it streaming across the floor.  As the autumn moves towards winter, we lose the “afternoon” effect of the light and move into a state where it seems to be perpetually early evening — a state which persists throughout the winter.

Just now, it is spring again, and we’ve begun to get our sunlight back.  Sitting in the living room in the mornings, the sun shines directly on our couch now — something it hasn’t done since the fall.  Just a few days ago, I was suddenly blinded by a ray of sunlight coming through the window, and I had a moment of confusion until I remembered that yes, that is normal — we just haven’t seen it for a while.  Spring is here, and we’re finally getting our sunlight back.

I love Vienna in the springtime

In the US, today is Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, day of barbecues and pool openings.  At home, by late May, we would have had the air conditioning running for a few weeks, and high temperatures in the 80s would be considered good fortune, since 90 is just as common.  For all practical purposes, late May in Maryland and Virginia is summertime.

But here, it isn’t.  May is still really and truly springtime in Vienna, and I love it.  The trees are still budding and flowering, the first roses have yet to come out, and I still can’t put the jackets and sweaters away.  (Although, the weather in Vienna being as unpredictable as it is, I will leave out a sweater for each of us all summer, and we will most likely use them.)  All through May, we’ve had varied weather — wet days and dry ones, warm days and chilly ones, wind some days, thunderstorms on others.  Our warmest days this month were in the mid-70s, and we’ve had nights that have gotten as cool as 40.  Today, it is raining on and off, with a forecast high of 57 (although it’s nearly 3:00 now and only 48 outside, so I somewhat doubt we’ll get any warmer).  It’s jacket weather . . . on Memorial Day.

I absolutely love that we get to experience a real spring here.  Summer will come — we’ll have 90+ degree days, some even with humidity — but I’m in no hurry.  I’m enjoying rewriting May in my mind as springtime.

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.

Schönbrunn in the spring

20130428-160412.jpgOur first two Aprils in Vienna were pretty much the same — lots of wind, a fair bit of rain and mostly chilly days, with just enough warm and sunny moments to give us hope that spring was really coming.  This year has been completely different.  Less than a month ago, we were lamenting the snow and continuing winter, wondering when we’d be able to enjoy the outdoors again and waiting for the flowers to bloom.  And today — this whole past week, actually — has been sunny and warm.  Shorts weather.  Bordering on hot, and necessitating sunscreen.

20130428-160447.jpgIt’s like we skipped spring altogether, which is kind of unfortunate, since it’s been one of my favorite things about living in Vienna.  (The US mid-Atlantic, where I’m from, is notorious for skipping right from winter to summer. It’s considered perfectly normal to switch from using the central heating to the air conditioning in less that a week’s time.)

But, although I do kind of wish we’d made a more gradual transition to warm temperatures, I’m not going to waste the beautiful weather worrying about it (besides, it’s equally likely that May will be cold and wet since April really hasn’t been).  So today we got outside to enjoy it.

20130428-160519.jpgWe gave B a selection of options to choose from for our day, and he chose a trip to Schönbrunn, so we packed ourselves up and headed out there.  We ran down shaded pathways, looked in the dirt at lots of bugs, visited Neptune’s Fountain, and climbed part of the way up the hill to the Gloriette (and then, of course, ran back down).  We enjoyed the sun and the beautiful blue sky and the wonderful backdrop of imperial Vienna.  And we marveled at the fact that while we sweated and worried about shade and sunburn today, we were at the Schönbrunn Easter market less than a month ago, shivering in our winter coats.

It’s been a strange spring in Vienna, but we were glad to make the most of a summery day at Schönbrunn today.  B made a great choice, and we had a great day.





Haircut time!


Liam, before

I think it must be innate — the weather gets warmer, the flowers bloom, and everyone decides they need a haircut.  (I think maybe it’s like shedding, for people.)  Dan has been talking about needing to cut his hair for weeks, I’ve been deciding if I want to brave getting my hair cut here again, and Liam’s hair has been starting to get too long even for my taste.


Liam, after

The day before yesterday, I decided to tackle Liam’s hair (again).  I’ve cut it a few times before, under the general assumption that it’s hard to screw up curly hair too badly, but with my dual goals of keeping it out of his eyes and keeping the long curls, it has starting looking a little mullet-like after my attempts.  Before he starts school in the fall, I’ll probably resort to having him trimmed by a professional (which worries me, because I’ve had bad luck and heard bad stories, and I worry about his curls) but I decided to do it again this time, with a little more research beforehand.  As a result, I left the longest pieces on the top of his head pretty much alone and focused on trimming the pieces that fall in his eyes, as well as the long parts in the back that don’t really curl anyway.  I’m no stylist, but I think this was my best effort so far.


Benjamin, before (please ignore the dinosaur)

B decided last night that he, too, needed a new haircut (perhaps inspired by Liam’s new style? . . . probably not) so he & Dan went to get their hair done today.  I was kind of surprised by how short of a style B chose, but he likes it a lot and I think he’ll be cool and cute for summer (it’s also the most popular style with the other boys at school, so I’m not THAT surprised).So now it’s just me! Maybe it’ll be my turn next . . .  Happy spring haircut season!


B, after

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.


April (snow) showers

20130403-143428.jpgI think that I like winter more than the average person, and I know that I love a snowy day more than is typical (for an adult).  But, it’s spring.  It’s April.  Vienna doesn’t seem to have gotten the news.

I first wrote something about letting Benjamin take his time getting to school so he could enjoy what might be the last real snow of the season in mid-February, 7 weeks ago.  He’s gotten to enjoy at least half a dozen snowy walks to school since then, and been sledding.  My farewell to winter back when it WAS winter was apparently premature.

It’s snowing again in Vienna.  We woke up to white roofs and big, fat snowflakes falling.  It’s supposed to snow all day, and through much of the night.  Today is the last day on the current weather forecast with snow expected (although in Vienna, that doesn’t mean much) so I’d like to say that maybe this really is the last one.  I wouldn’t want to risk extending the jinx that I might have caused in February, though, so I’ll just say that I’m hoping to get to wear something on my feet other than winter boots sometime soon.

March is still winter in Vienna, too

When we left for our weekend trip to Salzburg last Thursday, it was (amazingly) not snowing.  Lately it has felt like we miss all the good winter weather — the two best snowstorms in Vienna this year happened when we were skiing in central Austria and when we took our trip to Italy.  We left on the first day of spring, and we expected to return to spring (much like we expected to find spring in Salzburg).

014While we were gone, it snowed in Salzburg.  It also snowed in Vienna, which was rather a surprise to us, because there hadn’t been any snow in the forecast for Vienna.  But we woke up yesterday morning to Facebook stories and pictures from our friends, showing a snow-dusted Vienna.

We got back, and it was still snowing.  We had snow accumulation on our uncovered, but somewhat sheltered, terrace.  We went to bed, it was snowing.  We woke up, it was snowing.  It has snowed all day.  The outdoor café tables are covered.  The daffodils and crocuses that had bravely pushed up through the ground are covered.  The forecast calls for more snow tomorrow (all day) and more later in the week, too.  Looks like winter isn’t done with us yet.