Storm in the mountains

After our fantastic experience with Sommerrodelbahn, we did the only thing we really could have the next day — we went back!  This time, we did 5 whole round trips, and we were becoming pretty well expert at the whole process.  Liam still wanted to ride with me, and B wanted to ride with Dan, so that’s how we did it again the second day.  We all got braver and went even faster — I only used the brakes when Liam told me to, and Dan actually let B drive for several of their trips down.  It was just as much fun the second time.

1366This time, though, I opted not to bring my phone (I spent much of the first day worried that it would skip out of my pocket on either the way up on the lift, or on the way down in the sled), so instead I’ll share a few pictures of the big thunderstorms that came through later that afternoon . . . and a picture of B playing with a cat, because it’s cute.  (I’m really grateful that we didn’t get caught up on the chairlift in that weather!)

It was quite an experience to watch the storm roll in to the northwestern edge of the valley, and then move across towards us at the southeastern end.  At first we could see the rain falling as it approached, but as the storm moved closer, we gradually lost sight of more and more of the distant mountains, then the valley, and then everything that wasn’t right in front of us.  Behind the storm, the air got cold, so unlike our first few days in Sankt Koloman, where we were trying to keep cool in the evenings by staying out on the balcony, this night I had to come inside after just a little while, because I couldn’t keep warm.





Snow envy

I live in Austria.  AUSTRIA.  Generally, there are two things that come to mind when I tell people I live here: “The Sound of Music” and snow covered mountains.  Vienna, however, is not in the mountains.  It’s a relatively hilly city, and we can often SEE snow covered mountains off to the west, but Vienna itself is not mountainous.


Snow on the mountins, off to the west of Vienna (but not here)

It’s also just not very snowy here.  Vienna, being on the leeward side of the Alps (which are big and stick up way into the sky) is quite a dry place.  All the rain and snow fall on the other side of the mountains (or on top of them).  Considering all forms of precipitation (frozen or otherwise) we get just over half as much as my hometown in the US on average throughout the year.

We get plenty of cold here, but not a lot of moisture, which means that Vienna is not the snow-covered winter wonderland that many imagine.  This year, we’ve gotten only a few snowy days, and only one of those added up to an inch of snow accumulation.  Back at home, meanwhile, they’ve been absolutely inundated, which leaves me in the surprising situation of living in Austria and pining for a Washington, DC winter.

My friends from home think I’m crazy.  But I love the snow, and, living here, we’re pretty much immune to any potential negative consequences of it — we don’t have anything to shovel, we don’t have to clear off a car, we don’t have to drive anywhere.  For us, living in Vienna, snow just makes everything prettier and gives the kids a chance to play and sled with their friends at school.  It would be nice to have at least ONE nice, snowy day this winter.

So far, the only real snow we’ve experienced this year was while we were home in Maryland over Christmas.  Everyone at home is pretty well sick of snow while we’re here waiting for our first real snow of the season . . . and waiting, and waiting . . .

First snow

It’s been chilly for a while here in Vienna.  Highs in the 40s, lows just above freezing.  Perfectly normal, of course, for this time of year in this part of the world.  Because we spend a fair bit of time outside (not having a car means that our daily routines involve a lot of walking and/or waiting for public transportation), it’s easy to lose perspective and feel like 42 with a good breeze is cold.

Vienna was happy to remind us today that THAT is not cold and that we’ve actually been very lucky this year (last year, we had snow before Halloween).  We woke up to 34, snow and real wind.  NOW it’s winter.  Now we remember what cold feels like!  Today (as the temperature fell through the morning — thank you, Vienna) we had the kind of wind that takes your breath away and can, when it gusts, literally move your feet sideways on their way to their intended destination or make forward progress literally impossible.  And that’s for me — the kids are lucky to not actually be blown over.

So it is now really, properly cold here (it’ll get worse, but the forecast for the week indicates that our days of coasting in the 40s are probably over for the season).  We only got a few festive flurries and a light dusting on the grass today, but I’m glad to have had a little snow today.  (If we’re going to be frozen, it might as well feel festive!)  With a strong, cold wind, a little snow, and dusk that falls around 3:30 in the afternoon, it truly feels like winter in Vienna again.  (And, it feels like it really is almost Christmas!)


I think I may have mentioned it about 1,000 times so far, but I really love the weather here in Vienna.  I love how it’s generally pretty cool (not counting July and August), I love that rain is just a fact of life (pretty much everyone carries an umbrella everywhere, all the time), I love the snow in the winter, I even like how cold it is, and for how long, once winter arrives.  (I’d much rather be cold than hot, and bundling up to be outside makes it even nicer to come back into a cozy house.)  And although I miss thunderstorms (they’re pretty rare here — we get only a few per year), I do really love the wind.

Vienna gets very, very windy.  Often.  The wind whips right down out of the mountains and across Vienna.  It rattles the windows, and howls through the window frames and under the doors.  (It really does.  I’m not being poetic.  And I love the German word for the sound the wind makes — raunen.  It’s perfect.)

We had another very windy night, the night before last.  Even with only a few windows in the house cracked open a bit, the doors around the inside of the house blew closed in the night, the wind moaned outside and the rain splattered the windows.  It was a great night to be snuggled up at home.  It’s just the middle of September, but fall is definitely here and winter is already on its way.  (The high temperature here yesterday was only about 55, and that happened around 7 this morning.)  I love it.

Again, autumn

We woke up this morning to cool, crisp air.  Fall comes on pretty early in Vienna.  A few weeks ago, near the end of August, we woke up one morning and we knew that summer was over.  That’s how it happens here.  Something in the air and the light changes, and you just know that summer has left Vienna and it won’t be back until June or July next year.  The heat is gone, there is no more humidity, the breezes are cool, the evening starts to come noticeably earlier.  Summer was over.

Today feels like the next piece of the transformation.  Today doesn’t just feel like “not summer”, today feels like fall.  It’s still warm today, but last night was quite cool.  Each morning, for the past few days, there have been little piles of leaves in the courtyards and at the bottom of the escalators in the U-bahn stations.  I know we’ll use the a/c less and less, it will start to rain more often, and, in what feels like just moments, it will be time to bundle up the whole family every time we leave the house.

For now, though, it’s fall, my favorite season.  And fall in Vienna is really lovely.  Cool, crisp, breezy and beautiful.  Vienna is such a lovely city, and there are so many outdoor areas to explore.  The pumpkins are showing up at the market already (to eat, not to carve), as well as the apples.  Fall has arrived.  And now that I have some free time (Liam is doing a great job of adjusting to school — I think tomorrow may be my first day of not lingering in the area of the school, just in case he needs me), I am looking forward to exploring.

No rain, no rainbows

On both of our trips to the British Isles, we’ve had incredible luck with the weather.  (We actually seem to have fantastic luck with the weather wherever we go.)  England and Ireland are known for being gray and rainy.  And although we’ve had more dry days than wet ones when we’ve been there, I’ve never been disappointed by a rainy day in the UK or in Ireland.  After all, the only way the countryside can be so wonderfully lush and green is for a lot of rain to fall.  Not only that, but we kind of WANT to have appropriately British weather when we’re visiting Britain — otherwise, it feels like we’re kind of missing out on some of the experience.


In addition to making everything vibrantly green, the persistent rain showers in England also seem to create excellent rainbows.  We saw several rainbows during our most recent trip (all of them in England, although I have to imagine that Ireland can spawn some impressive rainbows as well — not only because it’s an equally drizzly country, but also because of the ubiquitous folklore and imagery that ties Ireland and rainbows together) but one was particularly outstanding.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  It was a double rainbow, and the bottom arch was visible across it’s entire length — from the ground, up into the sky and back to the ground again.  We were so struck by how vivid and complete it was that we pulled the car over and got out to see.  For the first time in my life, I could actually SEE the rainbow’s end (it was at the base of a tree in a cow field not very far from where we were).  I’ve always been a bit perplexed by the whole “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow” thing, because I’d never before been able to see where a rainbow ended.  They have always dissolved far above the ground, leaving a vague sense of their destination.  But this one was clear.  It was amazing, and it lasted for quite a while (we stopped, stared, exclaimed, gazed at it and took lots of pictures before getting in our car and heading to dinner, and it was still there).  As the rain shower which created it marched off down the valley, the rainbow shifted slowly up the hillside, but only lost a bit of its clarity.


We were so impressed that we were still talking about it the next morning at breakfast, and mentioned it to our host, who smiled and gave us a look that clearly said, “Yeah, you’re not from around here.”  I guess the perfect rainbows just come along with the verdant hills and the need to carry a raincoat everywhere.  Just another amazing thing from that part of the world.

Heat day

We did go to Paris, and we had a wonderful time.  I’ll write about that soon, but for now, all I can think about is how hot it is here . . .

Except for a few weeks of the year, I love the weather in Vienna.  Winter — great.  Spring and fall — amazing (and they actually exist here as entities separate from almost-summer and nearly-winter).  Even the summer here is typically pretty lovely.  But when it gets really hot, we get miserable.

We live in the 6th floor of a 6 story building, in what used to be the attic until it was converted into an apartment about 20 years ago.  The elements add up to an uncomfortable situation:  a) heat rises, so we get the heat, b) we don’t get the fantastic insulation of the thick stone wall construction typical in most old Austrian buildings, because that isn’t how they built the attic, c) we can’t really open the windows properly because we’re 6 floors up and there is very little preventing one of the kids climbing out one of the windows and d) even though this apartment was (relatively) recently constructed, it still doesn’t have air conditioning.  So, we’re on the top floor, poorly insulated, little window ventilation and no air conditioning.  It is not nice in this apartment when it is hot outside.

It’s not brutally hot in Austria most of the time.  Our first summer in Vienna we had one week of 90+ temperatures (30+ if you think in Celsius) and it wasn’t until the end of July.  I freaked out about the heat, and we bought an air conditioner, but that really was the only week of awful hot weather we had that summer.  Last summer, we skipped most of the hot weather in July and early August by being in the US (although we had plenty of hot weather there) but still got about a week and a half of 90+ in August.

We’ve never had unpleasantly hot weather before in June.  But when we woke up in Paris yesterday morning, it was unpleasantly hot.  And when we landed in Vienna yesterday afternoon, it was hotter.  After we got home, opened the windows and aired out the apartment, it was 91 degrees in our house.  INSIDE our house.  Using our window a/c units, we got it down to 86 this morning (it was as low as 78 in the boys’ room — they have an a/c unit just for their room, and the other one is attempting to cool the living room, and we just leave the rest of the house as it is).  I’m hoping, hoping, hoping that this streak of hot weather in June means we’re done with it for the summer, not that the entire summer is going to be like this.

I’ve said it before, and it’s true — it’s not the hot days that get to me, it’s the hot nights.  91 degrees in the house is really not comfortable, but I find trying to sleep in an 88 degree bedroom pretty much impossible.  Being hot, without a break, for so many days in a row (it got hot here on Monday — we missed the first day because we were in Paris — and it’s not supposed to cool down to reasonable levels, during the day or the night, until Friday night) is grueling.  It drains all of my energy and makes me pretty crabby.

And so, I’ve declared today a “heat day” (like a snow day, but in the summer).  I have no intention of doing anything or going anywhere today.  I’m not going to try to clean the house or accomplish any of the tasks on my to-do list (which is looking pretty impressive, considering we just got back from out of town).  I’m going to play cars, watch tv, and drink as much iced coffee as possible.  (And I’ll try to post some of our Parisian adventures over the next few very hot days, too.)  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the weather forecasters are as wrong as they usually are, and that we wake up tomorrow to the low 80s with a nice breeze . . .

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.