Christmas in Vienna… sounds idyllic, right? And in many ways it was. However, even the most beautiful and Christmas-y places can only come second to being home. When I talked to Daddy on Christmas Eve I made a deal to never not be home for Christmas again… and I’m so OK with that.
In coming into Vienna from Salzburg I felt a bit like I returned to reality. Tourism being far and away Salzburg’s #1 industry, they cater exclusively to us and make everything clean and beautiful and perfect. This coupled with the ubiquitous Julie Andrews and Mozart make it seem a bit… Disney. Branding its own sort of charm, Vienna contrasts as a working, bustling city independent of edelweiss and schnitzel and even little Amadeus (though they certainly play their roles). It certainly is lovely, even the humblest of buildings have ornate carvings and are beautifully colored. So much history and culture are crammed into this town I feel like we barely scratched the surface. In hindsight, getting a city tour would have been nice. Pictures can be found here and highlights are as follows:
Schonbrunn Palace: Austrian version of Versailles (which we’re planning on seeing while we’re in Paris so I can compare and see who wins). Here, I discovered a new fascination with the Hapsburgs as well as a new fascination with fabric-covered walls. Especially damask. LOVE damask.
MAK: We readily admit and accept that we’re not exactly museum people. Despite appreciating art, I feel silly and self-conscious in museums (though I should admit I got a B in Darius Spieth’s Art History 1001 at LSU, I mostly blame that grade on the class being at 7:30 a.m., a time almost as ridiculous as the professor’s name). I never know: How long am I supposed to look at painting? What am I supposed to be thinking? Or am I supposed to be feeling? Am I supposed to be noticing the composition or the medium or the style more? Do I need to learn about the historical context to better appreciate the work? Or does all this depend on the artist or style? Do the answers to these questions even matter? But I overcame this neurosis at the MAK Museum of Applied Art in Vienna. I like the Applied Art genre because it, like advertising, embodies creativity that has a purpose, a characteristic that quiets the battle between my right and left-brain. Furniture, jewelry, textiles (my favorite), pottery, you get to celebrate its form AND function. Well, that checked off our Viennese museum (an adjective that gave mom trouble, she kept saying “Vietnamese,” haha).
Christkindlmarkts: Scattered all over the city, we had planned on seeing a few of these Christmas markets but enjoyed some bonus ones that happily popped up in our paths. They were lovely and I like the opportunity to compare them to the French ones (Austria has more punch options and obligatory mugs), though I think I’ll allow Strasbourg to keep its “Capital of Christmas” title. Tried more Gluwein (once with rum and another with amaretto) and ate some Bratwurst like a hot dog, which may be the Austrian answer to the “best thing I ate” question. The sausage is just good. Concerning sweets, after having it three different ways, I think I’m maxed out on the Austrian default dessert Apple Strudel.
Midnight Mass: For both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we had a nice dinner (only one served strudel). Austrians typically celebrate more on Christmas Eve with opening presents and following a large dinner with midnight mass. So, we did the same. Though we had to stand for the crowd, I feel so lucky to have been in St. Stephen’s Cathedral (aka the Stephansdom) for Midnight Mass. To be celebrating one of the most important Christian holidays in the most important church in one of Europe’s important cities was a singularly unique and special experience.
An Austrian priest wrote “Silent Night” in the area around Salzburg in 1819. They even commemorate where it first played. Because of this, and the fact that it’s a great song, Austrians love and sing it ALOT. Though they obviously sang it in German it was nice to hear something so familiar during a Christmas experience that bore little resemblance to any of my previous. But my holiday was good, though different and I thought often of everyone back home. I love you, I miss you, and Merry Christmas.