Tag Archives: holidays

Holiday haiku

24 Dec

Wishing all my readers a very happy holiday season and a wonderful New Year!

Vanillekipferln 2019

23 Dec

It’s been a while since I’ve written about Vanillekipferln. For anyone who has not taken my word for how important Vanillekipferln are to the Viennese at Christmas let me quote a statistic from the Kurier: 71% of Austrians think of Vanillekipferln when they think of Christmas cookies. In Vienna I suspect that percentage is even higher. (I don’t have a sense that Vanillekipferln are quite as central to Christmas in Tirol and Vorarlberg, for example.) ­čśë

In any case, Merry Christmas to all my readers who celebrate Christmas!

Only in Austria?

5 Jan

Austria has the reputation of being “gem├╝tlich”–one of those words that is well-nigh impossible to translate. If you look in the dictionary, the primary suggestion is “comfortable” but “gem├╝tlich” means much more than that. It implies, among other things, an appreciation for a slower pace of life and a preference for quality of life (if a choice must be made) over standard of living as well as for relaxation over precision.

At the same time, it’s not uncommon for Austrians to be very pragmatic in their pursuit of “Gem├╝tlichkeit”. The image above, from today’s Kurier, informs readers of the best times to take vacation, where “best” is defined as getting the most days off while still using the fewest vacation days (and this in a country where five weeks of vacation per year is the legal minimum).

How does this work? Because Austria, unlike the U.S.A., celebrates its holidays on the day they happen, we have something called “window days” (“Fenstertage”). These are the days that fall between a holiday and a weekend. The graphic above shows where the window days fall in 2019, making it easier for people to get the most out of their vacation days.

Only in Austria?

“Guten Rutsch!” (~ “Good slide [into the New Year]!”)

31 Dec

Except that I have just read on the infoscreen of the Wiener Linien that it actually comes from a less-known meaning of the word “rutschen,” namely to travel. Bon Voyage into 2019!

Christmas spirit

24 Dec

According to U.S. American standards, the Viennese can be a bit grumpy, but there are signs that they can get into the Christmas spirit, too.

There is a beggar who stands outside my door most days. Over the years, we have built up something of a relationship. It’s sometimes a bit fraught (for example when no matter how much I’ve given he wants more) but we have worked out a way of getting along and even built a bit of a relationship. He’ll be off to Romania to see his family for Christmas tomorrow so today is his last day at work this year.

His Christmas present to me this morning, as I went off to the supermarket for a few last-minute items, was to simply wish me “Frohe Weihnachten” without asking for any money, acknowledging that the banknote I gave him on Saturday was my final contribution. My little extra present was to pick up some sweets for his children along with my shopping. Walking up to my door, I saw one of my neighbors slip him a can of beer. As I handed over the sweets, I smiled and something “Something for the father, something for the children.” He smiled back.

In the words of Scrooge’s nephew: “… I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come around, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them is if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.” (Dickens, “A Christmas Carol”, Peter Pauper Press version)

Merry Christmas to all my readers who celebrate Christmas!

Comings and goings

21 Dec

What a day! I wanted to get my pre-Christmas errands done today so that tomorrow I can do my bookkeeping and then I am on vacation. And I managed to get everything on my list done, plus one.

One of the first things Maylo and I did this morning was go to his vet’s. Her hours have changed and I’ve been busy, so I made one quick trip on my way home from work one day to pick up food for Maylo but had to go without him–and even in this digital age there are some things for which the physical beings need to be present. (I won’t go into details.)

I’m so glad we made it today. It was her last day of work before retirement. We might have missed her altogether and gone next year only to find an entirely new face and person there! We were able to say our thank yous and farewells and reminisce about December five years ago when we didn’t know if Maylo would keep his back leg after being hit by a car. (I always feel the need to say at this point that I was out of the country on a business trip when it happened, and Maylo was staying with people I know.)

On my final round of errands this afternoon, I found myself walking past a sewing notions shop (really, one of those specialty shops with every possible kind of button, thread, and clasp but with no fabrics). I’ve been going there off and on for years for those little things that can otherwise be hard to find. Remembering that I needed some Velcro, I stopped in–and discovered that the owner (a delightful, cheerful woman with all the expertise of an old-fashioned shopkeeper in Vienna) is also retiring. I’m glad I stopped in there, too, and was able to thank her for all her help over the years. I was also glad to meet her successor. I have been afraid for years that when she left, the shop would go.

But the title of this post is “Comings and goings,” which means that there is something new to report, too. A week or two ago I noticed a miniature shop called Deli Mediterraneo with Greek products. It is an exquisite, tiny shop with two Greek gentlemen who opened it on December 1. Although they also have expensive, truly gourmet things, they have some delicious olive oil, for example, at prices only slightly higher than the generic brand in my supermarket. And they let you taste them. Bliss.

I bought some Christmas presents there and promised to go back to pick up some things for the New Year’s Eve gathering I am hosting. I have already composed their back story in my mind. You may know that life in Greece is extremely difficult at the moment and has been for a number of years. My suspicion is that these two gentlemen decided to start over in a country where the economy is still in good shape. They were lovely and friendly, doing the best they could in the German they have learned, and I wish them all the very best. If you want to try out their olive oils or take a look at their cheeses and other products, then go to Alser Stra├če 39 (very near Humanic at the corner of Alser Stra├če and Skodagasse) and enjoy!

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception

8 Dec

The Trafik was closed this morning! I knew today is a holiday. When I woke up I suspected that was why I was able to sleep late on a Saturday. However, many years ago, the government decided to allow shops to open on Mari├Ą Empf├Ąngnis so that people could do their Christmas shopping. That made me think our Trafik would be open, too.

Instead, disappointment was great. Maylo pulled me over with great enthusiasm right up to the door and then looked at me as if to say, “What’s happening? Where are they?” And I had to explain that they were having a well-deserved day off.