Tag Archives: holidays

Pentecost Monday (holiday)

21 May

I found myself early-ish this morning, about 20 minutes on foot from Stephansplatz, the heart of the city, walking along in peace and quiet with a thrush singing from a rooftop on my right and a dove cooing in the park on my left. My heart sang along.

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May Day 2018

1 May

Many years on I still can’t get over it–public transportation is running today. My first year in Vienna I was invited to lunch by friends. In plenty of time, I went to the bus stop only to find that public transport wasn’t running because it was not only a public holiday, it was the First of May and therefore Labor Day, the day we celebrate by not working. In those days, the Social Democrats had an absolute majority in Vienna (“Red Vienna,” after all). They mainly represent blue-collar workers (“Arbeiter” or laborers) and tram, bus, and train drivers count as blue-collar workers. They were freed from work until 2 p.m. so that they could enjoy the parades and other festivities. On that day I walked to lunch.

How times have changed. The Social Democrats have not had the absolute majority for many years. I know there was a lot of corruption in the party. Some of the most spectacular bankruptcies of the 1990s (I’m thinking particularly of the supermarket chain Konsum) were due to the mismanagement and corruption of people closely tied to the SPÖ (the Austrian Social Democratic Party). At the same time, many of the aspects that year after year take Vienna to the top of quality of life rankings are thanks to the Social Democrats–the great public transportation, amazing cultural life, super public facilities like swimming pools and skating rinks, humane public housing, low crime rate, and perhaps that most fantastic institution, the Vienna Woods. There is little hope that the new “turquoise” and blue government (a coalition of the new branch of the Conservatives and the right-wing nationalist Freedom Party) will carry on those traditions. How times have changed, here as elsewhere.

St. Patrick’s Day in Vienna

17 Mar

This scene was accompanied by music from a brass band in best Austrian tradition, but I was drawn by the sound of the pipes that preceded it.

Heringschmaus

10 Feb

“Heringschmaus” (one contributor to the online dictionary at leo.org suggested “herring delight” as a translation) is a traditional feast on Ash Wednesday. Now, if that sounds contradictory to you, then you are not alone. I come from the Protestant tradition, where there was certainly no feasting on Ash Wednesday. It was a day of great solemnity and deprivation, even though when I was a child we didn’t celebrate anything like Carnival so had nothing to recover from or make up for.

In the Austrian context–one of moderation in all things, even moderation–Heringschmaus makes sense, though. It goes along with the dearly held belief, in the meantime supported in some ways by medical studies, that eating “sour” things like pickles helps alleviate the symptoms of a (Mardi Gras) hangover. (The herring in this case is pickled and is eaten with pickled vegetables like beets and cabbage.) It also complies with the Catholic idea that eating fish is somehow penance (no meat).

What to do this year when Ash Wednesday coincides with Valentine’s Day? The Kurier is suggesting Heringschmaus by candlelight. Just thought I’d pass that tip along. 😉

Three Kings 2018

6 Jan

Just went out with my dog and discovered a large group of Japanese tourists walking around looking somewhat at a loss. It’s Three Kings today and a holiday in Austria  and therefore the shops are closed. Poor things. Their tour guide doesn’t seem to have taken that into account.

Holiday Opening Hours 

2 Jan

I went off today with some doubt to one of the public universities where I teach. I needed to pick up exams to grade, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get in. I suspect many years ago, when I first arrived in Vienna, that the university would have been closed through Three Kings Day (January 6). Today I used my key card and got in with no trouble. From the lights visible in offices I could even see I was not alone. Quite a surprise for me.

The Third Day of Christmas

27 Dec

What a surprise it was to step onto the street today shortly after 8 a.m. for the first walk of the day and find people and cars and open shops and simply activity in general!

For many, my surprise will be incomprehensible. Was it really so quiet the last few days? Yup. Shops usually close in Vienna at midday on Christmas Eve and remain closed for Christmas Day and the Feast of Saint Stephen (known in the UK as Boxing Day). This year, however, Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday, when most shops are closed all day anyway, which meant that we have had three days of wonderful peace and quiet (and a most unusual abundance of free parking spaces) with the Viennese enjoying one of their favorite things–Ruhe (also known as peace and quiet).