It’s January and everyone is coming out of their holiday hibernation and going back to work. Vienna felt like it completely shut down during the holidays with restaurants closed for weeks, schools out until January 9th, and empty streets- except for the Christmas markets.
The weeks leading up to Christmas made Vienna feel like the winter holiday capital of the world. Everywhere I turned, there was a Christmas market beckoning me with its promises of warm and delicious glühwein, Christmas music, meats, cheeses, beautifully crafted but crazy expensive Christmas ornaments (that I had no hope of getting home in one piece), and the general feeling that Santa maybe does exist. However, the latter feeling is probably mostly from too much glühwein.
The Rathaus Christkindlmarkt
A warm-ish day at the Schloss Wilhelminenberg Christmas Market complete with Charlie Brown Christmas trees
Pro tip: ice skate before you start drinking
Sadly, for Christmas day, both E and I were sick with some evil virus that lingered through the holiday break. We ventured out with our friend Michael for a Christmas brunch of goose and boiled beef, both traditional fare. Promptly afterwards, we went home, popped obscene amounts of cold medicine and slept.
Thankfully, our snotty grossness was mostly gone by my birthday. Turning 29 on the 29th calls for special celebration, of course! Despite Anthony Bourdain‘s lackluster review, I had to try the Sacher Torte, dark chocolate cake with apricot jam and chocolate ganache. E took me to Demel’s Kaffeehaus for a proper lunch so we could stuff ourselves with the rich cake, and yes, you must try it. Demel’s version is lighter on the apricot jam than the original Sacher at Hotel Sacher that Bourdain tries. Side note, I find Bourdain’s Vienna episode of No Reservations a legit portrayal of Vienna during the holidays. He visits Gastwirtschaft Wratschko which we tried out for E’s birthday on December 12th. Easily the best meal we’ve had since arriving here. If you’re in Vienna, go and try anything on their handwritten menu which changes seasonally. The goose soup is perfect.
E and I spent the rest of the day exploring the Kunsthistorisches Museum which gives you free entry on your birthday, with a complimentary chocolate and a coffee at the cafe, and 10% gift shop items- don’t spend money if you don’t have to.
By New Year’s Eve, we were ready to go out and party with the rest of the city. Vienna boasts a fabulous evening full of fireworks, dancing, concerts, and general merriment along the Sylvesterpfad – the New Year’s Eve trail which winds its way through the city. Each stop had a different stage with non-stop concerts and more punsch than you could hope to drink before 2016 was out. We wound in and out of the crowds through St. Stephan’s, Am Hof, ending at the Rathaus for the fireworks display at midnight.
After all of the merriment of the holidays, I, like most, am feeling about 15 pounds heavier and sluggish but, unlike most, am very anxious to go back to work. In November, I started working as an English teacher at the Austro-American Institute of Education and remembered how much I missed being in a classroom. I started off with three Saudi Arabian teenagers which has been a unique challenge for me as I have never taught students whose native language was Arabic. It’s been pushing me to try new techniques with my lessons. Next week, I’ll be working with an Austrian college student on their bachelor’s thesis and in February and March, I’ll be working with a large group of Japanese college students who are at all different English levels. Having different age groups of students from all different cultural backgrounds and levels is really fun! My boss gives us teachers total freedom in our curriculum and teaching methods so I can be as creative as I want. It’s cloyingly cliche but it’s never work when you love what you’re doing. And on that annoying platitude, I bid you a good evening – tschüss!