Christmas in Vienna

This year for Christmas we decided to do something different.  For the last three Christmases we have been in Ankara.  It is usually pretty quiet, there are some expat arranged parties, but somehow without family it seems a little hollow.  The malls are brightly decorated for New Years, but in Turkey Christmas has always seemed a little anti-climatic.  In the past we usually have a special dinner on Christmas Eve and go out to brunch on Christmas since I have to work the next day.  I am lucky to have an employer who give me Christmas Eve and Day off, many others have to work.   

This year the stars aligned and Christmas fell on a Monday and Tuesday, combined with my regular day off (Wednesday) and the weekend, gave me a five day break for Christmas.  My friend Lisa told me about the sales Turkish Airlines was having, and we decided to make the most of it!

Bülent was in the Czech Republic the week before Christmas, guest teaching at a couple of different universities.  We decided he would take a train and meet me in Vienna.  I was able to get a great flight out of Ankara on the Saturday before Christmas.   It was wonderful! The air in Vienna emanated Christmas cheer, we kept coming across Christmas markets, lured by the scent of sausages, cookies and hot punsch (a warm alcoholic beverage).

Rathausplatz Christmas Market

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Christmas Ornament Stalls

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We walked a lot during this vacation, we set out with a vague itinerary and then just ambled around the city.  We would have liked to go to more museums, but many things were closed for Christmas—naturally.

The Museum Quarter

Most days, we looked at the map before we left the hotel room, but not after.  We had a vague idea of where we were going, but did not feel the need to pull out the map and check to make sure we were going in the right direction.  It was an adventure, and planning everything and stressing out about where we we going would have ruined it.  For Christmas Eve, we ambled. We started out near our hotel at Rathausplatz, and walked by the Votive Church and the the University of Vienna. 

 

From there we checked out Hoher Markt. We went into some shops, everything was bustling as people were trying to finish their shopping to get home for Christmas Eve.  We visited some grocery stores and could not believe the price of produce.  I could get a kilo of apples in Ankara for what a single one cost there. 

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We saw the famed clock, but decided not to wait for its figurines to move across the face of the clock to show the passing of time. 

 

From there we headed to Stephansplatz and saw St. Stephen’s Cathedral.  It was so incredibly large that mist shrouded the upper levels and you couldn’t even see the whole steeple.

 

 

We found Stephansplatz, the area around St. Stephen’s Cathedral, to be a little too touristic. 

 

 

There were many of the same shops I would see in mall in the U.S. and Ankara.  There were some beautiful buildings, but the men in old fashioned cloaks hawking concerts were a little distracting.

 

After our walk we wet back to the hotel room, warmed up and relaxed.  Later we went out to the Rathausplatz Christmas Market for some punsch, then had a nice dinner.   Most of the Christmas Markets closed on the 23rd or the 24th, but the Schoenbrunn Palace Christmas Market was still open on Christmas.  We decided to go there for Christmas day.  The Christmas market was lovely and festive.  There were many food vendors and stalls selling souvenirs and gifts.  The Schoenbrunn Palace Museum was open as well.  We had coffee at the café, took a tour through the place and then wandered through the Christmas market buying gifts for family and friends.  There was even a band playing Christmas Carols in the center of the market. 2012-12-25 15.23.00

 

I have to say it was one of the most romantic and relaxing vacations we have had in a while.  Just the two of us, no distractions, for five whole days. It was also the most Christmassy Christmas I have had in a while.  I definitely think we will try to sneak away for a weekend at the Christmas Markets next year—Maybe it will be our new Christmas tradition! 

I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday season! 

Best wishes for the year 2013!

We Rock!

Or at least our party did!  We had a blast, so many of our friends came.  There was good food (I love potluck) and music, as well as liberal drinking, all the makings for a merry time.  Our different groups of friends got along really well and started to make friends with each other.  The party became standing room only, and was generally  fantastic.  Unfortunately we were so busy hosting we forgot to use our camera.  Hopefully some of our friends took pictures and I will share those.

The party was really great because it made it feel like Christmas.  It has been a little difficult for me, as this is my first Christmas away from my family.  The Christmas party was great for two reasons. First it kept me busy, second it was a blast and brought the “feeling” of Christmas.

I have been trying to focus on creating new holiday traditions rather than grieve for the old ones I can not participate in this year due to geography.  For Christmas Eve we went to a Symphony Concert which was really fun.  The music was lovely and it was something to really make the evening feel special. Tomorrow Bulent’s whole family is coming over for dinner.  It will have to be buffet style to accommodate everyone.  While the preparations for hosting  large party then a large dinner party so close together are challenging, it is worth it.  They have been so inclusive of me in their holiday traditions, I wanted to reciprocate and involve them in mine.  Plus it feels more like a holiday when your house is full of people.  Also when there is lots of wine—that makes it holiday-ish too.   Yes, I am Irish.  Can you tell?