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Between France and Germany

AUSTRIA | Monday, 30 November 2015 | Views [491]

I'd booked my flight to Vienna knowing that a 7:10 flight would involve leaving my apartment extremely early. I hadn't known what would happen one week before I left. So I was waking up Saturday before I'd gone to sleep the week before. It had been a strange week.

The airport and flight itself were uneventful which, as I've commented in the past, is about the most you can ask from an airplane trip. The security and passport checks weren't as tight as I was expecting. I'm not even sure they looked at my passport, and, although I was expecting them to take my magic scissors, they didn't. They didn't even take the hand sanitiser I'd forgotten I had, just got out a bag to put it in. One week after a huge (admittedly unrelated to airplanes) terrorist attack.

I was visiting Vienna to visit Vienna and meet up with Delaney, a friend from this summer. She was staying near the city centre, and advised what bus I should take. It came every half hour, and I was waiting for about 25 minutes. 10 minutes in, the bus pulled up but, when I stood up, the driver told me “10 minutes” and vanished. I talked a little with a French couple who were also waiting and, with stereotypical punctuality, the bus driver came back when he said and we were leaving 5 minutes later.

Delaney was waiting for me when I got off the bus, and we greeted each other and headed to her place. Her host mother was a doctor who lived in a huge apartment. From the sounds of it, at any given time she has 3-4 tenants, a study abroad student, and their guests. Oh, and she also holds house concerts and is a wonderful cook.

After settling in and looking around, Delaney guided me through a simple walking tour of Vienna. Her program brings her on tours every week or so, she's decently familiar with what it is that we're seeing, and who the important people in Vienna's cultural history are. (“The best move the Austrians ever made was convincing people Hitler was German and Beethoven was Austrian.”)

Quick summary to understand Austria: for large parts of its history, it wanted to emulate Germany. At the same time, the aristocracy wanted to be French royalty. Louis XIV was going “I'm king and I'll do what I want, neener neener,” the majority of France was whimpering off in a corner, and Austria was looking at Versailles and going “we need to get us some of that.” And they tried- there was a time when a quarter of the buildings in Vienna were palaces, and it was even possible to rent floors in a palace if you weren't wealthy enough to afford your own. (But they could never equal Versailles. Turns out gilding everything is really time-consuming and expensive.) It does make for a very pretty walk.

Statue in Vienna


We returned to the apartment, and I met Ashley, one of the individual people who were renting rooms there. He's British, a former ballet dancer and current photographer. Among the things he photographs are shows at the opera, so Delaney sometimes gets (extremely good) tickets there for free. He also speaks French, but hasn't had many people to speak it with, so the two of us talked in it for a while. It was a refreshing break from German.

For lunch, we went to a curry restaurant that was “eat what you want, pay what you like.” So it's a buffet, you serve yourself, and at the end, you give however much you are willing and able to pay. The curry is good, the desserts are amazing, and the concept is neat. It's apparently Ashley and Delaney's favorite restaurant.

Although it was considerably warmer than it was in Chicago, it was still kind of chilly, and by the time we'd walked back to the apartment, we were ready to go in and warm up for a bit. Once it was dark outside (around 16:00) we headed out for the Christkindlmarkts.


Honestly, there's not much difference between Christkindlmarkts. Some are larger, some are smaller. Some have an entrance fee. Some are historic, some are new. Theoretically, the shops are different, but if you're a non-connosieur looking at Christmas ornaments and glass jewellery, you probably can't tell. I know I can't. But the items were fun to look at, the environment was lit up and festive, and it was fun. When we got cold, we stopped for Gluhwein, a spiced and warmed wine with a shot of rum added for good measure. The flavor we had was raspberry, which was pretty good.


Then we went back to the apartment to be bugged by Ashley for about an hour to see if we were hungry yet. Delaney's host mother had prepared dinner for us, but she'd needed to leave, so it was up to Ashley to make sure we had warm food and dessert. Delaney and I had eaten a late lunch, but finally we agreed to eat around seven.

The food, though not French, was good. We had soup, a pasta dish, and I think pork. It was simpler and heartier than a French meal would have been, and it was also served with a single kind of wine and no cheese. Blasphemy.

I was also startled to realize how much Delaney's comment that you drink champagne throughout the meal horrified me. Champagne is clearly for the aperatif before the meal. You can't keep drinking it after real food is served! When did I become the kind of person with clear opinions of what kind of alcohol is acceptable at different points during a meal?

Tags: christkindlmarkt, shopping, tourism, vienna

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