Monday, October 29, 2012

Snowing in Vienna

Waking up and looking out to see the old red rooftops covered in snow gave me an intense rush of nostalgia.  Granted, it’s October and the snow softly fell overnight much sooner than expected, but I was glad to see it had come.  I felt like I had suddenly looked out into the quiet world of a Thomas Kinkade painting, rooftops dusted with white powder, the warm ground still wet, and hunched over people bustling down the street under out-of-season umbrellas.  All I needed was a horse-drawn carriage, and the scene would be set (to be honest, if I had waited long enough, I probably would have seen one; Vienna has its own industry built around carriage rides).

 A very light dusting of snow on the Museumsquartier.

It’s funny, though the Halloween season which is so popular in America is currently upon us, you only see traces of it here in Vienna.  They don’t really do Halloween like we do – no carved pumpkins, no candy from strangers, and only a slight trace of costume on the weekends.  The season is more of a fall festival than anything.  Pumpkin is ripe in the markets, as is squash and roasted chestnuts (which are delicious), the leaves fall much longer than they do in Minnesota.  The common drink is Sturm, or pre-wine made from fermenting grapes which have not quite reached the level of real-wine.  

 Roasted chestnuts.

Between now and Christmas, I find myself wondering what these people do.  At home we have Thanksgiving, which I've often explained to my students.  The conversation always goes a little like this: "Well, we get together.  And eat a lot of food.  Pumpkin pie, turkey, stuffing, corn.  And watch football."  Then I have to explain to them the tradition from which the holiday came: "Well see, it's a little bit questionable, but they say that a bunch of Indians... oh sorry, Native Americans (write that word down in your notebooks, not Indians) ... helped the Pilgrims ... um, write that one down too (followed by scribbles) survive by sharing food."  "You mean American football, right?"

Only a few weeks ago I was warm in the lazy autumn sun, sitting on the street side at my favorite cafés and enjoying a Wiener Melange or Espresso.  Jacket optional.  Now, it’s dipped below freezing and flecks of cold ice tumble into my face as I walk down the streets.  They say that the seasonal change here is much gentler, but really it just sneaks up on you.  You’ll get the tease of warm days, reminiscent of summer aside from the thick fall smell, and then all of a sudden it’s raining and cold, foggy and overcast.  

It's been looking like this for the past week - I suppose it was
inevitable that it had to snow sometime.  It just seems so soon! 

I’ve had the last week off due to Midterms (which weren’t really midterms – one German one and then the rest, for me, were just essays, due before the midterms week even started) and many of my classmates chose to travel.  I didn’t.  Again, I felt that it was more important that I stay and savor Vienna instead of tout around Europe in a clueless frenzy of ‘need-to-see-this, need-to-see-that’.  However, I did make travel plans for two weeks from now to get to Amsterdam.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t really looking forward to it.

It’s strange to have feelings of nostalgia in a foreign country.  The only real familiar things are the sounds and smells of fall; the look and cold of snow; and then the Facebook updates of all my friends in their sometimes-goofy, sometimes-sexy, sometimes-strange Halloween costumes.  Regardless, there’s a sense of familiarity about seasonal change that I think everyone can relate to.  And yet again, looking out my window over the line of red rooftops and paned windows, it feels familiar like a painting, something I’ve seen before.

 A street, wet with snow, near the Museum.
Forgetting that all museums (regardless of location) close on Mondays, I wandered up and down Mariahilfer Straβe to get to the Kusthistorisches Museum near Museumsquartier.  I received my museum pass from IES, and figured it was high time that I actually go to another exhibit.  When my numb-from-cold fingers touched the locked door handle, I was a little disappointed in myself for not checking before leaving.  Ah, well.  So it goes.  I ended up going to an art supply store and picking up some new sketching pencils, so not all was lost.  Just a little bit of the feeling in my nose.

Walking back, I passed a pedistal-ed statue in front of a church for whom someone had knitted a shawl and hat.  Aha, now this is winter wear anywhere. 

 Stay warm, Haydn!

No comments:

Post a Comment