Thursday, December 5, 2013

Weekly Interlude 25: Krampus Is Coming to Town

A giant chair in the 21st district
I hope Krampus doesn't come after me because it's been such a long time since I posted a blog entry! Krampus, St. Nick's demonic companion who comes after bad children and carries them away in his sack (or flogs them with rusty chains), doesn't like excuses; but in my defense, I will say that I was living in the 21st district last week (the northernmost district in the city, on the other side of the Danube), and I spent all my time either working or commuting without internet.
A look down the main road of the 21st

For reasons that aren't important for this blog, Eliza and I had to move out of our apartment for eight days last week. She lived in the western part of the city with a friend, and I stayed with the family of my friend who's studying abroad in France. It was so nice to live in a house with a family--the decorating, the order, the home-cooked meals. It was a nice precursor to what awaits me when I go home (IN 1.5 WEEKS!!!).

The snowman Lillian and I made together!
The first full day in the 21st district, I took a bike ride with Andi (the mom) and had a nice view of one of the lesser-explored districts. The Marchfeld canal runs through this district and up into Niederösterreich (beyond the border), and I can officially say now that I've ridden a bike in Lower Austria, the largest province in the country. The 21st district itself is rather industrial-looking. Definitely not one of the most attractive places. Every day, I took a tram and an S-Bahn out to Perchtoldsdorf, rounding out the whole commute at one hour and 20 minutes. It was alright for a week, but remind me to always live close to work in the future.

During my time in the 21st, it snowed! Apparently, it never snows very much in Vienna, especially in the city center, and when it does, it typically melts right away. Well, perhaps my holiday enthusiasm is infecting even the weather gods because it snowed--count it--three times last week! One day, it really stuck, too, so Lillian and I made a snowman at her kindergarten. (Since I don't carry around carrots in my backpack, as she was hoping, we had to improvise and use pretzel sticks for the face.) My first Schneeman of the year!
A very blurry dreidel

Continuing in the holiday spirit, Musical Munchkins is preparing for its concert this Sunday. We've had three rehearsals with the band already. If I pretend that I'm not jamming out with a jazz band to "Looby Loo" and "Six Little Ducks," it turns out to be quite fun. The guys in the band are great, so even though rehearsals were all over three hours and we teachers don't get paid for any of it, it's a good time.

Hanukkah, Day 1
This year is the first year I've ever celebrated Hanukkah with anyone. Eliza is Jewish, so we have a small, silver Menorah and multi-colored candles, which we light every night. Fire safety first! The first night we tried this, we set the Menorah on a baking tray, and I stood ready with a glass of water--which, in fact, I needed to use when Eliza almost burned herself and dropped the match onto the tray. Tssss. Since we weren't living together for the beginning of Hanukkah, we started celebrating on December 1, when we got back into the apartment. Is that sacrilegious of us? It's a beautiful holiday, though, and I've loved learning the story behind it. I also learned how to play the dreidel game, so WATCH OUT, family, I'm teaching you when I come home!

The Christmas market at Schönbrunn
I've now been to at least six Christmas markets, and my mug collection is up to three. On Monday, I went Christmas shopping for my family, and let me just say, they're cleaning up this year. My checked bag will be chock-full of gifts; here's hoping the airport people don't search it and confiscate anything! Today, my goal is to finish present-shopping and plunk down in a café. Did I mention that Lillian's gone for a week at her grandma's house? Oh, the things I can do in all my free time now! Practice, shop, drink Wiener Melange...
Lillian - caroling? :)

Rathausplatz Christkindlmarkt
Meanwhile, tonight is Krampusnacht ("Krampus Night"), which means you'd better watch out because Krampus is coming to town. In Alpine folklore, Krampus is St. Nick's beast-like, demonic counterpart. Where St. Nick rewards all the good children with presents on December 6 (the Feast of St. Nick), Krampus comes out the evening before and punishes children who have been bad (see kidnapping and rusty chains mentioned above). I asked Gerhard about this, as he grew up in the central province of Austria, and he laughed, saying Krampus is the way Austrian children are kept in line. It makes coal in your stocking look like the better end of the stick, doesn't it? Around the time of Krampusnacht, there's also a Krampuslauf. Basically, people dress up like Krampus, get drunk (typically), and run through the streets. I'll have to keep my eye out for that...

If you are ever at all compelled to come visit Vienna, I highly recommend you come during the Advent season. There is nothing like Christmas in this city--the lights, the Punsch, the markets, the concerts. The universe seems to be making up for the last four finals-ridden Decembers I've had. Give me any Grinch, and I'd bring him to Vienna!

And a little Christmas cheer for you here. :)

A Christmas market in the shadow of St. Stephen's

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