Sunday, January 27, 2013

Oo-De-Lally Christmas

A cacophonous family Christmas is past, an explosive New Year's Eve is history, and the roof avalanche warning poles and signs now surround snow-burdened buildings throughout the city.  The long, gray, cold season of sickness is here.

Welcome to Vienna.  This is the time of year when most people in the city, including us, are fighting miserable, weeks-long bouts with a uniquely Austrian bronchitis/flu/bacterial/viral illness which, I’m certain, has brought down a few empires.  Those Viennese who aren’t suffering physically are hunkered down in this dim, dark overcast climate waiting for the sun to lift their spirits back to merely grumpy. And waiting.  And . . .
Our street

It’s fun to read the tourist brochures we have scattered around the apartment to remind us that there is another version of Vienna that’s a little more uplifiting.  Maybe in another month. Maybe.

la coupe de cheveux
In the meantime, we've had some momentous times since the last blog, so I’ll catch up.  Keir, Dylan, Reeve, Melanie, Ocean, and a little later Keir’s friend Morgan, were all here. Uwe, our landlord, opened up the “chalet” in the back garden to handle the overflow of people -- and it was a party.  One of the first events was Melanie cutting off Reeve's ponytail ... braided into a long piece of art.  This was years of hair.  

Cafe Happy 
Let’s start with the Café Happy, a little place a couple of blocks from our apartment that the boys discovered on one of their drunken outings (I say that as a positive thing).   After a night of darts at our old haunt, the Highlander Scottish Pub, we (minus Misti, who was babysitting Ocean) stopped into the Happy and discovered what must be the most astounding jukebox in existence.  It will get more attention in a later blog, but it contains every cool song, obscure and beyond, from every genre ever played by every talented musician on the planet.  Okay, maybe not, but after a night of Guinness at the Highlander, Scottish Scotch at the Happy, along with grappa, beer, and goodness knows what else, accented by an occasional Cuban Cigar, the jukebox took on mythical status.  The photo at left doesn't do the Cafe justice (the red and white pole leaning against the wall is a roof avalanche pole).

Following the carousing at the Happy, we made it home sometime after 2 a.m., only to have Dylan sit down at Misti’s new Roland electric piano and Reeve pull out the Ovation guitar.  For the next several hours – in my case until I collapsed from over-indulgence – the boys played variations of Oo-De-Lally, a Roger Miller song from the Robin Hood cartoon movie. It evolved into a spectacular and complex weave of rap, rock, family history, and other movies and songs – sort of  like the jukebox.

Santa and Sebastian
Unfortunately, Dylan was sick for his first few days here, so his early goal of revisiting the famed Vienna Christmas markets was almost stymied.  He and I did get to the main market on the last day, and a little mulled hot wine helped him survive the outing.

We also had a dinner party with our German friends.  Santa (a colleague from work) showed up and one of the boys, Sebastian, really, really wanted his present from Santa, but really, really wasn’t too sure about the big guy in the red suit.  The picture is a study in emotional conflict.

Another joy of having the children around for Christmas is that Keir decided it was time for him to put the lights on the tree -- a chore I've been in charge of for decades.  Having Keir step up and fight with the lights was a gift, which he promptly regretted.  I think it should become a tradition.
Santa Arrives
Keir & the lights

We had a wonderful Christmas morning with Ocean, who at age two approaching three, was overwhelmed with gifts and got to start his morning with what we think might have been his first encounter with a chocolate Santa.
Ocean and Reeve 

 Ocean spent much of the morning playing with Reeve and running around fueled by the chocolate breakfast.

 As we have noted in past blogs, Vienna is a stunningly beautiful city, and especially at Christmas. Keir and I strolled through the city taking pictures on a couple of occasions,  and some of the sites as you wander the old downtown are ... well, here are some pictures.  The Christbaum (Christmas tree) in front of the Rathaus (city hall) was here because the Vatican rejected it as too ordinary.   Wow. 

Keir and I walked down to Stephansplatz, the actual center of the city dominated by the gigantic Stephansdom Cathedral.  There we found another tree, in a setting that was a bit surreal. 

 Dylan, Reeve, Melanie and Ocean headed home just before New Year's, but Morgan, a pre-med student at the University of South Carolina and a black belt karate buddy of Keir's, came to town to see the ancient city.    They spent New Year's Eve downtown with several of Keir's high school friends, while Misti and I sat in a house that was actually quiet for the first time in weeks.  Then midnight approached and the 18th District where we live exploded.  There were sustained explosions ... like rapid gunfire ... on every side of the block for almost an hour.  Fireworks here are not "organized" in the sense that there are big displays put on by the city.  Instead, everyone buys their own fireworks and they have at it, wherever they might be.  And they are everywhere. 
Keir at work 

(The explosions reminded me of a recent tale from Uwe.  As I was stashing Misti's piano in the basement prior to Christmas, I asked Uwe how old the house is.  The basement looks very old, much older than the rest of the house.  Ewe said the place dates back to the mid-1800s, but that it was hit by a fire bomb during the only Allied raid on this section  of Vienna.  The big chest in our livingroom was one of the few pieces of furniture saved, he said.  "My father and grandfather carried it out as the house was burning down."  Uwe, then a boy, was living in the country, away from the bombs.)

Keir and Morgan headed off to Salzburg by train and then on to Berchtesgaden in the German Alps.  Keir has had a semester of working with former Washington Post photographer Dayna Smith, and it shows in his work.  I don't want to post many of his photos, as they are his, not mine ... but you can see some of his Berchtesgaden and other work at his Flickr site here .

The Tram 
I will steal one photo of Morgan standing in front of Alpine mountains in Salzburg.

And I'll close with a quick picture Keir shot of a tram flying by as we walked near the Rathaus on an outing.  If only the world were full of trams, we could all get to where we want to go.  


  1. Well by the time you get back here, we might actually have one in DC!