The first weekend of November, my roommate blessed me with an early birthday gift of a concert at the Musikverein (the “Golden Hall” you might have seen on the broadcast each year of Vienna’s New Year’s Eve concert). The hall is considered to have superb acoustics, and every available bit of space is put to good use. For us, that meant seats on stage behind the orchestra! Besides the amusement of watching the horn players empty their instruments every two notes or the timpanist constantly checking tuning, we were blown away by the incredibly unified sound of the Vienna Philharmonic and by the chance to watch the fabulously expressive conductor from a unique angle.
On the 8th, I spent the evening with other teachers from my main school — supposedly sharing teaching resources (not much got done in that department) and filling up on fondue. It was fun to be in an Austrian home, although when high German spoken at a decent speed gave way to fast-paced dialect, I pretty much tuned out.
The 10th was my birthday and really a fabulous day. A walk through the golden Belvedere gardens brought me to quiet cafe I first discovered four plus years ago. A leisurely Frühstück (breakfast) and Tolkien for company made for a great way to start the day. (Well, actually the birthday started with a late-night Skype chat with dear friend Kathleen!) After some piano practice, I met up with Julia for a walk at Schönbrunn before we were joined by two other friends for a special dinner together at a typically Austrian restaurant. (Mmm, pumpkin soup and schnitzel.)
Back home and joined by yet two more friends, there ensued a lovely evening of varied conversation, laughter, a favorite game, and lots of cake. Keeping up with tradition, I had baked a cheesecake. However, unbeknownst to me, Julia had spent hours preparing an elaborate piano cake. I was so surprised and delighted!
The next day’s highlight was a long phone conversation with family back home, followed up on Monday by the arrival of a much-anticipated birthday box. I felt like a little kid unpacking the treasures from family and friends — chocolate-covered espresso beans, special chai tea, American measuring cups, and a couple of dainty Christmas ornaments…. What with the help of family and friends in the States and new friends here, it was a birthday to remember!