With Advent well underway — and bags (mostly) packed for flying to Pennsylvania to spend Christmas with Hannah and Peter — it’s high time to finally report on their trip here to Vienna last summer!There were lots of highlights, but the common thread for all the things we enjoyed together was the unique opportunity to get to know my sister and brother-in-law better as a couple. Considering that we spent practically all our wakings hours for 2 1/2 weeks as a three-some — and enjoyed it — I’d say the visit was a great success.
We laughed a lot. Happily, Hannah and I have always laughed a lot together — we probably find each other funnier than most other people do. But, it was especially wonderful to confirm that the three of us share a pretty common vocabulary of humor! I’ve been requested to bring an Austrian newspaper home for Christmas, so that Peter can practice his German pronunciation for us; I am laughing now, in sheer anticipation.
Over the course of their visit, we enjoyed sharing other common interests. Hannah and Peter both possess a love for detail, and for photographing detail. I don’t know if I want to ask how many pictures they took between them (or how many duplicates of the same subject matter), but it was fun to be extra observant with them. We did a lot of walking. Enjoying art and architecture — church spire against dramatic skies. Hand-painted lettering on buildings, Hundertwasser oddity and Rathaus (city hall) splendor. Vienna’s Augarten porcelain manufacturer — the pleasure of watching the artisans painting delicate patterns on the fine china. Perusing furniture, collectibles, and jewelry at the Dorotheum, one of Europe’s largest auction houses. Meandering through parks. Museum-pacing through an exhibit of Otto Wagner architectural drawing/paintings, trying to picture Vienna as it was imagined by this 19th/20th century visionary, whose grand ideas were largely frustrated by the more traditional voices of his day. Guffawing our way through the most senseless modern art exhibit I’ve ever seen. We were so dismayed at its paucity that it all became one big joke — if there had been a candid camera, our uncontainable laughter at the “art” would have made a quite decent exhibit (by comparison) in and of itself.
There were many tasty foods to sample together — don’t try dieting when company comes to town! “Pork knuckle” at a stereotypical Bavarian-style beer garden, grilled chicken with Peter as chef, a windy picnic on the rooftop with delicious farmers’ market cheese. An afternoon and evening with my former tutoring students’ family — wined and dined with gracious Austrian hospitality. A favorite Heuriger, complete with Sturm, Schwarzwurzel, and accordion music.
Hiking! We spent a day hiking and Klettersteig-ing outside of Vienna. We also spent a few days in the Alps, starting with a couple of days at an Austrian Hütte, located on a plateau packed with beautiful and quaint views.The first afternoon we visited an exquisitely clear mountain lake. I braved a chilly but splendid swim by one of the islands. The next day we ventured to a peak, though, especially for the geologist and rock lovers amongst us, the joy was most definitely in the journey! There were fossils decorating the rocks, as well as deep crevasses from the once-upon-a-time glacier, scary and also intriguing. We got an inordinate amount of pleasure out of dropping stones in and listening for how long they bounced to the bottom. The following day we returned to lower elevations for a special splurge of a night at a fancy hotel overlooking a big, deep lake. The setting was perfect for an evening stroll, as the rain clouds lifted and the evening light played on the water. The next morning we feasted on a delectable breakfast buffet.Then we visited another lake. Fish eddied within a safe distance of where we were wading, making Peter wish for his fishing rod. Later, we learned that the lake is cloaked in mystery — it’s one of many locations that was a dumping ground for Nazi cast-off treasures (in this case, at least reams of counterfeit money intended for flooding the British market).
There was also a day for cycling, along with my friend Rebecca. Our ride was interspersed with castle ruins and a stop at a Heuriger, where we sipped local wine under a green glow of trellised grape vines.
We played games — Hand and Foot and Rummikub — and put together a jigsaw puzzle and enjoyed movie nights and stove-top popcorn.
Another highlight was seeing my worlds connect of family from the States and of friends here. There was a French meal put on by a friend from church, a brunch at our place, home-made pizza and impromptu hymn sing and poetry recitation with friends from England/Northern Ireland.