Hello world! It's been awhile. Jacob and I are currently resurrecting from the post-holiday stupor, and re-entering the world of normal schedules and reasonable bed-times. I might add however, that we are not the only ones. A large portion of Austria's working population have been on holiday from December 20th until next Monday - January 12th. Morning commutes on the underground are pleasantly un-sardine-like, and the streets are given a reprieve from their normal bustle.
Rather than run through a comprehensive recap of the last couple of weeks, I'll spare you and go for the highlights:
1. New Years Eve
Around mid-December the local grocery stores published news that brought delight to Jacob's heart: "Fireworks for Sale".
Coming from San Diego, where setting off fireworks could legitimately cause a wildfire that would burns thousands of acres of land and untold houses, fireworks are understandably illegal. As a child spending summers in the South of France however, fireworks were a part of my childhood.
My brothers and I would frequent Bazaarland, where we could buy packs of bottle rockets, roman candles, smoke bombs, etc. with our allowance money. Summer evenings were spent in the backyard causing a ruckus of small explosions as I ran around frantically stamping out little bush fires. It was fun.
You can imagine how excited we were to pick up an assortment pack filled with everything from spinning spark bombs to roman candles and firecrackers. We had been invited to a friend's New Years Eve party who have an apartment which boasts a rooftop terrace with a 360 degree view of the city. The view is breathtaking. The vantage point also gave us a relatively safe location to set off fireworks - and we were not the only ones to bring a supply to the party. While we had purchased the more interactive "family pack", other friends came equipped with the heavy duty rockets.
I hadn't realized that Vienna doesn't have a city-sponsored fireworks show - there are simply enough people setting off their own fireworks that it isn't necessary. The fireworks began early in the evening. Walking down the street you would see flashes of lights and "BANG!" and instinctively duck your head. As the night wore on the explosions became more and more frequent, while you reminded yourself that it was only fireworks - nothing more deadly. It's the closest to a war-zone I have ever come.
Once it neared midnight we gathered on the roof to begin setting off the fireworks. Hundreds of rockets were already being set off all around by others - we were surrounded by a constant barrage of fireworks. As we began to become more confident with our firework launching skills, some people had the bright idea to place two or three fireworks in the holder at the same time. It worked once, but the second time - one of the fireworks shot off while the other two exploded on us. Thankfully no one was injured or singed.
All throughout the evening the running commentary was the same: "This is the most magical New Years Eve I have ever had." And it truly was. As midnight arrived we toasted each other with champagne on the rooftop as fireworks continued to explode around us to celebrate the New Year.
2. The African Hair Dryer
This weekend the U.N. issued a storm warning and weather forecasts cautioned everyone to stay inside if possible: it was going to get windy. I mean really, really windy.
Now bear in mind, Vienna is already a fairly windy city. During the winter ice-cold drafts howl through the city streets, sometimes with so much force that it catches you in the face and pushes your whole body back. The walk from the underground to my office building is particularly bad - one stretch of the walk is like entering a wind tunnel as soon as you turn the corner.
This wind however, is a warm wind that blows up from Africa and is known as the "Hair Dryer" - and it was going to reach up to 55 knots/100 km/65 miles. The danger of this wind? Other than the threat of getting knocked over or smacked with debris, the wind can also cause power outages, falling trees, and avalanches. As you may have heard, there have already been several avalanches in Austria lately - even some which claimed a few lives.
Yesterday the Hair Dryer was in full force - the windows were rattling and the wind whistled through the courtyards. We have a weed growing on our terrace that serves as our personal wind sock. That weed was going crazy. On the bright side however? The air was a balmy 63 degrees Fahrenheit, which we gloried in as we walked to a friend's house for dinner.
3. Beer Displays
I can already sense your curiosity - what is so exciting about a beer display? Well, nothing, until Jacob gets involved.
Jacob and I went to the grocery store to pick up a few items before heading over to visit a friend. I left Jacob in the beer aisle to choose some drinks and meandered over to the produce aisle. A few minutes later, radishes and cabbage in hand, I walked back to the beer section to see four supermarket workers sweeping up broken glass in a vast pool of beer. Blocked from walking through that section, I skirted around the other side and found Jacob staring intently at baking supplies, his shoes covered in splash marks and glass. "Was that you?", I asked. He looked at me sheepishly.
Apparently Jacob had been reaching to the back of the display to pick up a beer that was almost out of stock, when his arm bumped another beer and the entire shelf began to fall like dominos, bottles and cans falling on the floor and exploding like our New Years fireworks. Frantically Jacob used his body to catch and shield the beers from falling - of course, that was only so successful. We payed for our groceries and the two beers Jacob had managed to hold on to, and we left the store as Jacob swore he would never go back there again.