All posts tagged: Austria

Austrian Christmas 101

On the twelfth day of Christmas, I thought I’d share some snippets of my holiday with you, since many people have asked about the local customs and how I experienced it for the first time. At Christmas time, the city of Graz and its surrounding villages were oozing with charm. Throughout the month of December, it was a delight to witness the transformation of town squares, storefronts, and living rooms to reflect the merriment of the season. I found the atmosphere no more beautiful than Manhattan’s 5th Avenue window displays or the glowing suburban neighborhoods of my Christmases past. But this year, the wonder came not from sparkle and lights but from long standing traditions and a personal touch that is evident in all things Austrian. The Season of Advent Austrians observe the season of Advent, the period of anticipation and reflection beginning four weeks before Christmas (Weihnachten). Many families display an Advent wreath (Adventkranz) with four candles, each one ignited on the Sundays leading up to Christmas. To count the days until Christmas, our …

Hallstatt Panorama

It’s a place known for its beauty and not by its name. A village in the cliffs whose steepled silhouette is perfectly composed between forested mountains and a shimmering lake. This is Hallstatt, where we headed for a weekend getaway to celebrate our one-year anniversary. I can’t help but sound like a dreamy romantic when I recount my first impressions. The crisp air filling my lungs, the stillness of the Alpine waters, the majesty of the mountains. It probably looked like this hundreds of years ago. I just love when a place leaves you feeling like a blip in time and space, full of wonder and at a loss for words. Located in the Salzkammergut region in Upper Austria, Hallstatt on the Hallstättersee makes for a worthwhile side trip from either Salzburg or Vienna, or as an accompaniment to a sporting vacation in the Dachstein mountains. The village has existed as a salt mining settlement since the Iron Age; you can visit the salt mine, ice caves, and the heritage museum to learn about its …

Soaring

This photo is a few years old, but it’s still so captivating. On my first trip to Austria, Juergen took me out on hot air balloon ride over Apfelland (apple country) in Styria. Infinite green, speckles of red roofs and the occasional glimmer from small lake. At six in the morning, the sun was just beginning to stir. From this angle, the beauty was simply deafening.

Hiking the Kaskögerlweg

Autumn has definitely arrived in this part of the world, and it’s the perfect time of year to be outdoors. Juergen and I recently spent a gorgeous afternoon hiking the Kaskögerlweg, an 11 km trail in Styria’s Vulkanland just east the village of Poppendorf. It was a family outing that included his parents, uncle, cousin, her partner, and their darling one-year-old who enjoyed the hike from the luxury of his stroller. The young family only intended to walk a small portion, but in true Austrian fashion (i.e. the daytime version of “I’ll stay for one beer”), time was forgotten among good company and they stayed with us the entire way. The three-hour trail was not strenuous but considering some narrow climbs and a few slippery footbridges, it wasn’t exactly stroller friendly. We must’ve looked like a caravan of pioneers heading west with our little wagon. Through woods, fields, and vineyards, I noted the abundance of green that was still holding on. In the last few kilometers, we climbed uphill through rows of apple trees on …

Allerheiligen Striezel – All Saints’ Bread

This past Saturday, Catholic Austrians celebrated the Feast of Allerheiligen (All Saints’ Day) by honoring their deceased loved ones and paying their respects at the Friedhof (cemetery). Although I didn’t go to the cemetery myself, I was gifted a luscious loaf of Allerheiligen Striezel. I’d actually just learned about this bread from one of my students, a 60-year old mechanic who was eager to show me photos of the 10 loaves that he baked himself (yes, 10!). Sure enough, my mother-in-law’s version of the pastry made its way to our kitchen for the occasion. Allerheiligen striezel is a braided bread made from flour, yeast, eggs, butter, sugar, salt, and raisins, enjoyed with jam and coffee or tea. My sister-in-law told me about her tradition of bringing the bread to her godparents every year on Allerheiligen. In other families, the godparents bake it for their godchildren. When I was a teacher in New York, I used to do a cultural lesson on Mexico’s Día de los Muertos every year at this time. When possible, I would …