I returned to work this week after more than three weeks off. I don’t think I’ve had this much time off with no ‘real goal’ in mind ever – except perhaps when I was unemployed. In the midst of lockdown (only essential shops open, restaurants takeaway only, restrictions on visiting people), there was nowhere to travel, no one to catch up with and being winter, very little to do.
I thought it would drag. But all of a sudden, it was over and I was back to work.
They allowed us out of lockdown for December 24 and 25 so Christmas could be celebrated in a semi-normal way. There were limitations on how many people you could see at one time, but since my family here is on the small side anyway, we spent Christmas pretty much in the same was as always: Covid test in the morning, gathering in the early afternoon, singing Silent Night, opening presents and eating together. Oh… wait… the Covid test, that was something new for this year.
Back in Oz, the night before the first day of the New Year is called New Year’s Eve – sounds logical doesn’t it? In Austria, it’s called Silvester – the name originally coming from the fourth century Pope Sylvester I, whose feast day is observed on December 31.
You can wish someone a Happy New Year in Austria – you just say: Gutes Neues Jahr. This is perfectly acceptable, but is generally only said once the New Year has begun. Because in the days leading up to it, if you catch up with someone you won’t see until after Silvester, the correct thing to say is to wish them a good slide into the New Year: Guten Rutsch! It literally translates to: Good slide
It’s kind of cute, it’s kind of wacky, but I like it, so I hereby wish you a good slide into the New Year. Have a good one.
When someone’s celebrating an occasion in Austria (birthdays, someone’s last work day etc.) and keeping it low key and easy, they might simply invite a few people over for a bite to eat, or in the case of a work environment, bring something along to share with colleagues (including the mandatory prosecco, of course, because we are in Austria). Quite often there will be cakes, pastries and other standard things you might expect. But there could also be something you were not expecting: a giant pretzel sandwich.
The word Krapfen may sound like a swear word. But in simple terms it’s just the Austrian version of a donut. My favourite donut of all time is the classic hot jam variety, best sourced from a roadside truck or market in a pack of 6 (buy 5 get one free), so hot you burn your tongue and so sugary it can’t be eaten indoors.
Austrian’s go crazy for Krapfen. But while they may look like a donut, they have a different kind of dough – it’s denser than the classic hot jam, but somehow still manages to be fluffy. And there’s no hole. Krapfen are available all year round, but they also have a ‘season’ – basically as soon as you hit November 11 – marking the beginning of Fasching – they are everywhere.
In 2018 Australia Day fell on a Friday, so naturally it made sense to plan an Australia Day Party. But I didn’t end up celebrating on the Friday – not because of any political or cultural concerns – just because Friday isn’t a holiday in Austria, and Triple J’s Hottest 100 was moved to the Saturday. Which I’m totally on board for, by the way, but I don’t want to get into any raging debates about that!
Well, after 4 years it’s finally happening – we’re going to Oz for Christmas.
Although I can’t say I absolutely hate the warm coziness of being inside on Christmas Day while the weather outside freezes the landscape white – somehow it seems much more like the movies – but damn I’m looking forward to going back to the Aussie traditions of a Christmas morning swim, and it being too hot to roast inside. Better do it on the Barbie!
We’re all familiar with Uno – Uno is a worldwide phenomenon. But when I came to Austria I discovered a new and exciting variation – Fudln.
Ok, let’s be honest, I have a feeling that Fudln is confined to my small Austrian family. And quite possibly there are plenty of other families all over the world that play it and give it a different name. But our name is Fudln , and this is how it goes.
As autumn winds down and the first frosts hit, it is a sure sign that winter is coming. Yet not everything about winter has to be cold and horrible. With the air cool and crisp and the first flakes of snow threatening, December is one of the most beautiful months to be in Europe – with Christmas markets aplenty!
I’ve visited Zagreb a couple of times before, but the most recent trip was to celebrate my cousin’s wedding. Not only was it great to have a few days away, it was a privilege to witness the cementing of another successful multi-country relationship! My cousin was born in New Zealand, but having a Swiss father meant he relocated there in his 20s, meeting his now-wife, and eventually moving to Croatia. It’s complicated but awesome that I have a relative that lives so close (only 2.5 hours away).
Another brilliant thing was that my Dad and two of my aunties also joined in the celebratory-travel-party from Australia. It made for a great time to catch up, speak English (and occasionally try to understand Swiss-German, courtesy of the Swiss side of the family) and relax.
Summer in Austria equals festival time! On any given weekend there’s usually something going on, be it a small, local event or a bigger, region-wide festival that completely takes over.
I have visited a number of town festivals over the last few years and although some of the bigger ones are a lot of fun, there’s nothing better than simply walking the 10 minutes to the Wolfsberg city centre when it’s our turn. Everyone in town turns out to crowd the streets, catch up with one another and party the night away. But no matter the size or the occasion, there’s definitely common elements to all.