Believe in your heart that you’re meant to live a life full of passion,
purpose, magic and miracles.
Roy T. Bennett
Do you remember when I posted this photo promising I’d find my fairytale Christmas?
Well, it looks like Debenhams was right, starting with my choice to visit Vienna. Like many of my other stops on this adventure, Vienna was a “close your eyes and point to the map” decision. My magic mojo must have been in full swing that day because this is where I needed to be. I can’t begin to describe how incredible this city is, but it’s kinda like being sucked into a Disney princess movie, complete with castles, white horses, and handsome princes. Only real. Bibbity Bobbity Booyah!
Because I didn’t want to spend the holidays alone, I’d made plans to travel to Vienna with a friend. When that fell apart at the last minute, I had to wing it. I was a bit apprehensive about being on my own for Christmas but kept telling myself it couldn’t be any worse than last year. That’s not exactly the slogan the Vienna visitor’s bureau likes to promote, but it helped quell any anxiety about doing the holidays solo. Unlike my last batch of grief milestones, this time I didn’t have a diversion strategy. And you know what? It was just fine. Actually, it was better than fine. It was full of beauty, magic, learning, and peace.
My Dear W’s, wherever you are in your grief journey, I send you wishes for all the magic you dream of in the New Year. Cheers as we start new chapters in this adventure.
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.
Click HERE to view my Vienna photo album. Trip details below.
My childhood friend, who now lives in Vienna, describes the city as having all the culture, art, music and architecture of Paris, the efficiency of the Germans, and the friendly fun attitude of the Italians. Plus, with the UN here it’s a center point for politics and business. I can’t argue with that; it has the best of everything. Vienna left me feeling like it may well be the hub for all art and music. There is a hip vibe and energy everywhere you go, built on a foundation that appreciates the classics while still encouraging innovation.
My first day I was on sensory overload. My brain couldn’t decide where to look. I blame the incredible architecture all dressed up in its Christmas sparkle for the number of times I bumped into people on the sidewalk. Talk about eye candy.
And that was just walking down the street. The sheer beauty and the quantity of art and music that fills this city is overwhelming. I can’t get enough of it.
Vienna is famous for it’s Christmas Markets. I made it to a few of them. Despite warnings from the US State Department about the risk of terrorism at European Christmas Markets, everything was fine, fun and festive. I’d seen the Rathausplatz Christkindlmarkt’s ice skating rink on Pinterest and knew I needed to get there. Falls and all, it was everything it was promised to be. I found more mass produced items than handcrafts for sale but, since I wasn’t shopping, I didn’t care.
Pro-Tip: If you’re clumsy like me, you may want to save your glühwein for AFTER your skating attempt.
NEW YEARS EVE, SILVESTERPFAD
Holy Hannah! I hear that over 100,000 visitors come to Vienna for New Year’s Eve’s Silvesterpfad festivities. All I know is I don’t think I’ve been around that many people, that squished together, in my entire life.
The New Year’s Trail is one heck of a twelve-hour city-wide party, and I’d come back for another one. Aside from the pangs of anxiety as I maneuvered smack dab in the middle of the crowd before realizing I had no way to get out, it was a blast! In addition to the musical performances and hot rum punch, everyone dances the waltz at midnight. How cool is that? And don’t get me started on the fireworks, which were some of the best I’ve ever seen.
If you plan far enough in advance, you can even get tickets to one of the many New Year’s Eve Balls. That was a stretch even for this Table For One Girl, so you’ll have to tell me all about it if you go.
Pro-Tip: There are free waltz lessons in the afternoon, although by midnight, people are so drunk no one will notice if you aren’t doing it correctly.
Pro-Tip Part Deux: Every local I spoke to said they avoid Silversterpfad and prefer to party on rooftops or at a local bar or restaurant. There are a bunch of really cool rooftop bars, but you’ll want to get reservations early.
Talk about eclectic! In one week I attended performances that included electronic music, classical orchestra, and the opera. And while not as prevalent as in other cities I’ve visited, there are street buskers here too.
Thanks to my very accommodating friend, I got to attend an electronic music concert my first week in town. This was new for me, and I learned a lot about modular component synthesizers. It’s different from the other types of music I’ve enjoyed, but the passion the artists pour into this medium is impressive, not to mention the ginormous financial investment they make in the tools of their craft. Add in the cool factor that it was in a bar built under the trestles of the raised train tracks, that also happens to stock decent Scotch, and you have the makings of a very memorable evening.
There are orchestra performances all over the city, so it’s pretty accessible, even on Christmas. I chose to attend the Vienna Concert Orchestra performance at St. Charles Church (Karlskirche). Built in the reign of Charles VI, this is considered one of the best examples of Baroque Churches in this part of Europe. It was undergoing construction, but the scaffolding didn’t impact the acoustics. The goosebumps weren’t because the church was freezing (which it was, bundle up if you’re there in the winter). No, the goosebumps were because it was so incredibly beautiful. When the soprano got to Ave Maria, my eyes were leaking. Same for the violin soloist. So much beauty and magic!
The flat I’d rented was in the building Mozart premiered The Magic Flute in 1791, so I jumped at the chance to see it at the Vienna State Opera House. My first opera ever, in case you were keeping track, so front row box seats were icing on the cake.
My favorite character was the Queen of the Night. I’m probably the only person in the audience who pinged on the fact that she was a widow, desperately trying to rescue her daughter after her kidnapping. Seriously, she was trying to keep her family together. The Queen lost because she fought so hard to keep things as they were, which we all know is impossible. Staying stuck in our grief and anger costs us our future. (Yeah, yeah, I know that wasn’t the story Mozart was trying to tell. But this is Lisa’s Widow’s Guide to The Magic Flute, not Mozart’s symbolism about the Catholic Church and the Freemasons.) At any rate, an excellent performance, and worth seeing while you’re in Vienna.
Pro-Tip: This is for my fellow Americans who take casual to an extreme. When the ticket office tells you the dress code is casual, they don’t mean jeans. I’m so glad I packed a dress! There were lots of long dresses, cocktail dresses, even women in kimono the evening I went. Step it up a notch if you’re going to go. It’s a special thing, dress accordingly.
Have you ever seen something so beautiful it hurt you a little? That’s how I felt seeing Klimt’s The Kiss in person. As many times as I’ve viewed it in books, nothing compares to seeing it in in real life. The light! The movement! The depth! And the emotion! I swooned a little. There are many other compelling pieces at the Belvedere, but this one had the magic. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if it ends up in Warehouse 13 someday.
The day I went to the Albertina I breezed through the featured Raphael exhibit and spent most of my time at the Robert Frank photography exhibit. His American Way of Life series is fanfreakingtastic. I was also pleasantly surprised by the Contemporary Art exhibit and discovered some artists I didn’t know before. The Albertina is worth visiting, and since it’s right smack dab in the middle of town, it’s super easy to access.
Pro-Tip: If you plan on visiting multiple museums and attractions, Vienna PASS is worth purchasing.