Austria always makes me feel a little wistful, perhaps I inherited that from my father who still describes a summer spent there when he was a university student with a small sigh. I also visited Austria when I was a student, or more accurately on a backpacking sojourn across Europe just after I had completed my undergraduate degrees. For me, I remember it fondly for being the year I spent Christmas in Vienna.
I was travelling with three friends, and we had decided to pursue a white Christmas, so we landed in Vienna on Christmas Eve and prayed for snow. It was cold, but not cold enough to keep the frozen turkey we had purchased frozen.
Oh the stupid things you do in youth!
We were staying in a backpackers that didn’t have a kitchen, but one of my friends had packed a pan and equipment for a portable gas stove, so we could cook for ourselves in the comfort of our cramped dorm room. So eager to have a traditional Christmas, we purchased a frozen turkey breast and figured that it was almost 0 degrees, so that should keep our bird cold. I remember carefully placing the small package on the window ledge, hoping that it wouldn’t get blown off in the wind. The next morning we found it there still; it hadn’t blown off, but it certainly didn’t smell edible anymore. Thankfully we had the common sense to accept our loss and bin it. On a backpacker’s budget though, losing that meal was devastating particularly on Christmas day.
To cheer ourselves up we decided to head to the Vienna State Opera, we had heard that they offered cheap (like a few dollars cheap) tickets to their internationally acclaimed productions. The only catch was that it was standing room only. This deal still stands today, and for a few euro you can see a world-class opera in one of the world’s greatest theatres. The Nutcracker was showing that year, and the production was mesmerising. The artists were so graceful as they moved across the stage, whilst I am not a huge opera fan, for that evening I was a convert.
I didn’t care that I was standing in “cattle class” with other students and tourists, to me this experience was just magical. One that still makes me smile as I sit here now, more than 16 years later.
Oh the Viennese opera, how truly incredible you are.
Just like a fairytale, it started to snow lightly as we headed back to our hostel. We got our white christmas after all!