One of the best parts about being in a different country for Christmas Day is celebrating in ways you never would at home.
Three years ago at Christmas, we were on Rarotonga, the largest of the Cook Islands. December 25th involved going to a rousing church service of Maori family songs, and joining an international choir singing Silent Night.
This year, singing Silent Night happened several days before Christmas, halfway up a mountain surrounded by whirling snow in Innsbruck, Austria. By the time we arrived in Vienna on December 23, the snow had turned to rain and gusting wind, so we were looking for indoor ways to enjoy ourselves on Christmas Day.
Luckily, most of the museums here are open on December 25, so we took a tram from our hotel to the Austrian National Library. The gorgeous State Room, built in the 18th century, is one of those “look up, way up” spaces, containing 200000 books and fascinating stories of the collections and the people who’ve kept the library alive, well, and defended from those who would have brought it to its knees. We then braved the wind and rain for a few minutes to see one of the Library’s specialty museums, which featured Esperanto and globes. In some ways, the two topics seem unrelated to each other. But when you consider that the inventor of Esperanto wanted to bring the world’s people closer together through a common language, maybe Esperanto and globes belong in the same space after all.
By the time we’d browsed all these museums, we were ready for lunch. The Cafe Klimt came to our rescue with rib-sticking goulash soup and lebkuchen torte, named for the spicy nuttiness of the traditional cookie. The cafe also provided some amusing people watching as the cafe’s harried hostess chased down and firmly pointed out the end of the line to
people who had sailed past others waiting for a table.
Because it was still raining by the time we finished lunch, we scrolled our phones for other indoor activities. Nearby was the Butterfly House, originally constructed to house the indoor gardens of Franz Josef I. Now, it’s a tourist delight, especially on winter days when the wind finds every gap in your scarf and tries to blow your hat off your head.
As dusk fell on Vienna, we cut through the still-open Christkindl market and celebrated with a pre-dinner gluhwein, before heading to a neighborhood burger bar for dinner. The place was crazy busy with locals and tourists. Apparently, not everyone in the world stays at home with family for a turkey dinner.