Tag Archives: Winter

Ode to Spring

The Prater is Vienna’s version of Central Park—a massive, path-laced green zone that lies, depending on your perspective, either frustratingly outside the tourist part of town (i.e., the first district) or conveniently near the city center, in the highly-accessible second district (where I live, FYI). (The second district is the best of all the districts, but we can talk about that some other time.) Put another way, the Prater is located between the canal (previously an arm of the Danube) and the Danube itself (which actually is a redirected/reshaped arm of the river) (and yes, we can talk about that some other time, too)…..

Well. I seem not to be making much progress here. So, in short, the Prater is a giant park, with a straight pedestrian road—the Hauptallee—up its center, where carriages and joggers and cyclists and flaneurs and all manner of folk go up and down. There are restaurants and a giant ferris wheel (the Riesenrad) and a miniature train and an amusement park. Some amount of this last consists of relics from the 1873 World’s Fair (more about that some other time too—coinciding with a stock market crash and a cholera epidemic, it was a colossal failure). A lot of it is recent additions and new constructions. It changes often, and also remains very much the same. In the summer it’s a key attraction, and when warm weather (finally, finally!) comes, I’ll be going there in the evenings fairly often (miniature golf! beer garden!) and will write about it again.

But in the meantime, I wanted to share some pictures of how the amusement park looked a few weeks ago, under heavy snow. Part of the motivation here is that the (please, God) last snow of the year fell over the last three days and is just now starting to melt. Let me use these pictures as a farewell to Vienna’s atmospheric, austere, beautiful winter, and a greeting to spring.

Spring! Where the hell are you??

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Shoes: A Collector’s Story

It’s time for us to talk shoes. There are probably going to be a lot of posts about shoes on this blog, because, to the extent that I will admit to collecting anything, I collect shoes. And when you collect shoes, you have to have both limits (not any old thing will do), and also quests. The following boots fulfill both of those criteria:

New Blue Shoes

These boots have heels. I know, that’s obvious. But I have, until recently, had an absolute rule: No shoes, other than clogs or sneakers, with a heel under 3″. (Note the “until recently.” Change figures prominently in this post.)

These boots were also the result of a quest, for they are blue. I have been looking for a really great pair of blue, high-heeled, knee-high boots for literally years. I have trawled shopping sites, filtering for the color blue. I have stared in windows. I have…well, you get the idea.

Bonus points for these boots being bought in Italy, in Pistoia. They are souvenir boots.


(Whenever I travel, I try to buy a pair of shoes to remember the place.) (Except in Madrid. That place was a shoe wasteland.) (This shoe-travel thing will likely come up again.)

There is a problem, however. In Vienna, the weather is not exactly footwear-friendly. Some of this is exactly what you’d predict. I speak, of course, of snow. Mountains of snow, and the salt that follows it, make for cruel circumstances for one’s feet.

Snow It Goes

My first purchase since arriving in Vienna was, therefore, the requisite pair of puffer boots. I honestly thought I’d left this kind of thing behind when I moved out of upstate New York, but there you go: Puffer boots with puffer coat, modelled here in a tire rut in the snow on the edge of the 6th district last weekend.

The problems don’t end with the snow, however. Vienna’s public works people have an interesting practice of sprinkling little stones all over the pavement in addition to the salt. This must be to increase traction on the ice, but one primarily experiences it as an annoyance. The snow melts away, and underneath is this fine layer of little pebbles, not quite gravel, but not as fine as kitty litter.

It looks like this:

The Stones of Vienna

See that? That’s my toe, and all around it, a veritable beach of small stones. Well, you try walking over that stuff in high heels. Once the snow and ice are gone—and they don’t last long, because Vienna is not as cold as people think—the innocent heel-wearer will experience a constant sensation of little pebbles digging into the balls of your feet in the most painful way. Not to mention the fact that they scuff up your heels, and make you sort of slip around. All of which necessitated (necessitated, I tell you!) a further trip to the shoe store for a new pair of boots capable of coping with these extreme conditions.

Pragmatism Will Out

Here they are. Brown boots, with a heel that I am forced to admit can’t really be over 2.5″.

I know. If you’d told me a decade ago that I’d ever be wearing brown boots with a low heel, I’d have called you a lunatic.

Of course, I would have said the same if you’d told me I’d be living in Vienna (Vienna?!), so go figure.




But let’s confirm—that heel is just really low, right?

As Low As I'll Go

Of course, one thing has not changed: I am still a…gulp…collector, and as such, I still have criteria and I still have quests. Which brings us to….

New FriendsThe same trip through first district that brought you the pictures in my last post also took us past the store selling these — lovely grey boots (with heel!) that I desperately need to replace the somewhat worn-out pair that I left back in California.

So I bought them.

And I have a feeling it’ll happen again.

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Vienna Under Sugar

That’s what they call it here when there’s snow over the city — “angezuckert” — sugared. Last night about six fresh inches of snow fell on top of the couple of inches that gathered the previous day. It was enough snow to give everybody a festive feeling, and so we headed into First District with the masses, to walk around (and, what the hell, buy some boots — but more on that in a separate post). Here’s a bit of how the city looks with a dusting of sweet stuff.

The Stefansdom is newly cleaned — a friend tells us that it will more or less always be under restoration; the facade and towers are so intricate that as soon as the restoration gets around the building it essentially needs to start again immediately. Even so, it’s nice to have the front facade out from under scaffolding, as it has been since this summer, for the first time in the several years I’ve been coming to Vienna. A bit of snow trimming the towers does nothing to diminish its beauty.



While we’re looking at churches, the Karlskirche is among Vienna’s most impressive. I tend to find its 18th-century extravagance a bit much; the snow softens the effect:




Last church, I promise — the Peterskirche as seen between buildings. The Peterskirche is the Karlskirche’s 18th-century extravagance packed into a structure 1/4 of the size. It also does best when seen in glimpses, as here:


Peterskirche, peripherally


I dunno. It struck me:


Hot Dog!!


Saturday afternoon calls for a bit of cheese shopping at the Naschmarkt. Full disclosure: getting a nice snow picture here was not the easiest as the powder had been summarily trampled into puddles by eager shoppers. But whatever. It’s still pretty:




For anyone not so excited about the snow, never fear — spring will come:


Spring Will Come


There are so many snow pictures to follow, including a haunting “Prater amusement park in winter” series. Because snow is pretty. And there’s a lot of it.

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