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PARIS IN DECEMBER

Because in the book of life, everyone should have a chapter about Paris. – KC Blau

There’s a lot you can do in two hours time. If you’re adventurous and bad at planning and expecting guests for dinner, you can attempt the 2-hour turkey cooking recipe. If you’re bored and your electricity is down you have to entertain a bunch of friends, you can suffer through 2 hours of monopoly together. If you were an average employee with an average work day back in 2007, you wasted an average of two hours a work day every day. If you live in Chapel Hill, it will take you about two hours to hit the waves (unless it’s hurricane season and they come to you). And if you’re a good date, you can spend 2-hours of quality time with that special someone experiencing the new Star Wars film in 3D. And if you live in Vienna? You can fly to Paris.

Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris – final resting place of Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Modigliani, Proust, Rossini, Moliere, Edith Piaf and Getrude Stein.

Which is what I did this past week. Which is why I didn’t blog. Forgive me because I’m not sorry. Passé, perhaps, but I love Paris.

Clock at the Museum d'Orsay on the Impressionists floor overlooking Sacre Couer

Clock at the Museum d’Orsay on the Impressionists floor overlooking the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur

In Paris, with over 300 types of cheese to choose from, you have to leave off most of the endings of words, just to give yourself enough time to have a bite or two. And you find yourself forced to slaughter a language that when spoken by a native French person, sounds so seductive that even the subway guy announcing the metro stops makes you loosen the top button of your blouse. Nothing in Paris is in English and no one ever seems to know any despite the songs and films from – gasp! – America. But Pierre knows he’s strict and after letting you flounder a bit, when your Parlez-vous’ start to provoke some Parlez-Please-don’ts, Pierre and his Parisian friends will indeed toss their sweet boorish foreigner a life preserver with a sudden epiphany that, oh yes, well maybe they do indeed perhaps understand and speak a little — well some — English after all. A Parisian miracle.

Christmas exhibit in the Notre Dame

Christmas exhibit in the Notre Dame

Ahh Paris, the City of Light. Every museum holds a masterpiece, every masterpiece a deep underlying symbol, every guy a fashionable scarf, every girl a colored brassiere, every street corner a cafe, every cafe eclairs, and the Eiffel Tower always keeps a gentle watch over her cultivated flock.  Visiting Paris from Vienna is like a whirlwind tour with the crazy friend who makes you dance, laugh, eat, drink, spend more money than you intended, and then eat, drink and spend more than you should. When you finally wave a remorseful au revoir, you drop into your cattle class 5B contraption called a seat and before the stewardess can tell you to turn off your electronic devices and the guy in 5C can give her an I-dare-you-to-say-something stare as he inserts his earbuds, you instantly fall into a 2-hour recovery coma. Paris…

KC Blau in Paris

Me in Paris but from another trip – the book of life is big enough for many Paris chapters

Because in the book of life, everyone should have a chapter about Paris.

Some interesting literature:

Mentioned in this blog: Average Work Day Wasted Hours

The book I picked up in the apartment where I stayed and couldn’t put back down again: Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The movie I downloaded from i-Tunes and watched while in Paris: Paris, Je T’aime

The song that always makes me think of Paris: “Comptine d´un autre été: l´après midi” Yann Tiersen

 

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NAUGHTY OR NICE – KRAMPUS WAS HERE

That time of year again… I passed the Krampus test. How about you?

Schloss Neugebäude in Vienna and the Krampusse were once again on the loose. Would have enjoyed seeing all the boys aged 5 – 13 who had elbowed their ways to the front of the crowds, rush to duck behind their Dads when the beasts came galloping out, gnashing their fangs, rustling their chains, chiming their cow bells, and then charging straight for those rascals. Yep, quite a scene. Or it would have been, had I not been plagued myself with a miniscule tinge of concern that those Krampusse might do some sloppy detective work or someone could have slipped them some false intel and they could have accidentally mistaken me for someone who had misbehaved this year. Fortunately, the Katscher Krampusse filled their baskets with folks obviously much naughtier than me and I could duck off into the 73A at the end of the evening and bring some scenes fresh from the castle straight to your home or workplace or man cave, far away and safe from those hunting, hungry demons. Then again, they travel fast and you might be in a completely different time zone, so best stay alert, tune an ear for the cling of cow bells, and clang of chains and random grunts and your nose sensitized to goat odors. And if they come? Be sure to take a selfie and post. And keep your GPS on your phone switched on. The NSA, Facebook, LinkedIn or the online Christmas vendors are bound to find you eventually – and start posting you ads for goat food, ear plugs, chain cutters and a nice vacation away from the cave.

Need more Krampus facts? Check out these posts:

Krampus is Coming to Get You (+ Bonus Krampus 101 List)

18 Telltale Signs Your Guy’s Really a Krampus

How Much More Austrian Do You Want – Christoph Waltz explains Krampus

 

 

 

 

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TOP TEN THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN VIENNA IN DECEMBER

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Vienna gets lots of visitors in December and that’s not too surprising because the city is beautiful this time of year. Here’s the top 10 things you’ll want to do and see while here in December to get the most of your visit.

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    1. Visit a Christmas Market. With over 20 markets to choose from, there’s something for everyone. Here’s a list of Vienna Christmas markets from my 2014 post with links. Note that the special events have probably changed but otherwise the markets and descriptions usually stay pretty consistent year for year.
    2. Indulge in some Glühwein while at that market. For your own Glühwein recipe – check out my “How to make Glühwein” post.

      Gluehwein at Schönnbrunn Castle Christmas Market - photo courtesy of M. Gardzina

      Gluehwein at Schönnbrunn Castle Christmas Market – photo courtesy of M. Gardzina

    3. Have lunch at Cafe Central – they have what’s called a “Menü” option on the weekdays and it is usually a soup and a main meal consisting of a meat or non-meat dish and rather reasonably priced. Be sure to make reservations or you might have to wait for a table or not get one at all. You can write to them for reservations at the email address on the Cafe Central website but reservations are only valid if you receive a confirmation email (usually pretty quick response time).
    4. See the mosaic of the Last Supper. Do this after your visit to Cafe Central, since the Minoritenkirche with the mosaic is a two minute walk up the road from the Cafe.  More about this amazing piece of art work in my post: “Napoleon, Jesus and the Free Masons: the Last Supper in Vienna.”
    5. Have an authentic Austrian dinner in one of Vienna’s oldest restaurants – the Griechenbeisl. Again, reservations are a necessity. Check out my post about the Greichenbeisl restaurant entitled, “If the Walls Could Speak – A Schnitzel with Turkish Invaders, Beethoven, Twain and Johnny Cash.”

      Fancy Schmancy Aida Krapfen

      Fancy Schmancy Aida Krapfen

    6. Try a Krapfen. Don’t know what that is? Kind of like a apricot jam filled doughnut – more on the subject here: “Krapfen – Getting Fat in Honor of Fat Tuesday.”
    7. Definitely, definitely, visit a Coffeehouse to catch your breath, read a newspaper, discuss the world, and maybe even have some coffee. These two posts should help you with that: This one has a list of choice coffeehouses: “Vienna and her Coffeehouses – Sit Back and Smell the Coffee,” and this one describes a bit of the coffeehouse culture: “Place to Visit in Vienna – Coffeehouses.”
    8.  Digest some art and see some museums. Check out my post “Things to See in Vienna – Art Museums and Street Art.”

      Entrance to the Griechenbeisl

      Entrance to the Griechenbeisl

    9. Visit the Austrian National Treasury and check out some amazing artifacts like the legendary holy lance/ Spear of Destiny. More about that on my post:”The Holy Lance (“Spear of Destiny”) & the Power to Rule the World.”
    10. Take a stroll through the park of the Schönbrunn Castle and be sure to hike the hill behind the castle up to the gorgeous Gloriette where you can have a hot cocoa and if you’re timing is right, listen to some live piano music.
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Krampus is Coming to Get You!

Krampus misunderstanding - he thinks KC's been naughty

Krampus misunderstanding – he thinks KC’s been naughty

Making a list. Checking it twice. Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.

And you? Worried. Just a little. Maybe more than a little? Cause you haven’t behaved. Right? Come on, now. Admit it.

I see that smile. Oh yeah. You’ve been naughty, haven’t you?

The workout regime that always starts tomorrow. The paper you promised weeks ago (you know the one I mean). The call from Auntie Em you didn’t manage to pick up in time. The text message you never got. The last piece of double chocolate extra rich cake you didn’t eat.

Krampus takes the bad and leaves the good

Krampus takes the bad and leaves the good

Ahh, yes. You’ve been naughty, alright. And this year it won’t be a lump of coal in your stocking. Nope. This is the year you’ll be making a close encounter of a goat something or another kind. They’re coming from the mountains. Coming from their caves. Wielding their sticks. Clanging their bells. And they just LOVE naughtiness.

And you know who you are. You know exactly who you are.

Yep. While all the good kiddies did their homework, and ate their sauerkraut, you were in your man cave watching Breaking Bad, and pretending to fix the vacuum cleaner. You can fool Auntie Em but you can’t fool Nikolas. He’ll be stuffing bags filled with mandarins, nuts, chocolate and cookies in the shoes of all the shiny happy good people of the world. Nauseatingly well-behaved. You know the ones. And your shoes? They’ll remain an empty stinking reminder of missed opportunity. The opportunity to have been good and do what you were told. But you didn’t. And rarely do.

These Aussies must not have been too naughty

These Aussies must not have been too naughty

And this year, my naughty little friend, you’re gonna pay. You can try to find a place to cower and hide but that man cave of yours won’t do you any good. Not this year. Because this year…

Krampus is coming.

It starts harmless enough. An innocent suggestion to visit the advent market at the old castle. Ahh, how nice. Austria. Traditional. The Old Country. Land of Silent Nights and children who dress in sailor suits and sing Christmas carols with their angelic little voices. Where Christmas is still about the Holiday spirit. A Christmas market. A real live Christmas market. Like under the train set. Only better. With live ABBA music, hand-carved manager scenes, gingerbread hearts, and hot roasted chestnuts sold in paper cones. Quaint. Genuine.

Krampus and KC

Krampus and KC plotting to get those who are naughty

Until darkness settles in the shadows beyond the decorated trees and the cold starts nipping at our noses, and we elbow our way to the Punsch stand Austrian style. You mistake the glint in my eyes for the after-glow of Waterloo or the before glow of Glühwein, but in fact it is something far more sinister, my friend.

Schadenfreude.

Krampus Gathering

The Krampus Huddle

Because that rattle of the chain beyond the stands and through the gate beckoning throngs of parents to drag their terrified children into the courtyard, is also a summoning you, my imp, naughty old you.

Innocently, so unassumingly, I suggest, “Let’s go and see what’s up.”

And you? Tingly with Glühwein, you smile and follow.

Poor bright-eyed bushy-tailed ignorant you.

Lump of coal in your stocking. You wish.

No, you’re in Krampusland now and the furry monsters have awakened from the depths of their dungeon-like dens to come and fetch you.

The bonfire rages, and the grunts intensify as the doors to the castle shake. A poem. Someone recites a poem and I translate. At first you are tickled pink. How sweet. A poem about Nikolas rewarding the well-behaved children.

Krampus with Babies

Krampus with Babies

But wait! There’s more!

Rhymes of beatings and punishment for those –like you—who misbehave.

Yep. You can run but you can’t hide.

Boom!

Music bellows through the night – a terrifying heed to the creatures from beyond.

“Come get them! They’re here! The naughty ones are gathered and ready!” The unspoken words thunder in time to the music.

Krampus' Basket

Krampus fetches the Naughty Ones and puts them in his basket and whisks them to his cave

They are coming to snatch you up, toss you in their baskets and haul you down into their wicked caves.

The doors smash open. It’s time.

Nikolas  vanishes.

Not one, not two, a whole herd of otherworldly creatures burst into the screaming masses. Smoke and fire follow in their wake. Cow bells clang the dreadful chimes of doom. An angry sea of black, brown, grey and white goat hides. Ungodly horns sharpened to pierce the darkest souls slice the icy air. Blood-shot eyes ravenous for victims scan the trembling prey. Jagged teeth and snake-like tongues hang in anticipation.

Armed with chains, cauldrons and Ruten the demons sway and dance, and push through the screeching throngs looking for you. An hour, how long an hour can seem — like an eternity — maybe longer, they search, they target, they wave their Rute and grunt and chase.

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Krampus Clang with Cow Bells

Krampuses Clang with Cow Bells

Yes, the Krampuses have come.

Have you been good?

KRAMPUS 101:

Rute: branches tied together — the Krampus tool of choice for corporal punishment
Perchta/Perchten: another word used for Krampus
Perchtenlauf/Krampuslauf: “Krampus run” — describes the event of the Krampuses coming
Katscher Krampus: the Krampuses featured here (from the Schloss Neugebäude Krampuslauf in Vienna on Dec 7, 2013)
December 5 & 6: Krampus comes on the 5th and Nicolas on the 6th but they often come together as a team — whoever said Krampuses can’t work efficiently — but they can show up anytime from about Dec 1 – Dec 9, so be vigilant.
cow bells: Krampus must-have accessory to notify parents to “Bring out you kids”

Krampus uses a "Rute" made of jagged branches to beat naughty ones (no one dares to tell him it's forbidden)

Krampus uses a “Rute” to beat out the naughtiness (no one dares to tell him corporal punishment is now a no-no)

basket: the Krampus backpack complete with naughty-kid compartment
chains: another Krampus must-have accessory
Schadenfreude: joy at another’s (deserved) misfortune –and don’t act like you have never experienced it or the Krampus will get you for lying.
Inquisition: hard times for Krampus because he was forbidden (no one was allowed to imitate the devil but
Krampus perservered in remote villages – he’s no whimp)
Don’t tell anyone I told you- some people suspect there might be young gentlemen who dress up like Krampuses which would explain why many young ladies have often been the targets of  many a swinging Rute throughout the decades
Horns: often from chamois
Fur: from goats
Masks: usually hand-carved from wood
ABBA: indication in Austria that the party is bound to be good and worth attending– Austrians almost love ABBA more than they love the Hapsburgs and if you want to make friends and influence people in this country — know your ABBA trivia and song lyrics

Krampus with boy and girl

Krampus with boy and girl

Paper promised weeks ago — you know which one and Krampus will find you cause I gave him your name and address.
Auntie Em: a sweet lady whose phone calls you should NEVER ignore because the guilt you will suffer is far more dire than the Krampus’ wrath (right, Auntie Em?)

Krampus and a very "brav" KC

Krampus and a very “brav” KC

Krampus and Aussies

Krampus and Aussies

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