Monday, November 25, 2013

For Everything There is a Season

When I was in Sydney, what I missed most from my previous life was the change in seasons. Summers in Sydney were sweet. Even the nights that were so hot, you could take a cold shower and be dripping sweat again by the time you'd dried off - even those nights were sweet for someone who feels the cold like I do. Then sometime in April or May, the days would get shorter and the temperature would fall. The house would become cold and cavelike. Laundry hung up inside could take five or six days to dry. Outside, though, the leaves were still green, and on nice days, the temperature could reach 20 degrees. Having to go outside to warm up in mid-winter was something this North American never really got used to. Winter in Sydney felt to me like a prolonged descent into autumn that never quite reached maturity. It put you in the mood for pumpkin-flavoured desserts, fresh apples, and bowls of hot chili, but there were no brilliant displays of autumn colour to match and no snowy wonderland ahead.

I caught the tail end of winter upon arriving in Vienna in February. The city was recovering from a sizable snowfall and I had to climb over snowbanks and jump over puddles of slush in my little canvas tennis shoes, because all the shops had sold out of winter boots. In those first weeks, I woke up every morning secretly hoping for either snow or torrential rain so that I could have an excuse to take the tram instead of my bike to work. Apart from being so uphill, it was so cold.

When spring arrived in full, I felt like I had survived a mammoth ordeal. How could anyone possibly endure five straight months of winter!? Had I ever really done that? Four weeks of early-spring cold was more than enough for me. I had previously told my Australian friends that you can't truly appreciate spring unless you're coming out of a long and frigid winter. Let me tell you, I appreciated the heck out of April and May this year.

Spring turned into summer, and summer surprised me, because I was not expecting it to be that hot in Vienna. Yeah, my colleagues had warned me a bit, but when they said, "Vienna gets really hot in the summer," I thought the "really hot" they were talking about was similar to the "really hot" people refer to in Buffalo, where it's never even reached 38 C. I was wrong.

Autumn. I have always loved autumn. Despite my paradoxical love of hot, sunny days and snowstorms, autumn has always been my favourite season. I was really looking forward to it this year, because I haven't seen a proper autumn since 2009. They don't get the bright red leaves here, but as it turned out, I didn't even miss them, because I had this instead. In the sunshine, Vienna was like a wonderland of pure gold.

Now that I've been here almost nine months, I've almost come full circle. Watching winter descend upon Vienna is a totally different experience than watching it leave. Watching winter descend on Vienna means watching the city get its Christmas spirit on. It's not even December yet, but I can already tell - this is a city that knows how Christmas is done. I'd been trying to hold off on embracing the season until after American Thanksgiving, but then this morning it started snowing, and I calculated how many Christmas markets I have left to see in the next few weeks, and forget waiting, man. My Christmas season has officially begun.

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