I love Halloween. I have so many memories of it from my childhood — picking and carving pumpkins, dressing up and going trick-or-treating, going to creepy houses, on spooky hayrides, or through haunted forests, or just staying home and giving out candy. I like it all. Benjamin has experiencesd enough of Halloweens at this point to remember it, and to look forward to it this year. So, although we really didn’t know how Austriants celebrated Hallloween, it was important to me that we do something to make the occassion.
We have Daylight Saving Time here in Austria, just like in the US, but it ends a week earlier, so we’re now 5 hours off from Eastern Time, instead of 6 . . . until next week, when we’ll be back at 6 again. (I apologize, in advance, for anyone I call or text at an inappropriate time back in the States this week.)
Today we took the train to a very small town called Retz, which is apparently world famous for its Pumpkin Festival. It was a long train ride which took us well beyond Vienna — we were about 5 km from the Czech border when we arrived at the Retz train station. We had a great time at the Am Himmel festival last weekend, so we thought we’d give this one (which was supposed to be bigger) a try as well. From Retz, we took a shuttle bus (three fully loaded tour buses ran every hour) to Obermarkersdorf.
There are a lot of things we’re hoping to take from this experience of living abroad – memories of travel throughout Europe, the calm confidence that comes from having conquered a massive challenge, the perspective that comes from living out of your comfort zone. And, for the kids (if not also for us) hopefully a little bit of German speaking ability.
Benjamin’s class went on a field trip today. They took a bus to a farm and picked out pumpkins. I’m sure they had a great time, but I wouldn’t know: Benjamin didn’t go — he stayed home with me, instead. When his teacher first brought it up to me last week, she explained about the trip, and then immediately suggested that B not participate. Her thought was that, since he’s just now starting to be enthusiastic about being at school, they were worried that a trip away from the school, without either of his parents, might prove to be traumatic to him and undo the progress we’d made. Although I completely understand her perspective, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad — his first school field trip, and he was uninvited.
Today is the National Holiday in Austria. It’s a national day of rest (nearly everyone takes off of work) but it’s also a day to learn about and celebrate all that Austria has to offer: the Parliament and the National Library hold Open Houses, the military displays some of its major equipment on the lawn in front of the Hofburg, and many of the museums have discount admissions to encourage people to come out.
On the whole, Austrians are courteous, helpful and generally polite when I encounter them out in public. People seem to generally do what they’re supposed to do (throw their trash in the trash cans, sit where they should on the train, give up their seat to someone older or less able than themselves, hold doors, cross at crosswalks, etc.).
Benjamin saw it in the window of a shop down the block, and he’s been talking about it ever since. It’s a clear, plastic child’s umbrella, featuring Spider-Man. He fell in love with it.
I live in Austria. I don’t have a car, I go out every day (rain, shine, cold or wind) at least to pick up Benjamin at school. It’s only October, and we’re already below freezing in the mornings. I can’t avoid it any longer: I need a hat.
We’re not exactly sure how they celebrate Halloween here in Austria, but it’s definitely different than back at home. We’ve had pumpkins available to buy in the grocery stores for weeks now (just like at home) but they come pre-painted. There are a lot of pumpkin and scarecrow decorations to be found around, but very little else — no black cats, ghosts or witches, no vampires, bats, mummies or monsters. There aren’t bushels of trick-or-treat Halloween candy for sale at the stores. The focus seems to be on the harvest, on pumpkins, on the season. It isn’t a bad thing, just different.