Immediately after Christmas, a small army of New Year’s lucky pigs begins to appear in every shop window, and as the Neujahr Märkte replace the Christkindlmärkte they are filled with fluffy pig hats, plush pigs of all sizes, glass and ceramic piglets, and of course, Marzipan candy pigs! Alongside the piggies are other good luck symbols including 4-leaf clovers.
On New Year’s Eve, we joined the throngs in the streets of Vienna for music and general revelry, even waltzing in the street en plein air to a live chamber orchestra at the corner of the Prater and the Stefansplatz!
By 10 p.m. we slowly made our way from the Stefansdom past very LOUD rock music venues along Kärntnerstrasse, and past the live public broadcast of “Die Fledermaus” at the Staatsoper, where we caught the last moments of the first act:
Then we were back out on the Ringstrasse (ah, elbow room again!) and headed over to the Konzerthaus.
We had tickets for a 10:45 gala concert featuring a favorite Viennese comedic actress Katharine Strasser with a super talent at deadpan, fabulous operatic tenor Michael Schade (who was just in “Capriccio” with Rene Fleming in Vienna), and a delightful small group of orchestral musicians called “The Philharmonics.” (No, it wasn’t THAT Philharmonic New Year’s concert – requires entering a lottery with a chance of 1 in 4000 of getting a seat!) Plenty of Strauss and Mozart, though, plus Artie Shaw, Gershwin, and a rather surreal rendering of “Auld Lang Syne” auf Deutsch!
The concert had a very lengthy intermission around midnight, whereupon everyone poured into the wine bars on each level, and while sipping champagne we watched the fireworks across the rooftops from both the Stefansdom and the Prater. Magical!
The next morning we got up early again to get out to the Rathausplatz for the live public broadcast of the famous (and otherwise unattainable) Wiener Philaharmoniker Neujahr Konzert (https://www.wienerphilharmoniker.at/concerts/concert-detail/event-id/%20464). We breakfasted on sweet Krapfen (isn’t that a great name for donuts!?) and pretzels, Wurst, and several cups of coffee (hard to find even on New Year’s morning – Punsch and hot chocolate were the more prominent drink offerings!)
And the day was not over yet! We had a very kind invitation from Mike and Christina Stephens, friends from Christ Church (see photo of Christina and me at British Embassy in an earlier post). Mike is retired from the U.S. foreign service, and Christina is retired from the UN (as well as being a singer and dancer). They hosted us for a fabulous New Year’s mid-day feast, just the 4 of us, at their beautifully renovated flat in the Arsenal near railroad tracks south of the Gürtel (the outer concentric circle around the inner city and beyond the Ringstrasse). The Philharmonic Concert was still going on the TV, and we waltzed a few bars in their living room, then clapped with proper Viennese enthusiasm to the Radetzky March. (OK, so he was the very K&K general who among other things helped to put down the 1848 Revolution which at least managed to oust Metternich. It’s still fun to clap along. I wonder how many Viennese really know who/what they are clapping for!?)
The Arsenal, formerly one of Franz Josef’s built-to-impress military installations, is now mostly converted apartments, and also houses the Heeresgeschichtlichesmuseum or “HGM” (military history museum). The “21er Haus” Museum of Modern Art is very close as well – impressive building, which we only had time to see from the outside.
The interior of each “Objekt” or building retains some of the graceful Habsburg architectural features that graced even a military barracks, such as these beautiful curving staircases, and the view of the courtyard from Christina and Mike’s outer hallway.
Some seriously large, modern buildings are going up in the vicinity which, once the construction is ended, should help make the area feel even more bustling and vibrant.