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Trailing the Krampus

Trailing the Krampus

It is cold and dark. It’s November 24, and I have been waiting in the bitter cold behind metallic fences for more than an hour. Many others, both children and adults, wait for the Krampuslauf (Krampus parade) to start. Some are drinking Punsch, and everyone appears excited. I have seen pictures of the Krampus, but […]

Maria Drives to the Sky

Sipping a frothy hazelnut milkshake at a corner café, I turned and asked my Austrian friends Stefanie and Thomas, “So why is August 15th a national holiday?” Every Wednesday should be a holiday. Nothing like Austrians and their plentiful Catholic holidays, I thought. “Well, it has something to do with Maria,” Stefanie replied. That seemed […]

St. Patrick’s Day: Shamrocking in Wientown

St. Patrick’s Day: Shamrocking in Wientown

My mission: to reproduce for you the mayhem encompassing our fair city’s authentic Irish watering holes, on the most widely celebrated saint’s day in the world, St. Patrick’s Day. Usually only taken seriously by the Irish – and taken to extremes by the Irish diaspora in Anglo-Saxon countries – the hulk-coloured boozing frenzy has gained […]

British Christmas Dinner

To recreate in Vienna the ritual of a propper Christmas dinner with roast turkey, crackers and flaming Christmas pudding, planning ahead is vital, but it’s also a challenge, and well worth rising to. Order your turkey from Zum Gockelhahn at the Naschmarkt (stand 180-183), a tried and trusted source (and friendly, too). They also sell […]

Notes from Nature: Up, Up and (Not Far) Away

Notes from Nature: Up, Up and (Not Far) Away

Until a few minutes ago, the roar of motorcyclists snaking around the hairpin bends of local roads had echoed about the valley, but after an hour or so of steady hiking, we’ve finally left the traffic noise behind. “When you stop and listen, the silence is incredible,” I say. “It’s loud.” “All I can hear […]

The Year of the Cat: ‘Silvester’ in Vietnam

By rights, this should have been the Year of the Rabbit – that’s what the zodiac calendar says in China, anyway. But in Vietnam, it’s the Year of the Cat. “We didn’t have enough rabbits,” a guide tells us. “But anyway, the characteristics are the same…” This is the Feast of Tet, the New Year […]

Vienna for Valentines

February 14th is St. Valentine’s Day, when lonely hearts woo would-be lovers with anonymous missives. All very odd given that the saint in question was an obscure third century Roman poet, with little proven interest in targetting Cupid’s bow. That said there is little doubt regarding Vienna’s part in the most romantic day of the year: […]

A Dark, Looming Legacy

The clack, clack, clack of crows is a constant in the Calder Valley. The birds wheel about high on the autumnal wind. Perhaps it’s their very ancestors who inhabit so many of the writings of late English poet Ted Hughes. “A black rainbow, Bent in emptiness, Over emptiness,” he wrote of the crow. “His palace […]

Time Out in North Wales

Time Out in North Wales

Go to the Llyn Peninsula in Wales and plan to tramp along the Edge of Wales walking paths, which follow the coast in eight sections. Visit the National Park of Snowdonia, walk or bike its trails and climb the 1085 meters to the peak of Snowdon – the fourth highest mountain in Great Britain. During […]

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