A New Year in Austria

Robert and I made the long drive (~6 hours) from Stuttgart to Bad Fischau, a little village just south of Vienna, to celebrate New Year’s Eve or Silvester (in reference to Saint Silvester) as it is called here and much of this corner of Europe. We spent the evening with Robert’s parents, his sister and her husband, our two young nephews (they were asleep by the time we arrived), and a few family friends. Robert’s parents have the home in Fischau for weekends and holidays, but spend most of their time in Vienna.

We were welcomed with a large spread of meat, cheese, eggs, and veggies for raclette, a traditional holiday dinner in Austria. Simply put, you load up a triangle-shaped metal vessel with just about anything you like. Then, cover with a slice of cheese — one that melts fairly easily, of course. Stick the vessel into the raclette and wait and watch until the cheese on the top begins to bubble and brown. Remove it from the raclette, then scrape out of the vessel with your little wooden spoon onto your plate and enjoy!

Robert’s mother had a ton of ingredients to choose from including tomato, red pepper, mushrooms, capers, olives, garlic, onion, bacon, ham, boiled potatoes, bread, and of course the cheese.  This is a tradition I can certainly get behind!

Just before midnight we all headed outside with a glass of champagne to watch the fireworks, which were going off all over Vienna. It felt like the 4th of July in the U.S. Bad Fischau is 20-30 miles south of Vienna, but at a higher elevation so we had a really nice view of the entire city. Also, Robert’s father set off some very nice fireworks in the yard so we had our very own private fireworks display.

After the fireworks we all headed back inside to do Bleigißen, a tradition where you place a small piece of lead on a spoon, melt it over a candle, and then throw the melted lead into a bowl of cold water. Then you try to make out what kind of shape you’ve created and what that might tell you about your life in the new year. As you can see in the pictures below, I started with a small bottle of Sekt (bubbly) and ended up with something that kind of resembled a boat or maybe a lizard or an alien? It’s hard to say, and I have no idea what this creature might tell me about my 2017, but it was fun to do nonetheless.

Finally, we all took turns picking little good luck charms out of grab bags. Typical good luck charms in Austria include mushrooms, ladybugs, and the number 13. You’re supposed to keep these charms in your wallet all year for good luck. I picked a ladybug and a number 13 with a little mushroom:

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All in all, my first New Year celebration as an expat in Europe was really, really nice. I experienced new traditions (raclette, fireworks, Bleigeßen, and good luck charms) and felt really welcomed by Robert’s family, despite the language barrier (Deutsch, why must you be so difficult??!)

Happy New Year! Happy 2017!

 

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