Thursday, December 15, 2011

Balancing Work and Play

After an almost 1 month hiatus, I am returning to you, my friends! :)

I am currently sitting in a little English pub/cafe close to Schwedenplatz, sipping a cappuccino, squinting at my computer screen and trying to figure out whether I might need glasses. Or maybe its just because I have been staring at a screen for the past 6.5 hours. Today I sent out the first 20 pages of my next dissertation chapter. While I had hoped to have the entire chapter finished by now, at least I am making some progress and could turn something into my adviser. As you may guess, this writing has taken precedence over blog writing. I have tried a few times to sit down in the evenings and write a short post, but I can never bring myself to actually do it.

Another exciting step I took today was to contact the author I am currently working on. Her name is Barbara Frischmuth and she lives in Altaussee. I met her a few weeks ago at the Erich-Fried Literature Prize celebration at the Literaturhaus in Vienna. And if you're wondering, it wasn't a totally serendipitous meeting--I had looked her up online and realized that in a few days she would be speaking in Vienna, so I arranged to go (its wasn't exactly stalking... just a very well researched undertaking!). Monika, one of the other Fulbrighters, happily came with me and gave me the necessary encouragement to actually approach Ms. Frischmuth after the event. Even though I was really nervous, I managed to talk to her and she responded very kindly by giving me her email address. Hands shaking, voice wobbling, I managed to record it in my little Moleskin and thanked her profusely. Now, after about three weeks of pondering and composing, I finally summoned up the courage to send out an email today, asking her to meet and discuss her work with me. Its really a unique opportunity to meet with an author, particularly one whose work you're interested in, and I would be thrilled if she would agree to talk to me! I'll keep you posted on the outcome!

That's what's going on in my work world--I have been trying to balance some 'play
time,' too, especially since Greg will be returning to the States over Christmas and not coming back with me in January.
We have been doing a very good job at exploring the Christkindlmärkte of Vienna together and both agree that we like Spittelberg the best. With its cozy little cobblestone streets, unique craft stands and lots of food and drink stands, it gives off a very intimate and romantic feel (see right!).
The one at the Karlsplatz comes in at a close second--they really
have fantastic food (We ate baked Fladenbrot with cheese and bacon and waffles covered in powder sugar and chocolate!) and drinks (my favorite is Glühwein--mulled wine--of course! Punsch is also very popular and so is hot chocolate!).
We have also been to Schönbrunn, the Habsburg Imperial Palace. Their market is nice, but more expensive and smaller than the others. Unlike Spittelberg, it is out in the open, more spread out and consequently much colder at night. I had some Jagatee to warm up!
The Christmas Market at the Rathaus--and all of the outrageously decorated trees surrounding it-- is the one most geared toward tourists. You won't find the cute little craft stands like the ones at Karlsplatz or Spittelberg here. No, its more flashy, with mass-produced bags, hats, ornaments and jewelry adorning all the stands. So, if you're ever in Vienna at Christmas, skip that one and head to the MQ or the AKH for some Glühwein instead. They have smaller Christmas villages, but they're a nice alternative to the Rathaus and not too far away from it either.

Since I spent the last weekend writing like mad while Greg was away on a ski trip, I decided to make Tuesday and Wednesday my weekend. One of the greatest things about academia is that it IS rather flexible in terms of schedules... :) Greg and I took full advantage of Tuesday--we went to brunch at a cute little cafe in our neighborhood called Cafe der Provinz, which is best known for its amazing crepes, then tackled most of our Christmas shopping in the First district, the Naschmarkt and the Christmas markets, and decided to go to the opera in the evening. We got standing tickets at the Staatsoper for only 4 Euros and saw Richard Strauss' "Daphne." It was quite impressive! Greg was quite right when he said its amazing how integrated the cultural scene is here in society and how accessible it is to everyone. I mean, heck, how many people just decide to go to the opera on a random Tuesday night? But the place was packed!
We ended the fantasticday with a visit to Cafe Sacher and each had a slice of the world famous Sachertorte. Delicious!

Yesterday we spent the day at the Prater--and despite the fact it was deserted and gray, we had a lot of fun! We drove go-carts, sipped Glühwein, had Schnitzel and rode the Riesenrad when it got dark (but seriously, for 8 Euros, I'd rather go to the opera two more times than have one spin in the ferris wheel--that was way over priced!).

That's all for now, friends. We have one more week left in Vienna before we head back to WV for Christmas. I will try to post again before I leave--or maybe on the airplane?

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