Day 1. Feeling Hopeful.

Me. “I am calling to check on the status of this lost baggage.”

KLM. “The baggage is not lost. The Amsterdam ground team is looking for the baggage.”

Me. “If the baggage is not lost, why I am calling to check on the status?”

KLM. (Looooooong Pause.) “I am sorry.”

But first. Jack’s connection from Amsterdam to Vienna before Christmas was delayed. This delay worked to my advantage because earlier on the arrival morning the “Check Engine” light on the Volvo alit; my “guy” at the dealer was able to find an appointment slot and so I left the car in the sick bay with the promise of a return the following morning, just in time for the long holiday weekend, and when we would head to Tirol for winter fun.

The delay also meant I had time to repack my clothing for Tirol after Christmas…because Anna Grace could not find the cashmere wine cardigan she borrowed from me a couple of weeks ago, the very cardigan I planned to wear every. single. day. I also had time to re-launder a light colored sweater accidentally tossed in with my brand new dark grey jeans that had turned streaky-grey before catching a taxi to meet Jack.  But just half of his luggage.

Later that evening, our classically terrible family selfie.

Day 2. Pitiful. Humorous, but still pitiful.

Me. “I am calling to inquire about the status of this lost baggage.”

KLM. “The baggage is not lost. The ground team just can not find the baggage.”

Me. “Do you have a dictionary available?”

KLM. “Should the missing baggage not be found in 72 hours, you can send us a list of the contents to aid in finding the baggage.”

Me. “So, the baggage is lost?”

KLM. “The baggage is not lost. The ground team just can not find the baggage.”

 

With thanks to either the Detroit or Amsterdam or Vienna airport ground crew, a few Christmas presents had not arrived to be wrapped, so what better way to spend the time than on a wander through a nearby former imperial hunting reserve? On the grounds is Hermesvilla, one of the former Hapsburg country villas. Also on the grounds were Muffalon and Wild Boar and Wild Children! Interestingly the Muffalon were in a fenced preserve; while the boar and the children roamed freely.

Later that evening, pub food and card games at a microbrewery owned and managed by a former AIS Vienna science teacher, and where it is not uncommon to find a familiar AIS face or two. The smoked cocoa-coffee wings are top-rate, just saying.

 

Day 3. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Me. “I am calling to inquire about the status of this lost baggage.”

KLM. “The baggage is not lost. Unfortunately we are unable to locate the baggage.”

Me. “Do you know if the baggage even left the United States?”

KLM. “We have no record of the baggage in Amsterdam.”

Me. “Do you know if the ground crew in Detroit is looking for the bag?”

KLM. “Please understand that ground crews are overworked right now.”

Me. “Is it possible to request a search in Detroit for the lost baggage?”

KLM. “The baggage is not lost. I will send a request marked ‘Urgent’ to the Detroit team.”

 

One more trip to the airport on Christmas Eve, to collect Jack’s girlfriend Fran and her sister Katherine. Clayton Theodore even dressed for the occasion.

On the day after Christmas we piled six people, six suitcases, a wily Foxhound, toboggans and a Raclette grill into the cars (the all-better wagon and a rental) to spend the post-Christmas holiday in the snowy winter wonderland of the Tirolean Alps.

The morning view from our cabin.

Seefeld in Tirol winter scenery.

On one postcard perfect winter day Die Jugend went tobogganing while Tony and I winter wandered for 12km or so, eventually ending up at the same Hütte we discovered in June, when we stopped over in Seefeld en route back from our Italian holiday. The hiking trails are now ski slopes, but the views were still breathtaking.

One night for dinner while in Tirol we introduced The Girls to raclette, the oh-so-alpine tradition of gathering around the modern day campfire and grilling dinner. Gathered around the table in our cabin (think Catskills Resort, circa 1965), we passed plates of grilled food and bottles of wine and had an altogether lovely evening.

Innsbruck featured as a day trip from Seefeld, the scenery from the train causing us to flit back and forth across the aisle with our cameras clicking.

Innsbruck only disappointed in that the forecast snow never quite materialized.

A Sauerkraut Bar; a store devoted entirely to Bacon; and Schnapps in every imaginable flavor.

Dare I write that I had the most flavorful Tafelspitz to date in Innsbruck?  This is Tafelspitz from oxen, perhaps the secret?

I was a Swarovski fan before we moved, or even knew we were moving to Austria, and so said to Tony, “Let’s just take a peek, shall we?” in the Swarovski Innsbruck outpost. Sparkles and sparkles everywhere, including the new antler necklace that called out my name.

We all ❤️ Tirol, especially my Swedish wagon!

Back in Vienna for New Year’s Eve, the youth all celebrated in the Inner Stadt, while Tony and I remained at home to comfort Clayton Theodore, who shivered and shook with each blast of the pyrolunatics setting off cannons in Türkenschanzpark until the wee hours of 2018.  But there was good news to close out 2017.

Day 9. Jack’s “not lost” baggage was (finally) located and delivered to us in Vienna!

New Year’s Day and everyone is appropriately dressed for The Outback Bowl. Three Michigan alum; one almost-an-alum; a prospective Wolverine; a Wolverine Friend, and a slightly terrified friend of Anna Grace’s who volunteered to snap the photos. Rather embarrassingly our team choked. There’s always next year!

A short road trip to Esterháza, Hungary’s “Versailles” for Fran to experience Central Europe from a less touristy perspective. The Eszterhazy Family was among the great landowners of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and strongly loyal to the Emperor; it is suggested that the family fell into political disfavor because of their allegiance with the Hapsburgs and, after World War I, the Esterhazy family simply left for Austria and abandoned this property.

During WWII the building was used for Nazi headquarters and eventually as a hospital; it was not until 1957 when the Hungarian state took ownership that restoration work began.

Only 5 of the 126 rooms are available for touring. Many are in need of restoration; and a few are used now as the residence of Prince Anton Rudolf Marie Georg Christoph Hubertus Johannes Karl Aglaë, an Esterhazy, though his title has no legal standing any longer.

Dare I write that Hungarian Tafelspitz was also flavorful, especially with a bold Kekfrankos?

Hungarian Schnitzel. If only the Emperor’s field man had traveled to Hungary instead of Italy…

One final holiday outing, a classical concert in the intimate and beautiful Annakirche.

But all good things must come to an end, no? I have written periodically about my love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with grocery shopping in Vienna. With Christmas Eve falling on a Sunday stores in Vienna were closed from 1800 on Saturday evening through the entirety of Tuesday (Boxing Day/St. Stephan’s Day), for a total shutdown of about 86 hours. Planning for this requires considerable strategy; in our case, we simply headed to Tirol, where the grocery stores were fully open on both Christmas Day and Boxing Day (winter sports enthusiasts need groceries!)

Vienna shut down again over last weekend for New Years, from 1800 on Saturday evening until Tuesday morning, a brief 62 hours, relatively speaking. With Jack and The Girls still visiting, I did a bare-minimum pantry restock and we all managed just fine.

Fast forward to today, the first Friday of the month, which I think might be “Pension Friday,” when the pensioners all receive their monthly stipend and head to the grocery. I have learned to generally avoid shopping on Pension Fridays because the aisles are blocked by said pensioners either moving slowly or chatting with one another–it is often difficult to tell the difference. But tomorrow is another holiday, Epiphany, and so the grocery stores will be closed from tonight until Monday morning, when school resumes following the winter break.

Adding fuel to this Pension Friday/Two Day Shutdown/Families Need Groceries hellscape, our grocery was offering a 15% discount on one’s total grocery bill, a magnet for the notoriously thrifty Viennese. Anna Grace thoughtfully volunteered as tribute to help me grocery shop today.

Three passes through the parking garage later, the car was parked. Wending past pensioners and crazed parents for an hour, we queued to check out. (Of course only four checkout lanes were open–why would there need to be any more?) Thinking ahead for the month, I purchased six bottles of wine and put them in the six-bottle CARDBOARD holder the grocery offers.

Anna Grace had loaded all the groceries back into the cart but for the wine box and had moved the cart to the packing counter (remember, groceries are self-pack here). I paid for the groceries and picked up the wine box. Moments later, the spectacular CRASH of the wine bottles falling through the bottom of the defective wine box could be heard across the store. Yep, all six bottles of wine hit the ground, blocking three of the four grocery lanes with shattered glass and the perfume of fermented grapes.

And so begins another year in, “The World’s Most Livable City.” Happy 2018!