(picture above: “Merry Christmas” in German)
December 25 has come and gone. It’s hard to believe. Not because I got caught up in the hustle and bustle of shopping for presents (not much time for that), but because being in Austria made this Christmas feel sooo different. I was extremely blessed to have my parents come to visit me for five days. Yep, they came all the way from Indiana to spend Christmas here in Vienna. I’m sure it will be a Christmas we’ll never forget.
It wouldn’t have been Christmas in Vienna without visiting the many Christmas markets. Here are pictures from the Rathaus (City Hall) Market. The big building in the background is transformed into an advent calendar each year. We went to the market on December 23 so the only day left was the 24th. Why was the 24th the last day? Well, Austrian tradition includes putting up the tree on the 24th as well as the kids seeing it for the first time that night. Going to church, sharing a meal with family and opening presents all takes place on the 24th. So, each day a window turned from a number to a picture sponsored by a local company/business in Vienna.
Now a bit of a crazy Christmas recap:
Parents arrived on Friday, December 22. Here they are wiped out in the hotel room after a long journey. They didn’t even hear my camera when I took this picture. But I let them have a 20-minute nap and then we were off to see Vienna. I wanted to get them on my schedule as quick as possible.
We usually ended a long site-seeing day with a game of Kuuduk or Phase 10 (Kuuduk pictured below).
One of our Vienna adventures was going to eat schnitzel at Figmullers. It’s a well-known restaurant here in Vienna.
And for dessert . . . a Sacher Torte. It’s a famous chocolate torte with apricot jam in the middle. It’s named for the Hotel Sacher which created the most famous of these desserts. We grabbed a take-away torte at one of the Christmas markets to enjoy in our hotel room later that evening.
Here’s Schonbrunn Palace from the front gate. It was known as the Versailles of the Austrian Empire. We took a tour of the inside and walked around the gardens. However we didn’t walk around the gardens long. It is December, and really really cold.
Here are my parents in front of the palace. There was a Christmas market out in front of this palace as well. See the big Christmas tree in the background?
On the palace property there is actually a zoo. This was one of the first zoos. Here are the elephants having their after Christmas celebration. They were a riot!
On Christmas day we opened some presents in the hotel room and then headed out to Modling to eat Christmas dinner. We met my roommate Courtney there along with her mom. We had a great feast and enjoyed the fellowship together. Here’s Mom and Dad in the hotel room with the gift I got them. It’s the wise men carved out of wood. I love the wood figurines and toys I’ve found here. I got my nephew Kaleb a special wooden toy that will be given to him very soon. I can’t wait to hear if he likes it!
Here’s me, Dad, Mom, Kathy (Courtney’s mom) and Courtney.
It’s hard to believe Christmas has come and gone. It didn’t completely feel like Christmas. But it’s good that with a simple Christmas I’m reminded of the true meaning of why we celebrate — Christ! On Christmas Eve everything in Vienna shuts down. Well, my parents and I didn’t prepare like we should have and ended up grabbing some sandwiches and Pringles from the BP gas station up the road for dinner. I thought I was going to cry because this isn’t how Christmas Eve should be. But then I remembered that Christ wasn’t born in a fancy hospital or hotel or even having room for Him in the inn. It was in a place where they kept that animals that He took His first breaths. Puts things in perspective.
Well, I really want to write more, but am completely exhausted. I leave for a two-month outreach tomorrow morning. Today has been an extremely stressful day. I can’t say my attitude has always been great. Or that in the midst of stress that I’m jumping for joy to head out to Bosnia and Serbia tomorrow. But I was reminded today that this outreach is probably not going to be about how prepared I was, but more so of how available I am to whatever God wants to do through me. For those of you who have heard my clay pot and Nalgene Bottle talk, it’s time to be a clay pot. Pray that I’ll be that clay pot!
I also ask that you pray for us as we travel 12 hours in the van tomorrow. Pray for safety. We’re teaching Sunday school on Sunday morning in Bosnia for the youth. That should be fun!
Then in the next two weeks in Bosnia we’ll be leading games and activities at an orphanage, maybe passing out Samaritan Purse gifts and possibly helping with English classes.
In Serbia we’ll be connecting with a local church and their youth group. They’d like to start a game night in their church to give teens something fun to do in the winter. Pray that relationships will be built and that we’ll be able to find where the teens go out and go to them.
I hope to keep updating this blog over the next two months, but I appreciate your patience. I don’t think I’m going to take my computer with me. But will hopefully be able to do it from an Internet cafe or something like that. I’ll still be taking pictures to have for you when I return, if I can’t get them up before then.
Thank you sooo much for all of your support and prayers! You are each such a blessing in my life, and I can’t wait until I can thank you again in person.