Taking Stock

Checklist and a pencil

As 2016 draws to a close I think a lot of us take this time to reflect upon what we accomplished in the past year.  I know this was a tough year for a lot of folks, especially those of Generation X, who lost a lot of icons this year like David Bowie, Prince, George Michael and Carrie Fisher. We knew Bowie was battling cancer so it wasn’t a true shock when he passed, but the other three? Oy. Having grown up in the Minneapolis area, Prince was especially a knife to the heart. I think of all the amazing things he never got to accomplish because he died too soon.

And then of course was the election. I’m not one to talk about my political opinions in public, but I will say I have never seen such an ugly, divisive battle. It was truly heinous to watch. Although not having broadcast TV spared me from the political ads. I wish I could say I was hopeful but I have real concerns about the future of this country and the world.

However, I think it is wrong to say that 2016 was a dumpster fire of a year. On a personal level I had some really good things happen. I finished the first draft of my third novel. Now in 2017 I will begin the revision process and I hope to have something ready to go for my agent in the next few months.

I also had a revitalization at work. I’m not going to lie, I’ve been a Reference Librarian for nearly fourteen years and working with the public has begun to wear me out. But I found a new project on which to work that has me extremely excited. I’m pitching the idea to my director a week from today. If I have her blessing I’ll share more about it then.

I took an amazing trip this summer with my husband. We saw Austria, Germany, and France, spent time with great friends, and drank lots of good beer. We nearly killed ourselves on the 700 steps inside an ice cave, visited the crypt at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, saw Mozart’s birthplace, took the Nightwatchman’s tour in Rothenberg, drank schnapps, saw the graves of Richard the Lionheart and Eleanor of Aquitaine, toured Brittany, and climbed to the top of the world at Mont St. Michel.

Some not so great things happened as well. My Dad had triple bypass surgery while we were on vacation. Thankfully Pop has made a full recovery and is doing very well. Mom is still struggling with her health and there isn’t much hope for improvement. Adjustment has been hard for all of us but especially for her. She gets frustrated because she can’t do everything she used to. I can’t blame her, I would go mad.

And of course the biggest hurt this year was that my book didn’t sell. But I am hopeful and excited about my new novel. Think of it as a mashup between Pride and Prejudice and X Men. I’ve had a ridiculous amount of fun writing it and I am looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and digging into revisions. I’m going to start tonight with reading the book through in its entirety and make notes as to what needs attention. Then my husband and I will go through, chapter by chapter and fix things. It’s going to be a long process, but ultimately so rewarding. I’m anxious to get back in the game.

I could never blame a year for being bad. The way I see it, I had another trip around the sun and got to do some amazing things. I look forward to the next year with optimism and hope you do too. No matter our opinion of the state of the world we all need to move forward and make the best of our situations however we can. I hope you’ll join me in celebrating 2017. It’s going to be a great year.

Vienna, Day 2

Last night we went to a concert at the Karlskirche to hear Mozart’s Requiem. The tickets were Kosta’s birthday present, and we were both excited.

Not a shabby place for a concert.

Not a shabby place for a concert.

 

The music was outstanding and the choir amazing. The only bad thing about the concert was the wooden pews specially designed for back torture to keep you from falling asleep in church. Kosta was as transported as I’ve ever seen him.

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Interior of the Karlskirche

This morning started with breakfast at the hotel, which was wonderful and Austrian: meats and cheeses, fresh rolls, boiled eggs, and coffee with hot milk. It was delicious.

We decided to go to Schonnbrun  (the summer palace of the Austro-Hungarian Hapsburg Emperors), which is about 6 km outside of town. Fortunately, there is an U-Bahnn stop right there. I was checking these details at the front desk when Kosta found me. He couldn’t find his driver’s license or his credit card. In a panic, we rushed back to the room and tore everything apart looking for them. We were trying to rack our brains, was there anyone who bumped into him the day before?  Was he pickpocketed?

I was just about to call the credit card company to cancel his card when the bastard put his hand in his pants pocket and drew out the very cards we were seeking. I wanted to throttle him, my heart was pounding in the back of my throat. At least all turned out well… my husband may be an asshat, but a sweet one.

We did take the U-Bahn out to Schonnbrun finally, and by the time we got there the lines to get into the palace were very long (over an hour wait), so we just walked the palace gardens instead and it was a delightful way to spend the rest of the morning and early afternoon. It was still cloudy and a bit drippy from the storm from the night before, but it didn’t really rain in earnest.  We saw the Crown Prince Garden, the “Roman Ruin,” the Obelisk fountain, and we made the trek up to the top of the hill to the Gloriette, which has a spectacular view of all Vienna from the top.

Neptune fountain

Neptune fountain

 

Schonnbrun Palace and all of Vienna at our feet.

Schonnbrun Palace and all of Vienna at our feet.

 

Kosta and the labyrinth.

Kosta and the labyrinth.

After we took a turn in the labyrinth we headed back to town. We spent part of the afternoon partaking in a great Viennese tradition: afternoon coffee. We went to the famous Sacher Cafe at the Sacher hotel and had Einspänner coffees (espresso topped with whipped cream) and the supremely chocolate Sacher torte. It was delightful–ritzy without being intimidating, and touristy, but we are tourists, so who cares?

Cafe Sacher

Cafe Sacher

Sacher torte: chocolate cake with apricot jam filling, chocolate ganache, and, of course, whipped cream.

Sacher torte: chocolate cake with apricot jam filling, chocolate ganache, and, of course, whipped cream.

 

Einspaenner Kaffe.

Einspaenner Kaffe.

We then found our way back to St. Stephen’s cathedral and took the guided tour of the crypt, which was hella awesome. No pictures were allowed, but we did see the urns which held the internal organs of generations of Hapsburg emperors, a mass grave of plague victims, and an ossurary–a room of stacked bones of hundreds of years of Viennese citizens. It was creepy and glorious, and I am so glad we did it. We were the last ones out.

St. Stephen's Cathedra

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Our "crypt keeper" guide at the end of the tour.

Our “crypt keeper” guide at the end of the tour.

We rested a bit back at the hotel before we went in search of beers and dinner. The beers we had at the 1516 Brewing Company, along with some very peppery beef jerky. Then we wandered the back streets until we came upon an adorable restaurant/cafe called Frauenhuber. We had an authentic dinner (Schweinschnitzel for me and Beef cutlet with onions for Kosta) followed by Mozart Kaffe (coffee with a chocolate-marzipan liqueur and whipped cream). To. Die. For. The cucumbers in my mixed salad tasted just how my grandmother used to make them : with vinegar, onion, and sugar.

1516 Brewing Company

1516 Brewing Company

Cafe Frauenhuber

Cafe Frauenhuber

Mozart Kaffe

Mozart Kaffe

When we were presented with the check we were given a small brochure that talked about the restaurant. Apparently we walked ass backwards into the oldest coffee house in Vienna, where both Mozart and Beethoven had performed! Very exciting for my music-nut husband.

After dinner we had a stroll through the twilight, enjoying the delicious breeze and gazing in shop windows. It was a perfect day. Tomorrow, we leave early, pick up a rental car at the airport, and drive cross county to Salzburg. More pictures soon!

Vienna

So. The one thing Austrians don’t believe in is air conditioning.  Which isn’t the worst thing in the world but living in Florida has left me living at a specific standard of comfort. It wasn’t terrible. It was warm today, and we do have a fan in our hotel room so sleeping was comfortable. But Lord, the Hofburg Palace was hot today. I nearly perished from the lack of water.

Our day started this morning with breakfast of coffee and apfel strudel on the Stephensplatz. From there the first major site we hit was the cemetery. Might be strange for some of you, but my husband had a very big X to cross off on his “Burial Bucket List”: Johannes Brahms.

Johannes Brahms and KAK.

Johannes Brahms and KAK.

The cemetery was full of decomposing composers: Ludwig von Beethoven, Johann Strauss, Franz Schubert, just to name a few. But my husband’s favorite has always been Brahms. We bought flowers to leave at his grave and it was lovely.

Afterwards we visited St. Stephen’s Cathedral and walked around the city center. The sun was starting to heat up and as we passed a store selling Omega watches we saw this sign:

Omega Museum

Omega Museum. Excuse the drunk expression. He wasn’t. Really.

It wasn’t a big museum, but it did have displays of Omega watches from the past, including the ones that went to the moon with Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. Well, and they had air conditioning. It was a neat little place. But since we didn’t have between €3000-25,000 to drop on a watch, we left empty-handed.

In the afternoon we went to the Hofburg Palace and saw the Royal Apartments and the Sissi Museum. Sissi, in case you didn’t know, was the Empress of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the late 1800s. She was reportedly beautiful, sweet, and adored by her people. This was where I nearly passed out from the heat in those close rooms. Had I been wearing a corset necessary to fit into her ball gowns, I most definitely would have done so.

Afterwards we wandered. And as we were wandering by the Michaelskirchke we heard organ music coming from within. So we popped inside the blessedly cool interior and had a free music concert as the organist practiced. It was lovely.

This was my view. I know, hideous, right?

This was my view. I know, hideous, right?

Beyond that we just wandered. We wandered into a small shop that sold prints of watercolors of Vienna and bought two. The shop owner and her husband painted them themselves. Even though it was early, we found dinner:

Smoked salmons and scalloped potatoes for me.

Smoked salmon and scalloped potatoes for me.

 

Wiener Schnitzel for Kosta.

Wiener Schnitzel for Kosta.

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And beer for us both.

Walking back to the hotel, we saw this guy playing a fucking broom:

I don't know how he managed it, but he was good.

I don’t know how he managed it, but he was good.

Tonight: Mozart’s Requiem at the Karlskirche. Tomorrow? Who can say…