Sunday was a perfect storm of the structured, rules-driven Austrian life I will never understand.
1 April marks the first date at which most Viennese cafes and restaurants are “officially” authorized to set up outdoor tables; should the last week of March spring forth with sunshine and sultry temperatures, as it did last week, the calendar still reads March, so, Nein! Those of us who have been out and about all winter are summarily trampled when the remaining 90% of the city emerges from their sweltering winter cocoons in search of fresh air and sunshine and commandeer all the outdoor tables for the entire afternoon.
1 April is when ice cream parlors take down their winter shutters, as well. Because November through March is the No Cone Zone.
1 April marks the start of the “Grilling Season.” This one cracks us up. Because our personal grilling season runs from January through December, finding charcoal during the Viennese off-season is a little challenging, so we have learned to stockpile and ration the briquettes like squirrels do with acorns. By March we are prioritizing the grilling events to only the least briquette intense (goodbye rotisserie chicken, hello whole fish!). I earned quite a few raised eyebrows when I loaded 10 bags of charcoal into my trolley at the grocery this week. No doubt the locals thought I was a crazy hoarder. Or American.
On Sunday this week we decided on a small hike along the Marillenweg, a highly touted 5km jaunt through the Wachau Valley and its Marillen (apricot) orchards to take in the blooms. The little village where the hike is located has a small population; during the weekends that the apricot blossoms are bursting forth the population swells with blossom-peepers like ourselves. The mood was light, with everyone embracing the warm sun.
Firemen embracing beer at 1030. Awesome.
About a kilometer into the hike we noticed that the blossoms were not quite at peak, and decided to scrap the rest of the walk and find a lovely heuriger along the valley at which to enjoy lunch. This did not go well.
For all of their steadfast loyalty to The Sunday Shutdown in order to “relax,” it would seem the good citizens of Vienna have been issued new rules for April, among them: get in your car and leave The World’s Most Livable City. Nearly every second car had Vienna tags, and maneuvering anywhere through this UNESCO-protected area was a nightmare. Add to that the day-trippers from Vienna disgorging from the cruise ferries and clogging the Holy Tourist Trinity of Melk, Dürnstein, and Krems, we lost hope for any lunch after an hour and headed home. The outing was busted.
Our home is across the street from a large park favored for its abundance of green space but no public grills; and a lovely restaurant with outdoor tables. Yet, on a 23ºC weekend day with full sunshine, we arrived home to find ample street parking in the middle of the afternoon, with surprisingly few people in the park! The Viennese who weren’t in the Wachau Valley were at the numerous Grillplatze in the city, was our guess. Because, it’s April.