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4:41pm on Friday, 25th November, 2011:

Vienna in November


I'm at Vienna Airport, some three hours before my flight is due to take off. This is because Vienna Airport is warm and dry, whereas Vienna in November is cold and damp. There's this moisture in the air that can't make its mind up whether to be drizzle or fog; either way, it's cold cold cold,

This isn't to say I didn't enjoy myself wandering around Vienna for seven hours (well, six — I spent an hour in a restaurant for lunch, taking my table five fortunate minutes before the coachload of 30 old folk arrived and demanded to be fed). I've been here three or four times before, so spared myself the 343-step climb to the top of the cathedral that nearly killed me last time. Instead, I wandered around the old part of Vienna, which is very grand. A hundred years ago it was the seat of an empire, so it's only to be expected I suppose. I do like the way it looks, although to be honest I like it more when I can see it in the sun.

I decided I would try to hunt down a Christmas market. Eventually, I came across four of them: two small (20 or so stalls each) and two large (70 or 80 stalls each). They were pretty good — I could have spent a lot of money in them had my daughters been present to pester me. From a distance of several hundred miles I was safe from their pleading, though, so didn't buy much at all. I did take a ton of photos, some of which I may blog if they actually came out amid all the drizzle/fog.

Not buying stuff at the Christmas markets was actually counter-productive, in that I did nevertheless have to buy my daughters something or risk their wrath. I was hoping I'd find some kind of clothes shop that might stock things I could argue that they might wear, but it's awkward because they have incomprehensible rules about sleeves and buttons and gawd knows what so I never know what's acceptable and what's not. All I do know that if I just buy short-sleeved tops they'll like half of them and dislike the other half; which article of clothing falls into which half is, as far as I can tell, determined at random. I didn't find any shops that sold this kind of thing, though: as I said, Vienna is quite cold, so the clothes shops contained a surfeit of thick, woolly, long-sleeved garments, plus gloves, hats, coats and over-the-knee boots. I felt unconfident that I could pass any of these off as short-sleeved tops.

My hopes were boosted when I stumbled across Peek and Cloppenburg. This is some kind of mitteleuropean department store chain, where I've had some luck buying my kids stuff before. Not this time, though. I almost bought myself a P&K coat, as although I had packed a scarf and gloves with me I was gradually forming the opinion that I should have also packed thermal underwear; if I'd put on the spare shirt and trousers I had in my case (in addition to the shirt and trousers I'm wearing) that might have helped too. I eventually decided against buying a coat, though, because it took me so long to find one suitable for wearing back in the UK that I had warmed up so no lonhger needed one anyway. Happily, when I got outside the shop my North of England genes kicked in and I remained basically impervious to the Viennese weather thereafter (which is to say I lost all feeling in my extremities so didn't notice how cold it was until I came across an ornamental pond at one of the palaces and found it to be frozen over).

As for what I bought for my daughters, I thought I was stuffed by the failure of P&K until I saw a Tally Weijl outlet. Saved! This is a great shop for me because it doesn't exist in the UK, makes no concessions to the weather and has the kind of clothing my daughter like all year round. OK, not all of it is designed to be approved by fathers, but nevertheless it saved my bacon. I can now go home without risking assault.

Why does the weather forecaster on CCN Internationl pronounce "precipitation" with the emphasis on the first syllable? Is there some kind of postcipitation she's trying to distinguish it from or something?

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Copyright © 2011 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).