(Don't worry, we cleaned that up before anyone from the Catholic school saw it.)
When all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; the stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there. The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugarplums danced in their heads; - Oh, who the hell am I kidding? There were no stockings, the building has no chimney, the presents were opened at midnight Christmas Eve, and I think the process of writing this out was the first time the word "sugarplums" entered my head this month. I'm not sure all of us were even asleep at the same time at any point that night!
Budapest, Day 128
A chill breeze blew threw the streets as the absence of snow descended in non-existent waves of colorless and intangible insubstance. Brilliant lights cast their purpose against intricately-carved stone walls. The moon hung in the sky like a blazing coin, always laying the same face upon the people of the Earth. That's certainly an accurate description of Christmas-Time Budapest, but serves equally well as a scene-setter for the latter half of my trip to Vienna.
I awoke with a start that morning 8 days ago, a direct result of realizing that I had slept through two alarms and woken an hour behind schedule. It was with great haste that I travelled to the Metro station, and some disappointment when I arrived to find that the next train would not be departing for another 9 minutes. I now quote my chapter leader precisely on the meeting time: "Meeting: 5.30am at Blaha!! Dont be late! (We are not waiting long!!!)"
I arrived at 5:45am. The bus left at 6:30am because one of the volunteers was late. Good start.
A few hours of quality bus time later, we arrived in Vienna proper. Our first stop was a yellow castle shrouded in mist. We spent more time trying to obtain tickets than actually exploring the place, though the tour itself was well-worth it. I can only imagine the mindset of the painters who spent years working on each of the huge crowd scenes that adorned the walls. Easier to grasp were the flaws in our hand-held audio guides. Each room was helpfully labeled with a number, and one could hear the relevant audio by putting that number into the guide's keypad. This included an abundance of audio recordings that faithfully recounted "Please Proceed to Room 10" or whatever room was next in the sequence. If any future museum workers are reading this, take heed.
Soon, we reached our main stop. Given directions to reconvene in five hours, the students of AFS-Budapest and a few others were unleashed upon the streets of Vienna. As the heavy fog faded into the night, we wandered the chilled, lit streets while coming to grips with the knowledge that none of us actually knew what there was to do in the city. I did find some excellent mango cake, though. As for the rest, I will let pictures struggle to capture it:
If you want another perspective on the events of the day or just want to watch me do stupid stuff, check out my friend Chris's vlog on the same subject.
And now, in my typical fashion; the titular and lesser part of this post: Christmas! A time for family gathering, colorful lights, and full stomachs. It was a chance to see the beauty of the city in its literal darkest hours, whether by boat or by the city's signature holiday-exclusive Fény Villamos (Light Tram).
Though our tree is small, the holiday runs long - four days and counting, though my host mother was at work for two of them. In what would be seen by many Americans, but evidently not Hungarians, as an expression of impatience, presents were opened on Christmas Eve at midnight. The investments were well-made, as I can say with near-absolute certaintly that I will make adequate use of my new shampoo and shaving cream. Sleeping in late and dancing deep into the night, we remain together - I haven't left the house in days. Bonds and fractures become apparent, then fade from awareness. Whatever the march of time unveils, a few nights of warmth help ease the year to its conclusion.
A year ago, I had just returned to my first home. A year from now, my life will have changed beyond my ability to anticipate. But what is here, now, is once and once only. Let that fact be recorded here before it is washed away.