Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Cribs in the Crypt: Nativity Scenes in Peterskirche

Tucked into the crypt below Peterskirche is an annual display of nativity scenes, dating to 1959.  On a cold and drizzly day, this was a beautiful diversion from Christmas markets and holiday errands.  

The design for the church was inspired by St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, but made to fit a considerably smaller space. 

The exhibit is the production of the talented Verein von Krippenfreunden Wien-NÖ, the Association of Nativity Friends of Vienna and Lower Austria. They offer courses in nativity set construction and all of the accessories for said nativity. Thus far I have resisted the temptation of adding to our nativity set, but I fear I will not be able to hold out much longer. 
There are over 120 nativity scenes in the exhibit, some made by the association and others contributed to the group. The four below were made by members of the association.

Dalmatians in a Japanese nativity. Different.
The nativity scenes contributed to the group span six continents.

 Many displays used natural materials. From Cuba, a nativity made from dried tobacco leaves.
From Ethiopia, a wool nativity set.
Mollusks and Mother-of-Pearl were used in these sets from The Phillipines and Isreal.

A type of marble or granite was used in this display from Vietnam.
 Wood was a common element; from New Zealand, a set made from Sassafras.
 Inlaid wood nativity from the Czech Republic.
 A simple painted wood set from Poland.
 One of the few nativity sets with a local character, this one from Provence.
 Last, the "Story of Christmas" on an iconic Russian egg.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Weihnachtsmarkts Big and Small

'Tis the season for Advent and Christmas markets across Europe, with Vienna home to "the one that started it all," as an article in the Telegraph UK  stated this week, the Wiener Christindlmarkt. We do not share the "I hate Christmas markets" sentiment of the article's author, and spent the entirety of Saturday enjoying first a deliriously crowded Advent bazaar sponsored by the Anglican Church and its oh-so-cheery and polite British community, who really get into their whiskey tasting, even at 10:30 in the morning!  Wading through miles of bric-a-brac, Christmas puddings, and homemade chutneys made us hungry, so off we were to a favored trattoria conveniently located near the Spittleberg Weihnachtsmarkt.  This market is among our favorites in Vienna, sprawling through the tiny lanes of a 19th century Biedermeier neighborhood.

There is an international character to the market that makes it different from others across the city. Many of the crafts on offer are locally made, of course, but we have purchased handmade items from the Czech Republic and, this weekend, Ukraine, as well. Even the food blends the local with the global.  Anyone for Indian chicken and Glühwein?
Sicilian baked ricotta or goat cheese from the Tirol, a stretch of the alps from the west of Austria to the north of Italy?
Traditional fare of Brot mit Aufstriche (breads with spreads) and roasted Maroni (chestnuts) are mainstays at the markets.

Later in the afternoon we ventured further afield to the pretty village of Rust. In the late spring the village hauptplatz is a way station for storks migrating to Africa; and this time of year it is transformed into a small and charming Christmas market. Though the market was rather small with just 14 huts, the culinary offerings were surprisingly expansive. As Rust is near the border with Hungary, Hungarian Krauterfleisch, an herbed beef stew similar to gulasch could be had, along with sausage from the nearby village of Morbisch.

Goose kebab with marjoram, chestnuts, and red cabbage. Definitely not a combination I've seen before. (For those curious, Kastanien is the German word for a chestnut; however, if a Kastanien is roasted on the street it is called a Maroni, as in the photo above.)
The little market also had live entertainment, in the form of a talented young woman singing Christmas carols. In English. Clayton Theodore loved her singing so much he decided to bay along with her, with made those around us laugh!  One gentleman even came up to us, patted CTF and pronounced him a good singer!  When the singer was on break, the sounds of Bing Crosby's Christmas carols filled the air. Most unusual.