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Loving Life as a Foreign Service Family – Current Parallel 41° 23' N – Barcelona, Spain

Vienna Austria 2018


We arrived in Vienna on Dannica’s 16th birthday. What a lovely city. Easy to use the subway, bus and train system. People were friendly and the weather was cold but not too wet.

The entry to our lovely AirBnB. With a family our size AirBnB’s are where it is at.

Dinner out at Leto Restaurant for a celebratory 16th birthday was a treat. We made most of our meals at home for our large group.


I love this girl so much with her easy laugh. I can’t believe she is 16.

Danni began feeling sick on her birthday, by Christmas Eve there was no fighting it. She tossed and turned with a fever for two nights and had a sore throat so severe she wasn’t eating. Once I looked in her throat I knew, strep. Austria and Germany basically close down on Christmas Eve and Christmas. I knew we were in trouble. I called several local clinic all closed. I found two that claimed were open so I bundled Dannica up and we walked to the clinics. Both had closed their doors early. Finally I went to a pharmacy and asked their recommendation and they sent us to a hospital several miles away. We walked back home and got Ben and the car.

Side note, we rented a minivan for a trip. Not a terrible price about $1,000 for two weeks of rental. It was a great little van. When we got to Vienna however we wished we could ditch it. As I stated earlier public transit was fabulous, parking was about $40-$80 a day though!!! We finally found a hidden local garage that was only about $20 a day.

So with the car we drove to the hospital. They had an amazing pediatric walk in clinic. They didn’t even blink when we gave them our insurance card and refused to let us pay for anything before hand. They got her in within about 20 minutes. This sweet doctor who looked to be about 75 didn’t speak a word of English but I had looked up how to say strep throat in German.

Halsentzündung in case you wanted to know. He took one look nodded. Printed out the prescription and we were on our way. Seriously, the US medical system has quite a lot to learn from Europe. Unfortunately it takes a day or two for antibiotics to work so Dannica was homebound and missed the rest of the day’s activities.

As soon as we began discussing Europe at Christmas the kids began requesting ice skating. As I did more research it was decided that Ice World would have the honor of our presence. They turn the downtown area called Rathusplatz into an ice skating rink in front of the public offices. It was really impressive.



The Christmas Market was not to be missed as well. Christmas Eve, so crowded though.


We pretty much ate our weight in sausage most days. Delicious!

After our Christmas Eve out we returned home for some family time and cookie decorating.

Our first real tannenbaum with actual candles!

Joanna and Clint gave us all a spectacular hand made wooden puzzle as an early Christmas gift. “The Twelve Days of Christmas” Liberty puzzles cuts out each wooden piece to be be just as beautiful individually as it is as a group. It was a difficult puzzle but I think it is a new Christmas tradition.

I spy a piper piping, partridge in a pear tree, drummers drumming……

Ben’s great grandmother hand knitted Christmas stockings for his family when he was young. When I married into the family Ben’s mother had one made for me as her grandmother had passed away by then. With each baby we got a new stocking. Look at how the family has grown! 10 strong. Everyone adds little gifts to the stockings every year on Christmas Eve. For years when Ben and I were broke broke broke we did nothing but fill each others stockings as Christmas gifts. We would set a $ limit and had to fill each others stockings. Some years it was as little at $10 and the lotion he purchased me had to last all year. Oh, the good old days.

It was the year of practical gifts. We didn’t have room to haul gifts all over and the trip was the gift but the kids wanted to buy small things for their siblings so I convinced them to combine money. Clothing ended up being the gift of choice.

We all owned only summer PJ’s and Ben wanted matching ones so I agreed.


Christmas breakfast including traditional Christmas tree bread.

A pivotal decision while planning our trip, and where we would be when, had to do with attending a performance of The Nutcracker Ballet. I just couldn’t imagine anything more perfect or magical. Dannica had been to see one performance of The Nutcracker when she was about 5 years old. When the brother broke the nutcracker she gasped so loudly every turned to look at her in the audience. I couldn’t imagine a better 16th birthday gift. So five months before our trip the family jumped through numerous hoops to reserve tickets for a Christmas matinee performance at the Vienna Opera House. It was a magical show in an unforgettable building and atmosphere. From a couple of the seats we could see right into the orchestra pit. 1,709 seats in the Opera House but it doesn’t feel like it holds that many. Great acoustics.

December 26th Ben and I took the day to travel to Slovokia. Clint and Joanna headed to Prague. Kathy and John were kind enough to keep the kids for the day. Dannica was still recovering from her illness so she chose to stay home but the grandparents and kids visited Hous de Musik, House of Music Museum.

The boys enjoyed practicing conduction. A fun interactive exhibit with motion detection. They had a room that was decked out like a womb to show the sounds surrounding a newborn baby. So many exhibits that the grandparents and kids were excited to share. They loved it!

Vienna was an enchanting city with beautiful architecture, fun museums and activities and easy to navigate. I can’t wait to visit again.


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