Vienna Love Story

Columns | Kata Cserveny | October 2008

Dear Diary,

The city and I share what I like to think of as a classic love-hate relationship. For the past twenty-some years we have had our ups and downs, shared moments of joy, love, passion - moments of frustration, anger and insanity. An endless spectrum of emotions and perceptions has paradoxically resulted in what is probably the longest and most stable relationship of my life.

Stability, in fact, is one of the things we frequently quarrel about: Though I like to complain about her slow pace, her traditional ways, boring routine and redundant rhythm, it is just this stability that I secretly love.

I was reminded of this recently by the weather -- another aspect of Viennese life that often prompts sarcastic or even hostile comments on my part.

Recently, the temperature dropped drastically, going from summery September sunshine of skimpy skirts and sleeveless shirts, to the icy winds, clouds and rain of fur-lined coats and boots and gloves – all without warning.  Though this may seem at first a demonstration of instability, fact is, this happens every year.

Every year, between August and September, there comes a day when summer is suddenly over, when we go seamlessly from warm to cold. And we know what to expect next: What you think of as freezing today will seem blessedly warm tomorrow. Rain will turn to sleet, which turns to snow and ice; blues will turn to grays and the fleeting smiles on the subway will turn to permanent frowns.

So you may rightly wonder what I love about this habitual sequence, this climate and these unwelcoming conditions:

First of all, I love this city. And true love means to love the other with all her flaws, through the hard times and the good, through sunshine and snowstorms, through laughter and tears.  There are, however, compensations: Cold weather and rain only enhance the appeal of the coffeehouse, a cozy cave where you can engage in cappuccinos and conversations to your heart’s content. The sudden smell of winter-wind also goes hand in hand with that of sweetly sour tangerines, fresh-baked cookies, leather coats and tasty Punsch: Christmas markets, chestnut vendors, glistening webs of thousands of tiny festive light bulbs lining the streets, snowmen, ice skates, and snowflakes.

Being genuinely Viennese, though, I need to join in the chorus of complaining; still, I am certain that I am not alone in feeling the secret excitement of the coming cold, the dreaded winter weather that prompts such pleasant associations, and the comforting knowledge that in this wonderful city, some things never change.

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