Dearest Rachel –
In our phone calls to each other (actually, I’m forced to admit that he’s been the one calling me every single time to check on me throughout this whole ordeal), Lars tells me that today is the day that the feast of St. Nicholas of Myra is celebrated throughout much of central and eastern Europe. Don’t know how that works in accordance with Christmas proper – from the brief look I gave the concept in Wikipedia, this is the day when the gifts are given in some places. But apparently, he shows up at places like schools, so this isn’t the shut-everything-down, we’re-too-busy-celebrating type holiday we’ve turned Christmas into on our side of the pond, so…
…well, one way or another, I’m going to be taking a look at it, and see what it’s like, at least out in public.
I’ve been warned to look out for his mean assistant, Black Peter, as well. It would seem that Europe is too entrenched in its own centuries-old customs to be bothered by a little political incorrectness. Besides, it’s America that’s all awful and racist and gun-shooty and everything – that’s why everyone’s trying to emigrate there, right?
Okay, well… be that as it may…
So I’ve gotten a fair amount of the sights of St. Nicholas’ Day already. I showed you the bit with the Santas on Harleys (and that apparently made the local headlines, as I saw a blurb about it while riding the tram last night), but it appears that the jolly old elf also has his own tram car, as well.
I also discovered that the Covid certificate I got from the Swiss authorities before I left (and only printed out, rather than keeping in on my phone, because I thought I’d only need it to enter the country) works a treat when it comes to getting inside all manner of establishments… and even worked for that Christmas market I was shut out of last week.
The thing was, I had only eater a couple hours previously, so none of the food was precisely appealing to me at that moment, and with no one at my elbow to ask for this or that trinket or article of clothing (there was that purple star in the one photograph, but I couldn’t imagine figuring out how to pack that – and it isn’t like you’re here to appreciate it even if I were to get it home), there just didn’t seem to be any point to it. Understand, I would have happily gotten you anything you asked for, but since you’re no longer there to ask, who is there to want any of it anymore?
These festivals, as interesting and unusual as they are, kind of lose their impact that way.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. Around the side of the main building (the history musem, as it so happened) the stalls were built around, there was a cluster of hot food stalls – chocolate, cider, various baked goods and hot dishes. One of them was playing a selection of Christmas carols as sung by Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra. Most of them were fairly innocuous, but when he got to “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” well, I was just glad I was wearing my Alfred E. Neuman mask, because I could have just burst into tears right there. As it was, I found a quiet corner to take it off and rub my face, because I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to listen to that song again without crying.
So I left the place almost empty-handed; not quite, as there were some traditional local candies for sale; I got a selection for each of the kids. I just don’t know what else to do for them – or for the folks for that matter.
On my way back to the hotel, I noticed yet another Advent-related market at Rhinestrasse:
but it seems to have been essentially a cluster of restaurant stalls – quite a few of them, as it so happened, but still… I wasn’t hungry at the time, anyway.
Quick aside having nothing to do with Christmas: the line on the mural reads “el sueño de la razon produce monstruos.” My Spanish is a little rusty, but I’m thinking that’s saying that ‘my dreams are the reason I produce monsters.’ And the artist certainly does; I guess for all the weird dreams I’ve been having, there are worse to suffer from.
Of course I could be wrong with that translation…
At any rate, this is stuff that I’ve seen on the day before. Heaven – and Saint Nicholas – knows what I’m going to see tomorrow. It will be interesting. Whether I’ll have time to write it all down for you is another matter. I do have a bit of a schedule to keep to, including having to settle my bill this afternoon, and go to bed reeeeal early, so as to be awake and ready when they come to pick me up at four in the morning for the airport. That’s like nine at night today back home.
As always, honey, wish me luck. I’m definitely going to need it.