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: Austrian Christmas Creches - Wiehnachtskrippen

By Billie Ann Lopez

Tucked inside a small rectangular gold box, the beauty of which is further enhanced by 13 stunning precious stones each accented by pearls, is a piece of Christ's manger, a gift from Pope Urban V to the Habsburg Emperor Karl IV in 1368. It now resides in Vienna's Schatzkammer (Treasury) in the Hofburg complex.

The Advent Season

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: The Christmas That Gave Us A Much Loved Melody

By Billie Ann Lopez

The damage done by the nibbling of mice on the organ bellows of St. Nikolaus Church in the small Austrian village of Oberndorf near Salzburg threatened to ruin Christmas Eve mass in the year 1818. Since none of the available music was suitable without an organ as accompaniment, the curate had to compose a substitute - or face a silent Christmas. That is how ''Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht'' (''Silent Night, Holy Night''), one of the most popular Christmas carols ever written, came into being.

The Advent Season

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: Christmas Saints As Matchmakers

And Other Odd Bits In Old Austrian Advent Customs And Traditions

By Billie Ann Lopez

While seeming rather quaint today, these old folk beliefs and customs do reflect the importance a young woman's matrimonial prospects held in former times. Young maidens had one career possibility in life and that was marriage. Alternatives weren't nearly as attractive. It was only natural that young maidens were preoccupied with trying to determine just who their future husbands might be.

The Advent Season

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: Vienna: A Peek Into A Modern Day Paradise

By Bille Ann Lopez

A popular T-shirt in Vienna declares "There are No Kangaroos in Austria!" The apparent confusion regarding the difference between Austria and Australia brings sighs of exasperation amongst many Americans living in Vienna who have had their U.S. mail arrive after a detour to Down Under.

Vienna Sights

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: Vienna's Saint Marx Cemetery In The Spring

By Billie Ann Lopez

As you pass through the gate of Vienna's St. Marx Cemetery in the Third District in spring, it's possible a peacock will greet you with a gravelly squawk from its perch on a lichen-encrusted tombstone near the entrance. The beauty of this most glorious of birds, along with the enveloping perfume and color of blossoming lilacs, softens somehow the annoyance of the roar coming from a nearby motorway.

Vienna Sights

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: Spinnerin am Kreuz: A Viennese Love Story

By Billie Ann Lopez

An early Gothic column on top of the Wienerberg in the 10th District celebrates the Legend of the Spinnerin (a woman who spins). This medieval wayside shrine, first mentioned in 1296, is one of a few early Gothic structures surviving in Vienna today.

Vienna Sights

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: Austrian Easters: Some of their Symbols

By Billie Ann Lopez

If you look back through the centuries at some of the symbols and customs associated with Easter, curious origins emerge. In the early days of Christianity, the church incorporated many pagan rites of spring into its Easter celebrations as it struggled to gain acceptance as the primary religion in Europe. Pagan rituals using bells, drums, bonfires, processions, and dancing, all once employed to drive away winter and celebrate spring, were adapted by early Christians to celebrate Christ's Resurrection instead.

Easter in Vienna

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: THE FOUNTAIN IN FRONT OF THE RUSSIAN MONUMENT

By Billie Ann Lopez

While many of you are aware that Vienna's water supply is piped directly from the Austrian Alps south of Vienna, you probably don't know that the fountain in front of the Russian monument on Schwarzenbergplatz was set up to celebrate the completion of the first pipeline to deliver that water.

Vienna Sights

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: PUERG: THE 12TH CENTURY FRESCOS

By Billie Ann Lopez

Messages: The 12th century frescos contained in a small Romanesque chapel in the Austrian alps. Only the occasional moo or clang of cowbells break the silence surrounding St. Johannes, a small late 12th century Romanesque chapel perched high above the Enns Valley in the alpine village of Puergg.†

Vienna Sights

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: MARK TWAIN IN VIENNA

By Billie Ann Lopez

Surprised by the news of his recent death in late 1897, Mark Twain, the great American humorist, responded with humor, telling Viennese journalists that "The report of my death (is) grossly exaggerated". Evidently, the New York World telegraphed a Viennese journalist to verify Twain's status: "If Mark Twain very ill, 500 words, if dead 1,000".*

This & That

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: OLD VIENNESE HUMOR: GRAF BOBBY AND BARON RUDY

By Billie Ann Lopez

My good Viennese friends, Peter Hirsch and Frederic Tampier, like to tell jokes. My particular favorites are those they tell about the Viennese Graf (Count in English) Bobby and his best buddy Baron Rudi. Bobby and Rudi are supposed to reflect members of the Austrian nobility, though officially the use of noble titles ended with the founding of the Austrian First Republic in 1919.

Custom, Culture & Holidays

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By Billie Ann Lopez

The arrival of November marks a special addition to Austrian menus. Roast Goose. Roast goose with red cabbage and dumplings, enhanced with a portion of Preiselbeeren. Restaurants in Vienna, the Burgenland, and Lower Austria offer this prized dish throughout the month, but most particularly on November 11, St. Martinís Day. However, if you arenít Catholic, you might wonder who St. Martin was and why the goose?

Custom, Culture & Holidays

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