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Tova and the Stadt - November in Vienna

November in Vienna may seem a little bit bleak. It is right after the late fall wine festivals, pumpkin dishes that turn up in every restaurant and of course Halloween (which is gaining in popularity).

And it is the time just before the Christmas markets set up around the city, offering a variety of hot alcoholic drinks and stands filled with handmade trinkets. The weather is often rainy and damp, and the days are suddenly depressingly short. Winter sales haven’t even started!

But what can you expect from Vienna in November besides a bout of depression? A couple of things. This Sunday coming up is Martinstag. According to Wikipedia, St. Martin’s day is on November 11 and is the feast day of St. Martin of Tours.

St. Martin was a Roman soldier who "was baptized as an adult and became a monk. It is understood that he was a kind man who led a quiet and simple life. The most famous legend of his life is that he once cut his cloak in half to share with a beggar during a snowstorm, to save the beggar from dying of the cold. That night he dreamed that Jesus was wearing the half-cloak Martin had given away. Martin heard Jesus say to the angels: ‘Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptised; he has clothed me’." I think he might also be known for being the creator of the capelet (a perfect Fall accessory) but I am not completely sure.

So in order to celebrate Mr. St. Martin, Austrians have created a feast; Martinigansl. Martinigansl is often a piece of goose, stewed red cabbage, semmelknoedel (bread dumpling), gravy and preiselbeeren (red currants). Not unlike a typical Thanksgiving meal of turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberries except without the family angst and drama. If you are looking for a typical Martinigansl, a large majority of restaurants offer it. The key is to reserve in advance! I will not be partaking in Martinigansl as I still haven’t gotten over the disappointment that it was in fact not a party serving actual martinis. 2004 was a difficult year.

But November 11th is not just about Martinigansl, it is also the official opening day of ball season in Vienna. If you have lived in Vienna over a winter season, you will have realized that the Viennese do balls and they do them well. If you did not realize this, then perhaps you should come out from under your rock. If you want to see a little waltzing, head down to the Graben on November 11 at 11:11 and you will see a lot of people doing the Blue Danube Waltz; Vienna’s own classic version of the Macarena. Make sure to pick up some maroni (roasted chestnuts) on the way and you’ll practically be given automatic citizenship.

But if these two events can’t cheer you up, never fear, the Christmas markets are opening up on November 17th which is only a couple of weeks away. God, I love this city!

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