Wednesday 23 December 2020

A different sort of Christmas scent

I have no idea how this deodorant came to be in my bathroom cupboard. I discovered it while rummaging through various baskets looking - in vain, it turned out - for the replacement roll-on I thought I had laid away ready. I stopped buying aerosol deodorant many, many years ago because of the CFC thing, so that's the first bit of the mystery. There is a clue, though, in the size of this container: it's very small, which suggests it was complimentary. Plus, of course, it's German. 

I haven't been anywhere German-speaking for ages. The last time was just before Christmas 2014, when I did a cruise with Uniworld up the Danube from Budapest. They threw us travel writer freeloaders unceremoniously off the boat halfway through the trip, so we missed out on the highlight of sailing through the Wachau Valley, with its hills, castles and vineyards, and on towards Passau and beyond. Instead, we were mini-bussed back to Vienna to fly home. It had been lovely up till that point, though - despite every day being seriously cold and grey. It was an education in understanding why Christmas in Europe is so much more Christmassy than it is here downunder, with our summer holiday distractions that include, notably, summer. When it's that grey and grim, you really need things like mulled wine, gingerbread and market stalls draped in coloured lights.

Vienna was actually my first introduction to the European Christmas, way back in 1987, when we went from England to Austria. Vienna was certainly gorgeous, but even better was Salzburg, where we spent the actual Christmas Day - plus, more to the point, Christmas Eve, which is more important than the 25th, dinner-wise. We'd got a bit anxious in the preceding days, seeing menus that all focused on the traditional Karpfen - carp, the fish, an everyday fish at that, unlike salmon, say. 

Anyway, we turned up at our Vier Jahreseiten hotel restaurant on the evening of the 24th, dressed up, with our presents, just as all the locals were, picked up the menu - and oh! What a relief! Main course: Englisches Roastbeef! 

Earlier that evening, we'd been to a service in the cathedral, quite a casual affair with a lot of coming and going, and then afterwards trailed behind everyone else to the cemetery, where people were putting wreaths and candles on family graves, and singing along to a live accompaniment of violins and cornets. That was wonderfully atmospheric. Christmas Day itself was anticlimactic - so ordinary that we hired a car and went for a drive, looking for snow and, after deciding that it was cheating to pretend a frosty spruce tree would do, found the real thing on top of a peak that we went up in a gondola.  

It was a lovely Christmas. Which is not to say it's not equally lovely to look out of the window and see this sort of thing:

(None of which, of course, solves the mystery of the German deodorant.)

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