So while Romana went off for a girls’ night out, Max and I took Helena up the hill to do some skating. Three and a half hours later we returned cold, happy and with an eight year old who would have been skating till midnight if I’d let her.
As I imagine it was for most people in northern Europe last night, stepping outside meant leaving the warmth of the house to enter a sub-zero world and a walk through the still falling snow. The hill next to the house is steep and in the snow and ice was always going to be hard going with a child who considers walking a form of torture that should be banned under international law. It is an oddity of Helena that she will run, swim, skate, cycle and play sports for hours but cannot face the thought of walking even for a short distance – its officially boring. However, on this occasion the promise of skating was enough to keep her going although it was a close run thing and included a revision to my maths when 40% became half way in answer to the question ‘how far have we gone?’
Our initial destination had been the restaurant Villa Aurora which at this time of year converts part of it terrace into a homemade skating rink. Unfortunately, so much snow had fallen the rink was covered in a layer of the white stuff up to Helena’s Knees. We retreated to the restaurant for a drink and for Helena to have a bowl of soup. After warming up and enjoying a beer (Helena an apple sprits) we continued our journey.
Just a little further up the road is the hotel Schloss Wilhelminenberg which usually has a skating rink set up and open to the public at this time. As we strolled (and slid) into the hotel grounds we were surprised and delighted to discover that along with the rink there was a mini Christmas market. Therefore, not only could we enjoy the skating but warm ourselves with some mugs of Gluhwein. Two hours later I was finally able to negotiate an agreement with Helena that we would begin the journey home – the price a promise to return soon.
So last night I spent three and a half hours walking and standing around in sub-zero temperatures and falling snow. Despite these conditions and feeling a little cold by the time we returned, this was an extremely enjoyable evening. The main reason for me, of course, is that Helena’s enjoyment of such things is infectious. Also this is a city for which these conditions are normal and whose inhabitants are able (determined) therefore to embrace and enjoy the opportunities such conditions can offer. On a more practical level I remembered to put on my thermals – an absolute must.