Lent the Austrian way
We noticed immediately Lent is a much bigger deal in Austria because everywhere we went there were all kinds of traditional decorations on show. Wreaths and painted eggs were to the fore, and I loved this arrangement I found in a garden in Selzthal.
Austria's population is 70% Catholic, so I'd expected churches there to have special decorations. Naturally they'd taken it a step further at St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, where we saw Peter Baldiger's dramatic installation, Sky of Stones. Here it is lit in purple for Lent; then it will be in gold for Easter, and finally red for Pentecost. The installation of 1,332 'stones' (they're made from paper) is on view until June 10th 2019.
In the cathedral's precinct, Blumenhaus zum Dom was stacked and decorated with gorgeous wreaths and blooms.
They go for pussy willow in a big way in Austria*. As well as these little bunches for sale at the shop, I saw someone dwarfed by her purchase of a massive bunch of tall stems as she carried it home on the crowded U Bahn. I also saw twisted pussy willow stems used to hang decorated eggs in the reception at the hotel we stayed at in Gmund.
Every town and village we visited had outdoor decorations for Lent. Some were simple conifer branches on windowsills or around doors, reminiscent of what we do with greenery at Christmas. Others - like this selection from Gmund were more decorative, but still charming.
Have a wonderful Easter break everyone.
* = I've since learnt that pussy willow is a potent symbol across Europe of spring awakening and spiritual rebirth which is often used and blessed instead of palms on Palm Sunday across many Christian faiths and countries, including Austria. This is because palms aren't readily available in these countries due to their climate. There is also a lovely Polish legend which takes this story further.