Today, 11/11 at 11:11, signals the start of the carnival season. This is a HUGE deal in Austria, where carnival (or "Fasching" as it's called in German) is actually considered "the fifth season" of the year. It lasts for about 3 and a half months, usually ending somewhere around the end of February in a climax of parties, balls and parades before everyone gets down to the seriousness of Lent. It's a time for people to let loose, celebrating and laughing their way through the winter months. Those of you familiar with Mardi Gras know what I'm talking about!
I've discovered that, in Vorarlberg, people either love Fasching or they hate it. There are those people who go to every possible dance, watch every parade and join in all of the festivities, even dressing in costume to get the full effect. At the other end of the spectrum are those who choose to ignore all of the craziness, preferring instead to continue life as usual and, in doing so, to give the Fasching "fools" (in German "Narren") a wide berth. Although I do enjoy watching the occasional parade, not having grown up in Austria I probably fall into the latter category.
But one thing I do really like about this time of year are the "Faschingskrapfen", which are basically jelly-filled doughnuts sprinkled with powdered sugar. The real "Krapfen" should have apricot jelly and are sold not only in grocery stores and bakeries, but also at the outdoor Christmas markets. Beware, though, because they are addictive!
I'll certainly be back with tales of other Austrian winter traditions. In the meantime, if you feel like getting a little crazy, just blame it on carnival!