“The Stephansdom” (St. Stephen’s Cathedral). Image from Flickr via

Romantic: marked by the imaginative or emotional appeal of what is heroic, adventurous, remote, mysterious, or idealized. Having an inclination for romance: responsive to the appeal of what is idealized, heroic, or adventurous.

When a writer includes “waltzing on rooftops in Vienna” in her bio line to describe something about her joy of life and general attitude, you think to yourself, “Yeah, in a movie she saw once,” or, “Sure, in her dreams.” So when the editors of this website suggested that I write something about the holidays just ahead, I figured it was time to tell that story, and perhaps, if you are willing, have it point you in a new direction for the new year ahead.

There seemed no better time in our minds to get married and honeymoon in Europe than at the Millennium, 1999, or—because we are all prone to loving buzzwords and odd acronyms—Y2K. It was exciting to think that we would begin our new lives together at the beginning of a new century, a new millennium. We realized we’d be some of the very few Americans traveling overseas, as there were so many dire media warnings and serious concerns about computer malfunctions, infrastructure and systems’ malfunctions. 

But ATM cards are not romantic; adventure is.

Holland was lovely and Christmas-y (with the confusing-to-this-American Black Peter in every window display), Germany was snowy and festive, but visiting friends in Vienna for the New Year’s celebration was magical. 

Our friends—Chris, an American who met his Austrian wife, Maria, while backpacking through Europe and settled with her in Vienna—invited us to hear them sing in the cathedral choir that afternoon.  A gaggle of their Viennese pals hosted a lovely dinner party as 1999 expired, replete with wonderful food and lovely insights and wishes, including little ceramic red-capped mushrooms greeting us on our charger plates, a symbol of blessing for the coming year (is it just me, or do Europeans understand and discuss symbolism a bit more than we do?).

Nearing midnight, we made our way up, in a beautiful 1930s wrought-iron elevator, to the rooftop.  The view was magnificent—we were within the Ringstrasse (a circular roadway surrounding the inner downtown area of the city; Stephansdom (St. Stephens Cathedral) towered at its center.  Every window in the city was glowing, with crowds filling every square foot of rooftop.  Loudspeakers set up all around boomed Brahms and Strauss waltzes (how they did that, I’m not exactly sure; it was as if we were in a movie scene, and the soundtrack was added later, because it seemed to be just coming out of the sky), and the Viennese in our group immediately broke into dance. We joined in, holding our champagne glasses tightly.

As the clock at St. Stephens turned to midnight, cheers rose through the city streets and everyone kissed those they loved.  It was a never-to-be-forgotten moment, living a scene in life in a giant and magical snow dome.

In case you think my situation might sound just a bit too hokey and perfect, please note that while we were dancing romantically and sipping champagne, we were also throwing each other to the side each time a very large firework blast landed at our feet (Austrians tend to celebrate with fireworks—BIG professional-grade fireworks), as if we were soldiers protecting each other from post-mortar-blast shrapnel (okay, not so romantic).  Also, because of our protective tackles, champagne was readily spilling into the drifts of rooftop snow, looking rather as if a gigantic Viennese dog had emptied its bladder roofside.

Honeymoons are often filled with big moments, so our story perhaps is no different from anyone else’s, when they tell romantic tales of Caribbean islands, Scottish castles, and other adventures.  Although I know our Millennium story is romantic, here’s the qualifier:  a week rarely goes by in which I don’t have a similar moment, thinking “now THIS is going to be special–or at least, interesting”. . . simply, it’s something I’ve learned to recognize and run headfirst toward, by design; it’s not happenstance. 

A romantic life is not just in the telling of a story—the spin you put on it to maximize its romantic value; it’s consciously seeking out the special moments in order to experience them and—perhaps most important—identify and enjoy them.  Go ahead, ladies (and perhaps a few stray gents reading this), give it a try.