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Vienna: Thanksgiving away from home

After taking a night train to Vienna, I came to the home of a long-time friend from my New York days, with whom I'm staying until Friday morning. It was nice to have a quieter day yesterday - picking her son up from school, then making them a simple pasta sauce and sauteed kale for dinner.

Today, Thanksgiving in the U.S., I allowed myself a slower start before setting out. I hadn't made major plans for Vienna, aside from as excellent jazz concert last night, by one of my favorite singers: Gregory Porter.

 Not a great picture of him, but I was still fortunate enough to stand pretty close to the stage. No matter how many times I've seen him, Porter always puts on a great show.

Not a great picture of him, but I was still fortunate enough to stand pretty close to the stage. No matter how many times I've seen him, Porter always puts on a great show.

This afternoon I had probably the best meal so far this trip at an excellent Israeli restaurant I first visited last time. The restaurant is part of a large and popular open air market called Nashmarkt (photos here taken on a 2012 visit). They may well have about 100 stalls (or more?), selling produce, sausages, spices, kebabs, clothing, flowers and the ever-popular seasonal hot drink: gluhwein.

From there, I went to an area called Rathaus, home of the larger but more touristy Christmas markets (also pictured in 2012).

 Vienna's Rathaus Christmas market, as visited in 2012.

Vienna's Rathaus Christmas market, as visited in 2012.

My main destination was not the market but a nearby photo exhibit I saw advertised last night. The piece looked at photography in times of conflict, from the World Trade Tower attacks to present. It ended with a moving set of pictures documenting the German response to refugees in 2015.

 Part of the exhibit included November 2011 front pages from newspapers around the world.

Part of the exhibit included November 2011 front pages from newspapers around the world.

Because today's not a holiday in Austria, our Thanksgiving was an evening meal. Along with my friend and her family, I joined two other former Brooklynites and their kids (who hosted), plus a gay couple the hosts knew. Partway through the evening, the children (3 boys, six and under) entertained us with a musical performance they'd prepared to a recording.

When I thanked the hosts at night's end, for welcoming a stranger, the wife said I no longer seemed like one. As I've been reminded multiple times this trip, traveling alone sometimes opens you up to community in surprising ways. In a way, it's more meaningful than connection with people you know, because the welcome boasts no prior obligation or commitment - such community stems solely from people's willingness to heed and attend to the people right in front of them, known or not.

Pictures: shot from the concert last night and a spread of newspaper front posts around the world, reporting the tower attacks.