Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Salzburg Christmas markets

We love the Christmas markets around Munich; the atmosphere, the Christmas ornaments, the roasted chestnuts. But we’ve been to many of them, many times. And with a friend visiting who had not been to Salzburg, it was the perfect opportunity to go international with our Christmas market exploration.

We took the train one Saturday morning (miraculously clear of kid sports, music and scouts) to Salzburg. As soon as we stepped on the train, we knew it was Christmas market time. The train was completely full . The kids sat on the floor and read but the adults stood in the aisle and watched the people. Tons of people, all sorts of people. Students, tourists, even a large bachelorette party. Luckily, most of them got off at Cheimsee, a lake halfway between Munich and Salzburg. We learned there is a lovely Christmas market on the island with an old fashioned cog train that takes you down to the water’s edge. Maybe next year. This year we were all about getting to Salzburg…and finally doing a day trip to another city, something we always want to do but have never done thus far. On this trip, we left our home at 9am and returned home around 11pm, late but happy.
We walked into Salzburg’s beautiful old town, along the river with the fortress up above us on the hill. We quickly looked around the small streets and saw the crowds and got on our bus for another Sound of Music tour! The tour was fun the second time around and this time infused with the Christmas spirit. At one point, we stopped at Mondsee, one of the many lovely Alpine lakes in the area. In front of St. Michael’s Basilica, where Maria was married, there was a small Christmas market. We looked at the stalls but saw no crafts, only food. Only then did we realize the craft part of the market was inside an ancient cloister of the former monastery. All beautiful and cozy.
Back in Salzburg, we walked through the main Christmas market in the square in front of the cathedral. A Christmas market started there in the 15th century and continued through until the World Wars. The market closed and reopened and closed and then reopened in the original spot in 1972. We walked through the traditional stalls, smelling the mulled wine and admiring – and buying- handmade Christmas decorations. The small winding cobblestone streets off the main square, like Getreidgasse and Goldgasse, are decorated with lights and stars and only added to the overall feeling of anticipation.
A friend at school recommended a newer Christmas market; the Stern Advent Market. We found it using a handy map Salzburg puts out of all their Christmas markets (lots of them) and loved it. We ate at an Italian restaurant, also recommended by the friend and loved it. There is something to be said for eating pizza (and not more market food) while watching the Christmas market through a floor to ceiling wall of glass. All the ambiance but warmer! We’d been seen these large ornaments all over Salzburg; a normal ball to put on a tree but super sized; twenty times bigger. The kids and our friend bought one for me; a big ornament from a little market. And the first Christmas decoration up in our house this season!


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