Tuesday, January 6, 2015

In Austria: Christmas Markets

Today is Three Kings Day which marks the final day of the holiday season (at least in my Latino culture) which means I need to publish this post before it's officially annoying to keep talking about Christmas. Without further ado: behold the magic of Austrian Christkindlmarkts (obscene amount of photos ahead)!
Every city in Austria, and presumably throughout Europe, erupts in holiday cheer at the opening of the Christmas Markets. In Vienna alone there are a dozen of these seasonal markets spread across the city's plazas. I'd first heard about them in November when my parents discovered them and my dad extolled the Austrian virtue of keeping warm in the cold outdoors by drinking warm drinks. Then I watched the Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations -Vienna- episode and as he guzzled down hot alcohol at the Puncsh stands my excited anticipation of these markets grew stronger. Artisanal Christmas goodies plus mugs of hot booze? That's my kind of holiday cheer!
One of the larger Christmas markets is held at the Rathausplatz, which is Vienna's city hall. Lights are on every tree, there are over one hundred stalls from which to shop for Christmas decorations, lots of traditional Viennese finger foods, and hot mulled wine. This was the most crowded of the markets we visited which normally would have put me on edge but it turns out that I'm a bit more patient as a foreigner on vacation, go figure.
In the Maria-Theresien-Platz , sandwiched between the Fine Arts Museum and Natural History Museum, was another market, the only one that didn't pack up after Christmas Eve. One day we spent six hours at the Kunst Historisches (fine arts) Museum and their cafe was closed so we stepped out to the Christmas market and refueled with espressos and gigantic pretzels, stuffed our coat pockets with roasted chestnuts and potato wedges, and returned to the museum. When the museum closed we went back to the market and drank hot punsch as the first snow of the winter fell all around. 
My favorite Christmas market was the one at Karlsplatz. It's also the first one we visited our first night in Vienna when everything seemed so new and magical and pretty (it was magical and pretty at the end of our trip, too, but I'd already grown to expect it). The Karlsplatz market is open and spaced out with a large children's area covered in piles of hay. An impressive 18th century baroque church, the Karlskirche (St. Charle's Church), towers above in the background. 
This market seemed quainter and sold many items I did not see at other markets. I've since found out that the items sold at the Karlsplatz village are required to be made by the sellers themselves with no traded goods allowed and must be approved by a panel beforehand, which explains the artistic craftsmanship that I saw. Plus, there were live music performances and people on stilts! Always a winning combination.
My mom's favorite Christmas market was the one at Cathedral Square in Salzburg. It was the most photo-friendly one, too, which is why I have so many photos of the products sold at this market than at the other ones. We visited it during the early afternoon so we abstained from the mulled wine but indulged in the pretzels, our go-to market snack. While being vegan in Austria was easy, being vegan at the Christmas markets was not, so while the waffles smelled heavenly and the chocolates looked delicious we did not try them.
The Salzburg Market had the most unique Christmas items I'd seen and also the largest quantity of tiny handmade wooden crafts for personal nativity scenes. I wanted to buy everything so I bought nothing.
But I really should have bought one of these. Fail.

Hope your Tuesday was great. More tomorrow!


Coot Doot said...

Cut & Paste from a Word Doc to record my reactions in real time (also, Carol's regularly scheduled too long of a comment):
The arctic animals nativity! Are the three polar bear kings snow-shoeing to get to Jesus?!
So, is it BYOMug to these markets? I see you all drinking Punsch and/or hot mulled wine in different, pretty Christmas mugs.
I don’t know if I’ve ever had chestnuts before…
Drew’s cousin was telling us about the street musicians in horse masks; I guess it’s a thing!
Almost a full body view of your coat! It’s so pretty!
I like that the Karlsplatz market was more craftmanshipy.
Gosh, beautiful artesanias and beautiful edible treats!!
WHAT? Muñeca had to wear a muzzle??
God, I bet those pretzels were good!!
Haha, this is awesome: “I wanted to buy everything so I bought nothing.” I was feeling overwhelmed just looking at the photos and thinking about being a shopper at these things!
It’s all so magical, like you said! Glad you got to experience that!

Anonymous said...

Like Nanita said, I also wanted to buy so many things, but didn't. I was overwhelmed too! too may pretty things and too many people! But I'm glad we had the opportunity to experience it, it was fun!

Thanks to your wonderful recording and reporting I'm able to share also all these experiences with my friends and family!
Coot Doot, you can also come to experience that next Christmas!!