Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Vienna Christmas Market [by day]

When I first heard the word "Christmas market" from the lady checking us in at our hotel, my ears perked up.  Coming to Vienna, we had no idea that there would be Christmas markets. It's something that has been on my wishlist of things to experience ever since Yuriy came back from Germany a couple years ago and told me about the traditional markets and especially the hot wine they sell--a perfect winter drink. I thought I had to go to Germany to see one. As it turns out, Christmas markets originated in German-speaking countries, which includes Austria. And the country has hundreds of them all over the country, not just in Vienna.

Every Christmas market, or Christkindlmarkt, is set on an open plaza or well traveled street. We visited several markets in Vienna, and each one was set against a beautiful or historic building. There was even a market in front of the royal Schönbrunn Palace. Matching wooden booths stand in rows and sell Christmas gifts, ornaments, and decorations. One stand sells everything you could possibly need to build the world's best nativity set on your mantle. The booths that really drew me in were the ones selling food-- traditional pastries, old-fashioned candies, gingerbread cookies in every shape, toasted nuts, bratwurst, and baked potatoes. The classic thing to do at the Christmas market is enjoy a steaming cup of Christmas punch, or Weihnachtspunschstanding around an open table with some friends. Christmas punch is a version of mulled wine (Germans call it Glühwein) which is spiced with things like cinnamon and cloves or a combination of fruit tea, spices, sugars, and spirits (mainly rum and brandy). The punch comes in many fruit varieties with a scoop of whole berries or cherries in the cup. Christmas punch is served piping hot in ceramic mugs, which is the perfect way to warm up on a freezing December night and be filled with holiday merriment.

Later today I will post more photos of the Christmas market at night, when it truly sparkles and feels most magical.

- Julia

[graphics: The Graphics Fairy & Pugly Pixel, font: DaFont]