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Maria & Brett's HUGE Trip 06-07-08-09-? ok, so the Socceroos lost in 'that' penalty against Italy; Adriatic summers aren't long enough (bliss!); and we found that you should never use the term "Eastern Bloc" when talking to a Czech (Central Europe, please).

In search of a white Xmas - Pt I

AUSTRIA | Wednesday, 20 December 2006 | Views [1876]

Vienna's Christkindlmarkt in front of the Town Hall. We've arrived!

Vienna's Christkindlmarkt in front of the Town Hall. We've arrived!

A stop-off in wintry Vienna to liberate cafes of their delicious coffee and gluhwein stores of their fancily decorated mugs, followed by a festive season in Slovenia signposted by local wine, prosciutto, overly-generous local hospitality and nativity scenes in all sizes – from the miniature-under-the-Christmas-tree variety to the life-size-in-a-4km-long cave variety…

With the festive season rapidly approaching and no family in sight to celebrate with (except for a bunch of newfound Czech friends – our North American expat friends had already jumped 7 hours across the Atlantic to be with their families), we booked ourselves some time off and a couple of rail tickets to Vienna and Ljubljana.

Arriving in a Vienna chilled at refrigerator temperature we kicked into gear and did what we do in every other new place – head straight for the hostel, dump our bags and head out to explore the town. Only this time we’d decided to doll ourselves up and head straight to the Vienna Opera House to see Romeo & Juliette (gotta love cheap tickets!). Although we couldn’t see past the balding guy’s head in front of us in our little booth high in the sky, we were there for the sound and to experience one of Vienna’s infamous institutions – and it didn’t disappoint. It had been a long time since we’d dressed up for anything and for a moment we were transported back to a time of flowing ballgowns, red velvet curtains, moustaches that curl up at the tips and espionage, murder and mystery… Wait, I think I’m talking about the movie The Illusionist which we saw recently.

Back into the cold night our bus climbed the hill to our hostel which overlooked the city from a nearby forest-covered hill. Actually it was the Wilhelminenberg Palace, in whose shadow the little hostel was nestled, that majestically kept watch over the city, but the hostel did its bit too – snowing even as we arrived home that night.

We marvelled at how spontaneously we would start singing our own soundtrack (and this has been going on for months now, depending on where we are). As we walked through the falling snow we instantly broke into our very own renditions of “walking in the winter wonderland” or even the “goodbye” song from The Sound of Music as we strolled through the courtyards of grand buildings in Vienna. Often the tunes appear subconsciously, turning into a whistle or a hum before metamorphosing into a karaoke (read: tone-deaf and drunken sounding) version before the stares from onlookers or fellow commuters in our carriage waken us (or Brett, mostly) from our spirit-channelling trance.

We did in Vienna what most tourists wouldn’t: marking our travels around the city not by famous sights, museums and tourist attractions, but by the many little old and new coffee shops that Vienna is famous for. After all, this place gives us the ‘Vienna’ coffee and Viener schnitzel, and the Café Melange which we mostly settled on – a cappuccino-styled flat white without the choc dusted froth. Outside it was cold and sometimes snowing so the interior backdrop that the cafes provided were perfect for relaxing and people-watching. Maria especially loved spotting girls that had succumbed to the latest fashion crime – eyes circled by deathly thick black eyeliner that would make Estee Lauder rub her hands with glee, and not just from the cold. It was 80s FlashBack City yet again, and we were again questioning our assumption that we weren’t the ones committing the crimes (even Brett too, as this crime wasn’t limited to girls only!). Incidentally the Czech tendency to go mullet had also trickled south, increasing our concerns that the Earth had stopped at some point and we forgot to get off.

After literally stumbling head first into the Vienna Christkindlmarkt, the Christmas markets of all markets in front of the statuesquely imposing Rathaus, or Town Hall, we knew we’d arrived at our destination – experiencing Christmas in one of Europe’s most romantically beautiful cities, and something we’d never in our right minds consider doing as a short holiday from Australia in the balmy summer. The aroma wafting through the air was spiced by the cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, clove and oranges that went into gluhwein cauldrons everywhere and fresh pastries, gingerbread, smoked meats and of course cigarettes that the total population of Europe was smoking at that moment. Adding another gluhwein mug to our collection (they don’t beat roadsigns for the ‘lifting’ factor but hey, at least they have a multi-use value – especially when we’re still furnishing our place in Prague!), we headed on to Slovenia with the completely relaxed satisfaction that we’d let this place open itself to us in measured tones in small relaxed doses and we hadn’t run ragged through tourist itineraries that would make Contiki jealous.

We can’t wait to return to have more of the same!

Tags: Snow

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