Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving in Vienna

Two words: Christmas Markets

Somehow, I missed the memo on the existence of the European Christmas Market culture.  Until moving here, I had never heard of them or even thought about how Christmas time is different in other places.  My friend Maureen from OR first mentioned them and sent me a link, so I decided to ask around to see what was the story.  Clearly, Phil and I, and probably about 99% of the people we know have been missing out on what is possibly one of the funnest, most beautiful traditions in the world.

This past Thanksgiving, Phil and I flew to Vienna (for a measly $162 round-trip!) and went Christmas Market hopping.  Initially, I'd figured we'd visit the 2-3 most popular ones, perhaps one each night; but after having an absolutely fabulous time at the first one, we decided we wanted to see them all.  So we had 3 days to hit up 13 markets.  Vienna was freezing, much colder than Belgrade, it stayed at like 30 during the day and in the 20s at night (do realize that "night" starts at about 4 PM here).  In true character with our refusal to let go of our youth, we stayed in a hostel --I know, I know--but it was cheap, clean AND centrally located, so after dropping our bags we made our way through the city.  I almost felt like I was back home in DC.  Don't get me wrong, Belgrade is fine and I like it, but Vienna is a real metropolis.  We rode the metro and had Starbucks and saw some true diversity!   We saw Asians, African-Americans Europeans?, AND some Latinos!..we even found a place called "Casa Mexico" where I stockpiled on some yummy authentic hot sauces, while speaking Spanish and getting coerced to try some strawberry Tequila that was "solo para damas".

Poor Phil's been on Starbucks withdrawal for almost 2 months.  We strolled through their shopping streets, where everything is ridiculously expensive, looking at the sites and making our way to our first market at the Museum Quarter, which is basically a huge square where a bunch of museums are housed.    I made this little video to give you some perspective on what it was like.  Because it was Thursday, there were very few people there, Friday and Saturday got more and more crowded, but never like the insane crowds I've dealt with during Black Friday specials or during holiday shopping at Tyson's in VA or in Plaza in PR.   The quality of this video is very poor, so I apologize beforehand for my lack of cinematography skills.

Those are the famous markets.  There are tons of nice wooden stalls, most of them selling Christmas decorations or wooden toys, then some sold food to take away and/or give as gifts and others food to be consumed then and there.  We had the mulled wine, which was hot and great, and very progressively, they give you a a mug for a 2 Euro deposit and you use it for the rest of the night and get the deposit back, so no Styrofoam cups or plastic, no trash.  Gotta love that about Western Europe.

Phil had the pizza pretzel, I got the one with the chocolate and nuts

So for the next two nights, as soon as it got dark, we went back to the markets.  
This is a second, smaller one near the Stephanplatz.

The largest of them all is the one in front of the Rathaus, the biggest church in Vienna.  
This one was a little crowded, but it added to the ambiance of it all.

And our last night at the SCHÖNBRUNN CASTLE.  We enjoyed hanging out in them so much that the next morning, before our flight, we decided to head up back to the first one for an early lunch.

Of course, we shopped too much, bought things we probably don't need and won't use, and probably paid way too much money for a gold painted walnut dressed as an Angel diva, but that's fine.

All in the Xmas spirit.

You can't see it well, but those are hot dogs.  They stick the bratwurst inside the bread and top it with the little piece they cut out to insert it in.


jastri said...

Vero, nice story. I used to go to German Christmas markets in downtown Chicago. I remember having some hot Glühwein while freezing outside :)
Take care you both, hugs..

Anonymous said...

I am obsessed with your blog! It is so great. Vienna is definitely one of the art hot spots I would love to go to. Maybe this spring...


Anonymous said...

Vero!!! In love with your blog! Please keep it up! I was in DC a few weeks ago and missed Phil screaming my name in the middle of the street (Yes, we went back to the same bar Phil). Cuidense mucho!!! Maru

Anonymous said...

Ohhh my gosh! I just found your blog, and my hubby and I are heading to Vienna in about 3 hours! Perfect timing! Believe it or not, we also are living in Serbia! We have a lot in common! It would be great to meet some day! I am from OR, but hubby and I recently lived in KY.