European Christmas: Austria

Kids,

No Kangaroos in Austria….gets me every time!

Austria: Day 0: Wednesday December 19th: Landing in Vienna

We landed in Vienna around 3:00 pm and easily grabbed a bus, and then a train to the Stadion station near our hotel. Sundown was 4:00 pm so by the time we got out of the train station it was dark. Luckily the signage was great and navigating to the hotel was easy.

We booked a Family Room at the Vienna Danube Hilton Hotel, and arrived to two connecting rooms, which was a first for us. Having a separate room is really a must to work with naps and early bed times, so we decided to barricade the door to the hall and give it a shot.

After dropping our stuff off in the room we headed down to the hotel restaurant to grab dinner. The restaurant was amazing. The best part of dinner was a member of the wait staff, who connected with you three as soon as we got there. Each night you made sure to say hi when we got dinner and even gave hugs the night we left Vienna. I regret not writing down her name and getting a picture.

Austria: Day 1: Thursday December 20th: Belvedere Palace & St. Peter’s Christmas Markets.

Our first day we slept in as much as possible to recuperate from the long travel days, and headed down to breakfast around 10:00 am (30 minutes before it closed). Breakfast at the hotel was a mad house and no matter when we went down, it was packed. The waffle machine was a huge hit, and at a 3 minute cook time it drove the duration of our breakfast up. By day 3 we limited the number of waffles to 1 so breakfast didn’t take an hour.

In the US we see the words “Made in China”, or somewhere East a lot. While on this side of the world I seem to pay more attention to that, and noticed that the waffle maker was made in the USA. I used to find this funny, and I still chuckle at first sighting, but after 18 months I see that more and more often.

After breakfast we went back to the room to bundle up and head to our first Christmas market at Belvedere Palace. After riding the Wienen Line to the closest stop we headed to the market. The market was smaller than the average market we visited, but we didn’t know that at the time.

We entered the gates to the palace and were immediately blown away. The palace sits behind a pond which functions as the drive way leading up to the house, and in front of a huge garden with smaller ponds and fountains. It was pretty cold when we were there so no flowers, but either way the site was spectacular.

We could smell the food as we walked through the entry garden and it was amazing. Vendors filled the gravel lot in front of the main building, and the atmosphere was great.

Your mother and I decided prior to arriving in Vienna that we wanted to use this opportunity to teach you three a little bit about budgeting and the value of money. So, we gave each of you 40 Euro ($45) that morning with the instructions that you could spend it on anything you wanted, but it was for the entire three week vacation and when it was gone, it was gone.

We planned to get Charlotte and Christopher S a gift during our trip, and knew that Charlotte collects snow globes from around the world so we headed for the snow globe booth. Naturally each of you wanted one so we did the math, deducting the amount from your allowance and stashed it away.

The palace was amazing and even though it was just above freezing we took time to walk around the grounds. Photos below were taken from the far side of the Belvedere Garden, and I have no idea why everyone isn’t standing up. You did that on your own…

When we were all sufficiently cold we headed back to the train station and headed to the St. Peter’s Market at Stephansplatz. The cathedral was amazing, but undergoing construction at the time so the photos are lined with scaffolding.

The food at this market was more alluring so we stopped to grab a breaded roll and some Orange Christmas Punch. It was then that we learned you had to pay a deposit for the cup which was custom made for the specific market you were in. Naturally we started collecting and I starting worrying about how we were going to get them home in one piece.

After the market we headed to a local pizza place, Pizza Bizi, nearby and grabbed several slices of margarita pizza for you three. It was, quick, easy and so good that we stopped back again on our last day.

After lunch we headed back to the hotel, but not before stopping off at a local grocery store to pick up a few things. With traveling from the arctic circle to Vienna in just 32 hours we were all exhausted. But Madelyn won for the most exhausted, after falling asleep on the way to the grocery store and staying asleep when we transferred her to and from the cart.

Austria: Day 2: Friday December 21st: Freyung, AM Hof, and Maria-Theresien Christmas Markets, Afternoon coffee, Vienna Christmas Lights

Now that we had explored and had the transportation figured out, we planned a big day for today. We had three Christmas markets and a Vienna Christmas Lights tour planned, which meant no naps.

Our first stop was the Freyung Christmas Market, and by this point we couldn’t resist the food vendors anymore. Christopher eyed a breaded roll covered in cinnamon and sugar called a Trdelnik that was cooked around what looked like a rolling pin, so we got one. It was delicious and he talked about it the rest of the trip.

Next stop was the AM Hof Christmas Market which included many of the same vendors as the previous markets. By the time we checked out all the booths it was lunch time. We convinced you three to eat a ‘hot dog’ from the market vendor, which was really a sausage. We ordered three large ‘hot dogs’ and your mother and I had to finish about half of them. They were delicious.

After lunch we tried to find a coffee shop to play card games and warm up. We ended up finding a very nice coffee shop, Cafe Hofburg, that was just a little too upscale for pulling out the card games. So we had some coffee and hot chocolate. I ordered a Fiaker, which is a double espresso with rum, which was delicious and very strong. After warming up we headed on to our third Christmas market of the day, the Maria-Theresien Christmas Market.

This market was much larger than the previous and took some time to check out all the vendors. This was a challenge for the three of you so we found an open area, which happened to have a statue of an elephant that you fell in love with. I bet we spent 15 minutes around this statue waiting for your mother to checkout the booths. The market was great and the surrounding buildings were stunning.

Sunset was still around 30 minutes away when we were ready to go, and without naps we highly doubted you three would make it through dinner. We noticed that the lights were already on, even though the sun wasn’t down yet, so we decided to start our walk back to the train station and checkout the lights. They were stunning.

Austria: Day 3: Saturday December 22nd: Schonbrunn, AM , and Karlesplatz Christmas Markets

Our last day in Vienna we continued the Christmas market tour. Our first order of business was to get photos with the reindeer outside the hotel next to the Danube river.

The weather didn’t cooperate, and it was cold and raining all day. We decided to take a long trip to see the Schonbrunn Palace on the other side of town. At this point we had the metro system down and we had no trouble finding the palace, which was good because this market was the farthest we’d have to travel during our stay.

 

The market was huge, and we quickly made our rounds to try and not get completely soaked at our first stop of the day. They did have a few small canopies setup so people could eat, so we grabbed a donut pretzel the size of my head and made our way out of the rain.

Vienna knows how to do donuts!

Our second stop was to the Karlsplatz Christmas Market. This market was one of the largest we visited and was focused more on the art crowd. There were booths selling paintings, hand made crafts, leather, candles, etc…

The Karlsplatz market also had an interesting petting zoo and train feature setup in the middle of the market. Luckily the petting zoo was closed at the time so we didn’t have to try and convince you all that you can pet animals and Auntie Em’s and Uncle Garret’s (They really do have an Auntie Em).

It did take some time to talk you out of spending your money on a train that was really just a train track with small vehicles consisting of train wheels, a bike, and a floor. I bet that guy was making bank, because it was 3 Euro per person and the user had to cycle to move around the track. Genius? Maybe.

We originally planned to see the AKH Christmas Market, but stumbled on a large market along the way that didn’t require us to walk around in the rain. Sold. The AM Christmas Market was very large, and had an ice skating rink off to the side. To be honest I think the AM was just the prefix to the market, like the AM Hof market, but I couldn’t find any signs to support this.

Time really got away from us, and by the time we headed to lunch it was around 2:00 pm. Knowing that you all would be starving we decided to get something we knew you’d eat. So we planned to walk to the amazing pizza restaurant that we found on day 1 in Vienna, Pizza Bizi.

We could see the church off in the distance so we were a short walk away….or so we thought. Apparently there are a lot of churches in Vienna and the one we saw was still at least a mile away from the St. Peter’s church near the restaurant. So after walking a half mile to get the first church we walked to the nearest train station and made our way there. Good public transportation is just amazing.

Our last plan for the day included dinner at the hotel restaurant so we could say goodbye to an amazing server who was so good with you three.  I regret not getting a picture of you with her.

Austria: Day 4: Sunday December 23rd: Travel to Salzburg

On our first travel day in Central Europe, we woke up around 9, grabbed breakfast, and headed to the train station.

We boarded an express train direct from Vienna to Salzburg, reaching Salzburg in just under 2 hours. The best part of the train, besides the food car which you all were infatuated with, was that current speed indication. From what I saw we reached 220km/hr or ~140MPH.

We found our way to the bus station and boarded a bus towards the hotel. Our hotel in Salzburg was a Meiningers hotel which is more hostel like than our typical hotel. Fortunately they had a family room which consisted of 5 twin beds: two bunk beds and a single twin bed. It was different but a fun experience.

For dinner we found a local restaurant, Urban Keller, a short walk from the hotel. When we arrived the place was pretty empty and very cool. We sat down and had some amazing Schnitzel. The local beer was great too.

Austria: Day 5: Monday December 24th: Christmas Dinner Shopping, Salzburg Christkindl Markt, Mozartplatz, and Christmas Dinner(?)

With us all in the same room, our first night was touch and go, but we all got some sleep. After breakfast we headed across the road to a grocery store to pick up Christmas Eve dinner. We booked dinner reservations for Christmas Dinner, but had no plans for Christmas Eve…and by that point everything open was booked solid.

After dropping off the groceries in the room, we walked to our first Christmas market. The Christkindl Markt was huge, definitely the largest market we visited on our trip.

For those who don’t know, Salzburg is known for a couple things. The home of the famous composer Mozart, and a location where ‘The Sound of Music’ was filmed. In true fashion they had billboards all over town with opportunities to see Mozart’s birth home and later residence, and the Sound of Music tour. So we headed to Mozartplatz.

There was supposed to be a Christmas market in the plaza, but it turned out to be an ice skating rink and bar. The rink was under a few inches of water, but the bar was a great area to get out of the rain.

After a drink we headed back to the hotel to do some laundry and cook our fancy Christmas Eve dinner. On our way through we decided to stop by the Trdlink booth and grab one more before we left Austria. Lucky for us they had a buy 3 deal that we couldn’t pass up. We purchased a mixed berry, sugar and cinnamon, and chocolate. We took them back to the hotel and devoured them in the lobby.

Austria Day 6: Tuesday December 25th: Santa found us in Salzburg, Fortress Tour, Stern Christmas Market, Christmas Dinner & St. Peter’s Church

On Christmas morning we woke up to presents in our hotel room, and a text from Winnie showing us presents in our apartment in Mumbai. Apparently everyone was good enough this year to deserve gifts.

Salzburg isn’t that large of a town, so we headed back down to the city center and up a very large hill to the Salzburg Fortress.

We expected the Christmas market to be open in the Fortress, based on the website, but unfortunately it wasn’t. The fortress was really cool, and we spent around an hour walking around before heading back to the city before dinner.

There wasn’t much open so we ducked into a Starbucks and had coffee, hot chocolate, and played cards.

Our reservations were at the St. Peter’s Stiftskulinarium Restaurant. The place was fairly easy to find, and we arrived just before our reservation. The business was amazing, decked out with Christmas decorations from floor to ceiling. The host escorted us back to our seat in what felt like an old cellar, where you three ate schnitzel while your Mother and I enjoyed a 5 course meal.

The meal included a wild carp, cream of chervil root soup, scallops, stuffed Christmas quail, and a baked apple dessert. Overall the meal was good, but not amazing. The raw scallops were not a favorite, but we tried them. Trying new things – something we have been trying to convince you three to do.

Austria Day 7: Wednesday December 26th: Travel to Munich

Our second Austrian travel day was much like the first, and we had a relaxing day of travel from Salzburg to Munich. 

Love,

Mom and Dad

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