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Come Away With Me: Vienna at Christmas

by 4 December 17, 2013

Last December we up and moved to London. That meant we weren't going to be home for Christmas.

My husband knows I love Christmas. He knows that I love the lights and the bobbles and the trees and the carols. Thanks to a recommendation from a friend at work he also knew that Vienna loves Christmas more than I do.

He figured if there was anywhere we could go to get our fill of Christmas spirit it was in this Austrian city. So he took us to Vienna for Christmas so that my Christmas heart might flutter. He loves me. No question about it.

We left for Vienna at 3:30am and arrived around 12:30pm. It was a long day of travel. We walked to the train which we rode to the airport, from where we flew to  Slovakia, from where we got on a bus to Vienna, where we rode the underground into the city centre, from which we walked in the freezing rain to our hotel. We were tired. At the time I was pregnant and this pregnant girl was really tired.

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The forecast had basically shouted winter wonderland up until we arrived. Everywhere we looked it called for snow in Vienna. When we arrived the forecast had changed from winter wonderland to frosty swamp. It rained, and rained, and rained,....the freezing kind of rain. We braved it for less than an hour before we decided it was time to head to the hotel and warm our toes before finding a place to eat dinner.

The following three days were rain free and we were able to get out and go to the Christmas markets. With a minimum of six markets available for perusing and most closing after the 24th we were eager to get going. We walked fairly quickly through the first smaller and very cozy market on our way to the major market outside of the Palace.

Yup, a Christmas market at a real life Palace. Fairytale Wonderland. Booth after booth in alley after alley all surrounded by trees hung with a different type of light fixture. Some booths were full of handmade goods sold next to trees hung with huge red hearts, others were set up with cured meats and cheeses under trees lit up with hot air gallons, and others still with children's toys under large Christmas packages. Each alley was flocked by hanging Christmas angels. It was a foggy day and the sheer screen that seemed to hang in front of everything only added to the magical sparkle of the whole place.

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We walked for a bit and then we were ready to try Viennese Christmas delicacies. We knew we had to have a sausage and it turned out to be a perfect start to eating our way through the market. We quickly noticed that everywhere around us people walked along sipping steaming mugs of punch. We could not be the only ones without this Christmas elixir so we headed to a nearby booth for a mug of our own.

Turns out punch comes in at least 20 varieties which are mostly listed in German. I went with one that looked most like apple (it was apple, "apfel" got me to the right place) and Mat jumped at the chance for some Amaretto. Each market has its own market mug . Your first punch includes a two Euro deposit for the mug and if you return it you can get your Euros back. I wanted to keep them so we are the proud owners of two Christmas Market mugs from Vienna and are 4 Euros poorer for it.

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Sweet treats are synonymous with Christmas. They didn't miss that part in Vienna. Huge booths filled with all kinds of chocolate covered delights, classic fudge and bark, nougaty goodness, colorful hard candies and nutella covered pastries drew us (or at least me) at every turn. We ended up with a version of amazing white marshmallow stuff dipped in chocolate that we had in Paris, but this time it was rum and espresso flavored; to go along with it a kabob of dark chocolate raspberries.

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 When you think of Austrian food what do you think of? It should be protein. Lots and lots of meat. Maybe a potato here and there but the Austrians don't joke around when it comes to farm animals. If you are on the Atkins diet you should plan a trip to Vienna. By Christmas Day I couldn't eat much more meat and ended up with a mushroom and celery soup to go along with my roasted vegetable risotto. Mat had not been deterred by our protein packed 72 hours and went straight for the lamb.

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Our last day there we visited the Belvedere museum. Mat loves museums. He is much more cultured than I am. I go because I know I should appreciate the art . And I do to some extent. I marvel at the talent of many people throughout the centuries and am impressed by the changes in art from period to period. I also go because I love Mat and it makes him happy to go.

But after two hours in a huge art museum I am ready to get off my feet and everything starts to look-alike. I am ready to go. We hit the two-hour mark right when we got to a much famed Austrian modern artist whom I was thoroughly unimpressed with and my museum patience was about up.

Vienna mixes modern art and old world history uniquely well. I loved the art scene that we wondered by everywhere we went. It is almost like the entire city is a gallery. Much more my style.

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I learned early on that Faye inherited my love of Christmas. She gets very active at the sound of Christmas music (which may just be music at all because she went crazy during every sing off scene of Pitch Perfect). Then came Christmas Eve and all she could do was roll around and throw bows, I think she was too anxious for Christmas day. At least that is what I chose to think on Christmas morning with only two or three hours of sleep to my name. Faye has a heart for the holidays.

I will say, my Christmas hoopla tank was fairly empty when we arrived but it was full when we left Vienna. Nothing could have been more festive.

At the end of the day I suggest going to Vienna. Either around Christmas to see the markets so the cold is worth it, or in a warmer month so that you can see both the beauty of the city and the plentiful Sound of Music landscapes throughout the country.

Vienna is sure to please.

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