For the previous two years we have taken the long school weekend to venture across Austria; the first year, to Innsbruck and its charming Christmas markets, and last year, to the Wolfgangseer Advent, hands down our favorite of all of the Austrian markets we have visited. This year, our desire to be home on Saturday for THE GAME* compelled us to stay local and embrace some of our favorite American Thanksgiving weekend traditions as well as to enjoy the season of European Christmas markets.

Thanksgiving Thursday.  Anna Grace and I ran to the market for a few groceries, and were quite surprised by some of the fresh offerings!

Once back home, even with the time difference we could still do turkey prep while streaming the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!

Black Friday. I am not a “Schnäppchenjäger” (bargain hunter), so the day after Thanksgiving has traditionally been the day we put up our Christmas tree. First, though, in the morning Tony and I spent an hour being jostled and shoved about by people giddy for their free food samples at the Palais Niederösterreich Christmas market, so it felt like Black Friday.

Who doesn’t love men in Lederhosen?

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Then, because I had this crazy notion that the large city botanical garden, which was hosting its Christmas market, might have trees, I suggested we venture out to suburban Vienna. The market and exhibit were both pleasant, but there were no trees for sale, alas.

Blumengarten Hirschstetten’s Glühwein mug was the saddest we’ve ever seen, too.

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All hope was not lost, for we found a Garten-Center selling Christmas trees while making our way home!

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A couple of hours later…

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…our family story, in ornaments. Of home, the former (The White House ornament from 2012) and the current (the alpine deer); of heritage (Polish, with the hand blown glass from Krakow; and Irish, with the Waterford rocking horses); and of the canine family members no longer with us.

Saturday began bright and sunny as we pointed the wagon toward Györ, Hungary. Györ is a medium-ish city and one that has been on our “To-Visit” list. With the special offer of its Christmas markets, our agenda was set.

Györ was delightful! Elegant streets from another era; a stunning City Hall; a healthy dose of socialist architecture; and the liveliness of city sidewalks dressed in holiday style.

At the market we purchased the tools to make a favorite sweet, Tredlnik (Baumkuchen) at home on our own grill. Tony recently outdid himself with a dinner of grilled duck breast, his first ever “game bird,” so he’s feeling confident to take on the Tredlnik.

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On Sunday we were dismissed by Anna Grace, who needed to turn her attention to academic matters. Having enjoyed our Thanksgiving turkey not just once, but twice as per tradition, Tony and I were of the mood for a spicy and flavorful lunch, and thus headed to a much-loved Thai restaurant in Bratislava. The Slovakian capital’s Christmas markets were underway, as well, offering Lebkuchen with verses we could not understand; vegan tofu baskets (no one was queueing); and many varieties of “Magic Tea” to warm one’s spirits.

 

To wrap up our weekend (Whew!) we dropped in on the annual bazaar hosted by the International Women’s Club of Bratislava, where we snacked on delicacies from around the world and found, to our great excitement, Peppermint Candy Canes! (At, where else, the “USA” table.) Austria offers candy canes at this time of year, but tasting one is a cruel joke, for they are often fruit-flavored. Which is totally wrong.

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*THE GAME. For those reading this blog who know us, you then know to what I am referring. The pain is still too real to place into words otherwise.