Buried within the seemingly endless streams of, “Christmas Markets You MUST Visit” and practical? advice such as, “Tips for Navigating Christmas Markets” running across my news feeds last week was a quiet little notice for something called, Bratislava Good Market.
Our Christmas holiday was like the month of March, it came in like a lion and went out like a lamb. Though holiday preparations at home kept us well occupied throughout December, we did manage to take in two unusual Christmas markets. The first, woven through the labyrinth of a 900 year old wine cellar in Niederösterreich. Quite a lovely market!
The second was a little closer to home, the Ochs und Esel market in some of the abandoned stables at Vienna’s horse track. Rather cleverly, a few dozen local artisans displayed their wares in the individual stalls. Of all of the Christmas markets we enjoyed this season, this was the one from where we were able to find those final, special gifts.
And in the blink of an eye, our Christmas holidays had begun.
Call us holiday market connoisseurs. When the Niederösterreich newsletter arrived in my inbox, listing the “most beautiful markets,” of the season I pored over it like I once did the Toys R Us catalog as a I child. And why not? So many palaces and castles that rarely open to the public fill their rooms with holiday greenery and handcrafted, locally produced goods for just one weekend, making visit feel like a mini-holiday. Add in a spectacular setting, and we are happy daytrippers. With so many markets to choose from, though, we have only made rare return visits in our soon-to-be four Christmases in Vienna.
Last year we spent the long Thanksgiving weekend in Innsbruck, and fell in love with Tirol. This year we chose the Salzkammergut for our getaway, hoping to be equally as enchanted by the Bavarian-style villages and their Advent markets. (Spoiler: we were enchanted!)
At the last minute we decided to have a family Thanksgiving on the night before, which worked beautifully because it meant we had leftovers to enjoy in Salzburg! After settling Clayton Theodore on Thursday at the rental apartment, we set out for the markets. The forecast snow had not quite arrived and the skies were gray and gloomy, but the hot chocolates from the first market perked our spirits.
It is no secret that we like to venture out on the weekends; and with Christmas markets opening across the region, the weekends seem to plan themselves!
Saturday’s itinerary took us to Schloss Krumbach, a former Palffy palace tucked into the Koralpe range of the eastern alps, and to the southwest of Vienna. The palace, like so many, is a wedding destination hotel; there is a palace chapel for the ceremony, beautiful rooms for the reception, and guest rooms for all of the celebrants. Reaching this particular schloss required a 16% grade switchback drive, followed by a short walk from the parking up to the grounds. The effort was worth it.
Saturday dawned sunny and bright, and thus Tony and I needed no further invitation to head out somewhere. One of my news feeds mentioned a festival somewhere nearby in Slovakia, and that was good enough for us. It turned out that the town was celebrating the autumn kill, or something (we don’t speak Slovak!) Though everything on the grill smelled wonderful, eating barbecued animal parts at 1030 in the morning wasn’t for us.
We have never been a family big on sitting around the house; it just isn’t what we do. So, it should be of little surprise that a day after Jack returned we packed the Volvo and headed to Bavaria for a long weekend. Our home base was a cottage in Munich that could have been a workshop for Santa’s elves. Though it had modern restoration and conveniences, the ceilings of this former guest house were perhaps a little low for the taller members of the family. Small matter!