After three years in Austria, we’re still finding new Christmas markets. Every castle, every town square, every countryside village celebrates Advent by decking their halls with evergreens and putting little reindeer in their windows.
There are wreaths and pine cones on all the doors, and with only two weeks to go, Christmas tree lots are spreading over the sidewalks. It’s my favorite thing to walk with the boys to their bus stop in the morning and smell the twinkling Christmas trees, waiting to be carried home. There may be few jobs more joyful than being the farmer who sells Christmas trees.
The Christmas markets are also twinkling. With the sun going down by 4:00, the gluhwein and christmas punch start flowing early!
Many of the vendors sell from the same location every year, making each market a close community of artisans who collaborate together to make the whole market successful. They watch each other’s stalls when someone slips out to meet friends, and gather together over hot drinks when things are a little slow. It’s a family business, with kids too!
Each stall sells something unique (wooden bowls, wool scarves, candles, lebkuchen), so you can find anything you want, and nobody is selling the same thing.
Christmas trees in Austria are spruces or firs. Instead of being tall and straight they’re usually as wide as they are tall, and sometimes look themselves like round little Christmas balls.
With our gifts already bought, we spend most of our time in Christmas markets wandering through the food vendors. You can find anything you could ever want if it involves sausage, brown bread, or cheese. And there is never any shortage of gingerbread.
We always start at the punch stall, then make our way to the cheese noodles and the guy selling potato chips on a stick. Mmm, kasespaetzle…..
The nut roasters drench the air in cinnamon and make the market smell so good! This is a Baum Kuchen, or Tree Cake, slowly baked over flames and dusted in sugar.
“Langos” are huge, fried rounds of garlicky, buttered dough. Eli is pretty good at balancing his mittens, a hot mug of punch, and a giant Langos twice as big as his head. And last week, Jake and I discovered this delicious thing called a Brandteig Ring, basically a giant glazed eclair stuffed with vanilla cream, also twice as big as his head.
The pretzel guy looked like he needed an alternative to the constant Christmas spirit. Why does he remind me of Nate?
Here are the markets we visited this year:
Museum of Military History
Alter Wiener Markt
The Belvedere (that’s Klimt in the background)
Palais Neideroesterreich, where Jake and I made this whole tray of little cookies in the Kinder bakery.
AKH, and the Christmas tree made entirely of sleds.
We also have been ice skating on the weekends. It’s especially fun to watch the Zamboni when you get to skate along right next to it!
Jake is our skater. He’s really cute.
Ice curling is another popular Christmas market sport.
This year, spending Christmas and the whole month of December in Vienna has been the most wonderful, relaxing thing. Being home on weekends means time to commit to baking, and for the first time in years giving cookies to the neighbors. We are making memories. We are deepening traditions. It feels nice.
And now we are ready for Christmas!