A few years ago, we found ourselves in Vienna during the first week of December. Despite the freezing weather, I think this is one of the best times to visit Vienna because the streets are filled with holiday cheer. It is quite an experience specially for us who live on the other side of the globe.
This Christmas market is the one held right in front of the Schonbrunn Castle. It not only beginning to look a lot like Christmas here, it also smells, tastes and sounds like Christmas too--at least the western Christmas of the movies and the Hallmark Christmas cards.
Christmas cookies are all over the place--the same type we usually see inside round tin cans back home. The freshly baked ones are huge, probably about ten thousand calories apiece.
Then there are chocolate covered fruits too...
I couldn't pass up buying a fruitcake for dad. He is one of those people who absolutely loves fruitcake and even appreciates fruitcake pasalubong from Europe. I brought him a loaf from here, and he said it was one of the best fruitcakes he's ever tasted!
And then, I discovered what was for me, the absolute best thing about these Christmas markets--
The hot mulled wine or gluhwein! This is such a fabulous tradition, and the best way to keep warm as you wander around the market. You buy gluhwein and pay a deposit of 2 euro for the mug. Then you either return the mug and get your 2 euro back, or keep it as a souvenir.
The Antiques Diva, has a current post on gluhwein with a recipe included. What perfect timing because you can hop on over to her blog and try making it yourself. (it's a resourceful way of getting rid of your bad red wine at the end of each year because you don't need good wine for gluhwein. Your house will also smell like (western) Christmas!)
Hand-painted glass balls
The warmth (and the buzz) of a couple of mugs of gluhwein warmed me enough to explore the rest of the market in comfort. I was cheerful, giddy and at the same time calm, and didn't even get bothered by the crowd. Gluhwein is like a magic elixir of Christmas!
Most of the stalls here sell baked goodies and delicacies, lots of Christmas ornaments and artisan decor as well. The crafts are expensive by Asian standards (artisan products at home can be bought for not much money). We are also very spoiled in the Philippines with beautiful Christmas crafts, a lot of which are exported the the States and Europe. These crafts can sometimes even be found in our own local Christmas bazaars.
Local fairy ornaments in my friend Tessa's home
And even if you don't buy anything, walking through the Christmas market in Vienna is sure to put you in Christmas frame of mind--cheerful, nostalgic and romantic. (Or maybe it's just the effect of all that gluhwein!)