With almost two terrible years with the threat of Covid-19 perpetually in our minds, one of the saddest things was having to spend Christmas locked up with none of the usual get-togethers, visits out and generally celebrating this wonderful time of the year,
One of the loveliest things to do is get out and see all the decorations around, shop ‘til you drop and generally get into the Christmas spirit. Even if you were ‘Scrooge’ from the famous Dickens book, you cannot fail to be whisked along with the festivities. Even if you don’t see snow all year, everyone in the UK looks forward to it being a White Christmas.
Christmas in Salzburg
If somebody asked me about a memorable Christmas away from home, Salzburg always springs immediately to mind, particularly the warmth of the people and what Christmas means to them. If you have children, they will love it, with the row upon row of incredible decorations, lights and working models of Christmas trains, angels, nativity and characters from famous books, all appropriately dressed. Trying to describe the atmosphere is virtually impossible – and the delicious food smells from the one of the most famous Christmas markets in the world would simply make your mouth water.
Let’s talk about the food (I can still smell the aromas after several years, let alone sausages sizzling on an open grill or the aromas of cinnamon and ginger coming from the cakes). Austria in general has some classics such as delicious coffee and glorious cakes. One of the oldest festive foods in Europe, you can’t visit Salzburg at Christmas without trying the local ‘lebkuchen’. Often called gingerbread in English, it’s actually a close relative to the namoura honey cake that can be traced back to ancient Egyptian times. Icy, sugary and sprinkled with almonds, beware of some of the messages written on them – they can be a little on the risqué side – my grandchildren found that hilarious! I don’t dare mention the doughnuts – that would send me straight into smacking my lips! If you are not keen on coffee, avail yourself of the numerous big bowls of punch (some free!) that attract you to many of the stalls.
Of course, I am talking about the multitude of cafes lining the streets, but the street food stalls can risk putting pounds on your ‘Christmas body’, believe me! One of the things that really springs to mind are – wait for it – sausages! I have never seen an array and choice of flavours like this, and I fail to describe the flavours and smell – I think the highest score for sausage munching was from my grandson! A lasting memory will always be a sausage in one hand, punch in the other and staring up at the incredible starry sky, just like thousands and thousands of brightly twinkling lights.
Salzburg Christmas Market
Salzburg’s Christmas Market dates as far back as the 15th century and is located at the foot of the Hohensalzburg fortress and around the venerable Cathedral of Salzburg. The cathedral itself is a stunning building and it really comes to life at this time of the year. On one side of the square choirs sing, but on the other side, there were brass bands playing, somewhat combatting each other! There were dancers dressed in traditional costume, all adding to the joy of spending 4 days of eating, drinking and shopping – what a way to go! You are very much encouraged to join in everything on offer, with an events programme consisting of concerts, storytelling for the children, Krampus parades, but the main attraction is definitely the stalls (or should I say traditional wooden huts which are beautifully decorated). You can also have a guided tour by horse and carriage or a Santa sleigh ride to show you the sights. You can buy decorations for your tree, wooden items with intricate carving, dolls and other toys such as Christmas trains and of course, food gifts to take back as presents. I brought back food gifts by the dozen (no shock there), including sausages, which the hotel packed in in an insulated ice container ready for the flight home. How thoughtful. I also bought some Christmas eggs, beautifully hand painted in bright colours, just be careful, as they can break easily.
We tried the obvious – Wiener Schnitzel, rated to be Austria’s top dish. I have to say it was the best piece of veal I have ever tasted, and there was something about the breadcrumb coating, absolutely delicious. The noodles were pretty good too and a change from the usual mashed potato I have had in the past. My husband tried the ‘Tafelspitz’, another traditional dish, and he declared it to be lovely. Its beef boiled in broth and accompanied by spices, including horseradish, and plenty of root vegetables. An interesting addition were the apples – never tried that in a stew type dish before – and they gave it a beautiful flavour that I will definitely experiment with in the future. Not sure on the cut of beef, but it was deliciously tender and moist, which tells me it was once ‘fatty’ but there was no trace of that at all. My grandson tried it as well and actually ate it all, saying it was lovely. I asked him why – and he said ‘it’s the apples’. Oh well, perhaps he will be more descriptive in the future!
It was a very memorable and lovely trip to Salzburg, albeit short and sweet. Must go again one year.