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Markus' Travel and International Living Blog

Markus is an enthusiastic traveler, who lives in Houston, TX (USA) most of the time, but also spends some time in Saalfelden, near Salzburg (Austria). He is fascinated by travel and also by his experiences gathered by living in two different countries and continents.

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Monday, January 08, 2007
Belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, everyone!

Boy, have I fallen behind blogging. My new year's resolution for this year is to catch up my blog with some of the things I have done this fall. But boy have I been busy! (Well, who isn't, these days?)

The most recent thing that happened is that Ellen and I celebrated Christmas and New Year's in Austria (as we do most years). What was unusual this year was that Ellen's parents (who normally live in Arizona in the winter) also came to visit us. So from my point of view, the whole family was together to celebrate Christmas for the first time. That was pretty neat.

Unfortunately, Austria presents itself somewhat unusual this year. For one, there is practically no snow! So far, it has been the warmest winter in 1,300 years! Yup, that is right, 1,300! They have given up on the whole "warmest on record" thing. Instead, we must now go to the geological record to find a warmer winter. As a result, many of the fun things to do here just haven't happened yet this year. While last year, I went cross country skiing in November (see this post, and this and this), this year, I went once for 5 minutes and gave up since there simply wasn't enough snow. Also, as far as downhill ("alpine") skiing goes: It is possible, and I guess up in the mountains the snow conditions aren't even too bad, but the weather just hasn't been nice enough to make me want to go. And so far, we haven't even gone sledding either. Frankly, it sucks.

Also, as far as the Christmas spirit goes, it just isn't the same without snow. Nevertheless, we did quite a few "christmassy" things. For instance, we went to the Christmas market in Salzburg. It was still very nice, but it certainly lost its "cuteness". Here are a few pictures taken by my mom-in-law:

On the way to the Dome square, there still are all the horses as always:

This particular guy told some tourists that the name of his horse was "Mozart". Then, he turned around to me and whispered "of course not... who would name his horse 'Mozart'?". Then he grabbed the horse by the reins and said "c'mon Amadeus, let's go...".

Here's a picture of the "Christkindlmarkt" (the Christmas market) as soon from the entrance to the Dome:

As I said: Not nearly as cute looking as in the previous years. Still, it was nice. A little later, a small choir showed up and sand some Christmas carols.

Here's another photo of one of the stands up close:

If you go to the Kristkindlmarket, make sure you get some hot chesnuts and some "Gluehwein".

BTW: If you like Christmas markets (and they are pretty cool), and you come to Austria, try to also go to the one in Innsbruck. We didn't manage to get there this year, but it is worth a trip. 

Also, the Getreidegasse (a small and famous street in Salzburg) is quite nice around Christmas time. here is a photo from just around Mozart's birth house ("Mozart Geburtshaus"):

Always an insider tip in Salzburg at Christmas time is the "Gluehweinwald" in the "Peterskeller":

Go right through the doors in between these trees and hang a left. This is where a lot of the locals go after work to have a "Gluehwein" (hot wine) and get in the Christmas spirit.

Christmas Eve was very nice too. Lots of food. Lots of presents. (For a description of what traditional Christmas is like in Austria and why I talk about Christmas Eve, see my post from last Christmas... this is also the post where I claim that in Austria "snow is virtually guaranteed on Christmas". Oh well.). The next day, we got together with other parts of the family. Some of my cousins played music. It was quite the event.

We also celebrated New Year's Eve in a traditional Austrian fashion. We got together with some friends, and - you guessed it - consumed tons of food. We had "Tartar's Hat" this time. This is a dish (or more an "event", actually) that is prepared at the table, almost a bit similar to Fondue. Except instead of a pot of hot oil, one has a heated "cone" that resembles a Tartar's hat (hence the name). The cone heats up, and then one sticks small pieces of meat and vegetable on it. There are tons of side-dishes and sauces. It is amazingly good! (Maybe even worth a separate blog post at some point).

The big thing about New Year's Eve are fireworks. I guess that wouldn't be completely unheard of in the US either (and I understand it is quite common in some parts), but here it is huge! Last year, we didn't have any ourselves, but this year we decided to go for a small assortment of fireworks. Just before midnight, we made it up to the roof of our building (we have a flat roof) and watched other people's fireworks. The view was fantastic! Unfortunately I do not have any pictures. Then, at about 20 minutes past midnight (when the other fireworks started to slow down), we fired off ours. A friend of mine is a professional "fireworker", and he put together a box of professional fireworks for us. The whole thing was fired electronically and set off more than 2 "rockets" a second! It was quite the spectacle. I think we will do it again next year.

Happy New Year, Everyone!



Posted @ 7:14 AM by Egger, Markus (markus@code-magazine.com) -
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