The Christmas Markets
THE CHARMING WINTER IN CENTRAL EUROPE
I decided to take 5 days off my photography business to explore Austria and Germany, up the Danube River.
The goal was to get to know the most beautiful “Christmas Markets” while visiting the historical cities along the way.
For that, I went aboard one of the Cruise Ships from “A Rosa“, represented in Portugal where i live by “Schultz Turismo”.
This was indeed a fantastic and very charming journey, navigating upriver along some of the most beautiful cities and villages that you can ever visit during the winter season, without being too cold.
So let´s start.
This authentic “trip to the senses” started in Viena, Austria. Mythical city, land of emperors, composers and artists. Also the city with the world´s highest quality of life.
We quickly realized why the Historical Center was considered by UNESCO as “World Heritage”, and could´t help but feel ecstatic with such beauty, culture and exquisite taste.
Viena overflows with elegance, class and glamour and if that was´t enough, is embraced by modern arquitecture involved in imperial traditions.
Known as the city of music and composers such as Strauß, Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn, Viena also offers its visitors a wide array of cultural events and fascinating touristic spots which, together with the cosy ambiance of its cafés or Heurigens (typical austrian taverns), gives Viena its world fame.
We started off with a panoramic city tour, where we were able to appreciate the grandiosity of its palaces, such as the imperial Schoenbrunn Palace and its beautiful gardens. This sumptuous palace, used by the House of Habsburg as their summer home, serves as a backdrop to the first “Christmas Market” we visited.
And here is also where we started to get bedazzled by the beauty of the christmas lights, decorations, and sense of style and aesthetics, that – I know now – would be a recurring sensation until the last market we visited.
These markets (all of them) are built in a very aesthetically way, as the “shacks” all look alike and are brilliantly decorated. In some of those we can try the famous Viena Coffees or the so much appreciated by the locals – Mulled Wine – a strange hot kind of wine. Not suited for my taste and probably for most travelers from sunny countries.
But what really impressed me was the exquisite taste of the christmas lights scattered all over the city and in close-to-all buildings. Your senses will be overwhelmed.
Melk is a small town with a population of just 5000, known for its abbey – a Benedict Barroco Monastery, not surprisingly called “The Melk Abbey“.
Sumptuous monument located at the top of 213m hill, populated by students and inhabited by about 35 monks.
After the obvious and mandatory visit to the christmas market, we strolled around the small decorated streets.
We returned to the cruise ship (a small river cruise ship, obviously) called “The Rosa Silva”, where we were always treated with extreme courtesy and politeness, by the always eager to please crew members.
Every night, a meal is served – buffet style – but with all the requisite of a nice hotel and plenty of choices. Each dish is carefully prepared to be ready for the mediterranean taste, which means no one will end this trip without an extra quilo or two.
After dinner, and due to the fact that at this time of the year, going up to the open deck is not very welcoming and advised, there is no lack of music and fun in the interior bar/night lounge area.
Continuing up river, we reach LINZ, another historical city.
Capital of the Upper Austria, it is the 3rd biggest city in the country, with close to 200.000 inhabitants. This city offers a wide variety of monuments that are the living proof of ancient centenary history. In 1940, it was nominated for the first time, the region´s capital.
This is where Hitler spent the biggest part of his youth (he was actually born in the city of Braunau am Inn, very close to Linz), and therefore having its place in the world´s history.
Before even diving into the local christmas market, there was still time for us to get fascinated by a small but interesting detail in the local Town City Hall: the whole city and its suburbs are very well detailed in a photo montage on the ground of a few of the rooms.
The market was – obviously – incredible to visit.
For the first time, we had to use a bus on this trip, to take us to the mystical and fabulous barroco city of Salzburg. I have to say: I am biased regarding Salzburg. For a long time now that I consider it one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is not even a city. It´s a postcard.
The name “Salzburg” comes from the name boats that brought salt, on the river Salzach and were subject to some sort of tolls back in the VIII century, very common for many communities and cities in european rivers…
Just like Vienna, here you can also breathe culture!
Castles, palaces and classical music. Here is classical music and modern art mix together in perfect harmony creating the perfect masterpiece!
It is virtually impossible to talk about Salzburg and not mention Mozart.
This is the city that watched him born and where he lived for a few years, before he moved to Viena. His house is now a museum and can be visited mas you don´t really have to do it to feel his presence in all those narrow and historical streets. Trust me, you will never forget the feeling of walking the streets and hearing someone play a violin as a background…
After visiting the Mirabell Palace, and the Sebastiansfriedhof cementery, we visited the oldest european restaurant: The “St Peter Stiftskeller“. And it is incredibly beautiful.
Needless to say, that the historical center of the city is also considered World Heritage.
REGENSBURG (in several latin languages know as “Ratisbona”)
We finally arrived in Germany and its best preserved medieval city: Regensburg, one of the oldest cities in Germany. It is also one of the few cities in Germany that were occupied by the Roman Empire.
Unfortunately the famous stone bridge connecting the two banks of the river, was in restoration work so it was not possible to appreciate its beauty.
However, we could taste the famous sausages with sweet mustard in the oldest brewery (900 years old!!!), the historic Sausage Kitchen of Regensburg, right next to the mentioned bridge.
We can confirm that the sausages and its sweet mustard sauce, and beer to follow are an excellent counterbalance to the cold weather.
Once we visited the Christmas market, beautiful as always, we return to the “Rosa Silva” where we had lunch before heading to Nuremberg on the second bus trip.
I find it difficult to describe in words a city that has such a highly visual interest.
The city was quite destroyed during World War II, but fortunately most of the medieval buildings were reconstructed from original plans, particularly in the Old Town, surrounded by ancient 4km long walls.
Nuremberg is known for having been the location of numerous rallies of the Nazi party (the Nuremberg Rally) as well as the Nuremberg Trials after World War II, in which war criminals of Nazi Germany were sentenced.
Today, Nuremberg mainly lives from tourism as they not only captivate normal, familiar tourists, but they also benefit from being a widely used city for International Fairs and global multinational meetings.
Its Christmas Market – “Christkindlesmarkt” has a tradition of almost four centuries and is considered the largest and most beautiful in all of Germany. We had the opportunity to confirm. Awesome!
ABOUT THE “A ROSA SILVA” CRUISE SHIP
In addition to the excellent service mentioned above, it is a vessel with 4-star luxury classification, only missing room service for it to be added a fifth star.
Of course, apart from the restaurant and bar, it also features an excellent spa with sauna, a weight room and the much needed massages (paid service).
On the deck there is a 1om swimming pool (which is heated in winter to 30° C), a giant chess game to be played standing up, and a mini golf course.
This, of course, in addition to the dining area where in the warmer periods of the year, one can choose to enjoy a nice barbecue dinner instead of eating in the lower deck restaurant.