Saturday: Salzburg

We left Vienna and headed to Salzburg today, running into some snow as we drove and then finding warmer weather in the city.

We arrived in the early afternoon. We tried the traditional Salzburg dessert of nockerl, a souffle-like pastry that is presented in three peaks, to represent the mountains surrounding Salzburg. It was very good although the serving was huge.

After lunch we explored the city which was beautifully decked out in Christmas lights.

Salzburg is said to have one of the best holiday markets in the world, so we headed there. The market was a 20-minute walk from where we are staying, across the River Salzach that runs through the city.

The crowds of people on the other side of the bridge were staggering and it was impossible to get near the booths. We left after about 45 minutes and walked back across the bridge where there was a smaller market and less people. We will go back to the big market in the morning and hopefully some of the people will still be asleep.


photos: The entrance to the holiday market; Nockerl – a traditional Salzburg dessert; crowas at the market

Friday: Vienna

I was surprised to see that Black Friday is a big thing here, and I am guessing it is “celebrated” throughout Europe. The holiday shopping season seems to officially begin today, the last Friday in November.

Shoppers were out in force throughout the city – at least double the crowds we have seen in the past few days. It reminded me of Manhattan on a busy weekend.

We headed to the Schoenbrunn Palace to escape the crowds and to see the beautiful, restored summer home of the Hapsburg rulers. The tour takes visitors through 40 rooms, each unbelievably extravagant in every way. I was disappointed that no photos are permitted inside the palace.

There was a big holiday market on the palace grounds and about a third of the things for sale I hadn’t seen yet anywhere else. I didn’t buy anything but enjoyed looking.

We took the tube back into the center of the city and had lunch and fought the crowds as we strolled around. People were everywhere. It seemed that everyone had at least one shopping bag. We head to Salzburg tomorrow.


photos: Christmas decoration in the city; The palace; rolling pins. I wish I’d have bought one

Thursday, Thanksgiving: Vienna

Weekly-ish laundry day took us to another part of Vienna about ten miles away. There was no laundromat we could walk to.

That was okay since we were within a nice walking distance of the Belvedere Palace, a beautiful art museum outside the center of the city.

The Belvedere is fantastic, with paintings by Van Gogh and Monet, and also by Austria’s most celebrated painter, Gustav Klimt. His masterpiece, The Kiss, is one reason people visit the museum and they were crowded around it. The painting is beautiful and made me want to learn more about Klimt and his unique style. I had not known of him before today.

There was a holiday market close to the museum and we walked through that before making our way back to our car.

We dropped the car off, then returned to the center of the city for an early dinner. Yesterday we tried to book a table at one of the two places where American Thanksgiving dinner was being served, but had no luck. I had chicken anyway, and we met a family from California who were fun to chat with. We checked out the holiday decorations that seem to be multiplying daily, and had coffee and strudel at a coffeehouse we found. It was a nice Thanksgiving and certainly we have a lot to be very thankful for.

photos: The Kiss, by Gustav Klimt; Three stages of man: young, middle age, old; the Belevedere Palace

Wednesday: Vienna

We had a quiet day in Vienna this Thanksgiving eve.

We wanted to go to a coffeehouse this morning, since Vienna practically invented them in the 1700s. People would sit around and drink coffee and read or write or talk to their friends.

The oldest Viennese coffeehouse is Cafe Fraunhuber, but we didn’t know that when we walked in. I was looking for a place to have breakfast and we wandered in there.

It was old, that’s for sure. It doesn’t look as though it has been updated much for decades. Back in the 1780s, Mozart and Beethoven would come into this coffee house to entertain the customers with their piano music – not both of them at the same time, of course. As I enjoyed a breakfast of scrambled eggs and some good Viennese coffee, it was interesting to imagine the two composers had spent time there.

We headed to the center of the city where there were many people put and about. We went into the gigantic St. Stephen’s Church and then headed to a couple of holiday markets which are fun to walk around. They all have different foods and interesting gifts for sale.


photos: hot chips on a stick at a holiday market; the coffeehouse we visited; a mulled wine mug. You can keep it or get a refill in it. Or both.

Tuesday: Vienna

We headed from Krakow to Vienna this morning. It was a gray day and snow is expected in Krakow in a few days, so it was probably a good time to go. I enjoyed our stay in Krakow and would love to return.

The Czech Republic and Austria both require a sticker to drive on the main toll roads, so of course that was an important concern as we drove. The booth to get a “winiety” was behind a convenience store. The woman working there was very friendly and had stickers available for both countries, so that was out of the way without further searching.

We got to our lodging in Vienna in the late afternoon, but we realized right away that we are too far from the center of the city to walk there – or walk anywhere really. Luckily the bus and subway systems are very good but we should have researched a bit better. Still, it is nice to be on the Danube River.

We had weiner schnitzel and then enjoyed the Christmas lights, some hot mulled wine, and the holiday market. There are four of them here so we will check out more tomorrow. It is a beautiful city, full of people.


photos: some of Vienna’s holiday lights; chocolate tools for sale at a booth at the Christmas market; the small (just one person can fit in it, plus the woman woring there) hard-to-find booth to buy a sticker to drive on the roads in the Czech Republic and Austria.

Monday: Krakow

Today we visited Kazimierz, Krakow’s Jewish Quarter. We found a hip coffee shop/bookstore – Cytat Cafe – and relaxed there for a while. I could have spent hours there. It’s a very comfortable place.

We wanted to go into the Remuh Synagogue but the doors were locked and it is being renovated, with workmen actively on the job. The building looks huge from the outside and it is centuries old.

We walked to the Galicia museum and spent some time there, which looks at the Jewish history in Poland, remember the victims of the Holocaust, and provide information about life in this part of Poland.

We checked out some shops in the Quarter, but mainly walked around looking at the very old buildings. It is a beautiful part of Krakow and seems to be very vibrant.

We had a very long lunch today, mainly because we were one of the few in the restaurant on a Monday and neither us nor the server seemed to be in any rush.

We leave in the morning for Vienna.

photos: the ancient Jewish Quarter of Krakow. Not all of the buildings are in need of renovation but many are and they have tons of character. It is a beautiful part of Krakow; a very hip, fantastic coffee shop in that area. Books were for sale all over

Sunday: Krakow

We had a nice day in Krakow. We checked out the Sunday flea market and left with candlestick holders, a bowl, and a novel in English – all from different people. We spent $12.50 total and it was fun looking through the tons of things for sale. I could have walked around for another hour, but my partner got tired of it so we left.

We spent most of the rest of the afternoon in Museum Narodowe, the main branch of the national art museum. It is a beautiful place and was busy today since Sundays are free entry. Despite not knowing the Polish painters the art was interesting and the text beside each painting was translated to English, which was nice.

After lunch we walked around the square and took a horse and carriage ride around the old city (why not?)


photos: at the art museum; at the flea market; horses and carriages

Saturday: Krakow, Poland

We left Eger this morning and made our way to Poland. Krakow was five-and-a-half hours away.

Along the way we drove through some small, very interesting Hungarian towns. In one, cabbage was grown on a long stretch of land very close to the side of the road (there was a car right behind us so I couldn’t get a picture). We did stop at a pekseg (a bakery) and got some apple strudel since I doubted we would be eating anything until the afternoon. The two women in the bakery seemed thrilled to meet someone who spoke English (and of course baked goods know no language – I could just point).

We neared the border from Hungary to Slovakia and needed a vignette (toll permit) to drive in Slovakia. Getting one was was a bit of a puzzle. The truck stop we walked into smelled of old frying oil and the guy at the counter was annoyed before we even approached him. He demanded to know our car’s weight and class as though we would know it. We went back out to the car to try to figure out that information, but I just suggested we leave. Not far away I could see another small store that probably sold the permits.

The woman there was kind but said that no, the Slovakia vignettes were only sold in the “blue container,” a trailer – and she described how to get to it. The unmarked blue camper looked abandoned at first, but after a few minutes we had our permit. We learned later that this can be done online now. That is not as exciting though.

We arrived in Krakow at about 4:30pm and it was already dark. We are staying by the city square so we walked around there and found a restaurant for a late lunch/early dinner. By the time we left the restaurant, the weather had gotten much colder than we have experienced since being away. Tomorrow looks to be a sunny Sunday and I’m looking forward to seeing the city in the daylight.


photos: Krakow city square wrebath vendor this evening; Poland countryside; Crazy Hungarian money. 1,000 forints = about $3.30 U.S. dollars

Friday: Eger, Hungary

We left Budapest this morning. I would love to go back. It is such a vibrant city and I could look at the ancient buildings’ architecture every day. But we were off to Eger – a two-hour drive by the time we got out of the very busy Budapest.

Eger is in northern Hungary and one of the things it is noted for is its red wine. So once we got settled we tried some at lunch. Later we checked out Eger’s holiday market (the “Advent” market) which really does not open until tomorrow. It looks as though it will be a big deal, with a bandshell, lots of food and wine booths, and all sorts of holiday gifts.

Their holiday lights and Christmas tree will be lit tomorrow night too. We are just here overnight and the lights that are on make the city look beautiful.


photos: a tree in the center of Eger’s town square; a stream that runs into the Eger River; palacsinta – a rolled pancake tgat can have nuts, jam, or other things in it. We had chocolate‚̧

Thursday: Budapest

Today is our last day in Budapest so as content as we are here on this side of the Danube, we thought we should go across the river to the Buda side. So we walked over the bridge late this morning.

The view of the Danube River is beautiful, and today was a clear and warm day so it was perfect for a stroll.

We spent most of our time at the Buda Castle and its surrounding complex. The castle/palace was built in the 1760s and has undergone renovations and restoration through the years and it continues today, since numerous wars and lack of funding took their toll on the ancient buildings. The whole area is sensational to see and I’m glad we got a nice day today to do it.

We walked back across the bridge in the early afternoon and had lunch at Terv Presszo, an old family-run Hungarian pub-like restaurant. We had chicken paprikash, a dish I remembered from when Mrs. Toth, a Hungarian family friend who survived the Holocaust, would come to our house and make it for our family. We also sampled the Hungarian national aperitif, Unicum. We learned that the original formula is not available in the U.S. so we had to try it. Wow, it was strong, bitter stuff with a hint of the plum that it is fermented in.

We took in the holiday windows and decorations, and saw another holiday market being set up. There are at least four of them in the center of the city.

We shared a slice of chocolate cake before calling it a day. We will miss this beautiful city.

photos: Unicum, Hungary’s national apertif; a statue on the Buda castle grounds; the bridge entry from the Buda side