Wednesday: Colmar, France

We left Strasbourg this morning and drove to Colmar, about an hour away. Colmar is where Frederic Bartholdi was born – the Statue of Liberty sculptor – and the town celebrates him with a museum and his name on some buildings and businesses. Since the museum wasn’topen until later in the afternoon, our plan was to visit the Unterlinden Art Museum there, but there was also a holiday market.

The museum was interesting, but the market was excellent. We got a few gifts and some hot cider in their Calmor Christmas mug.

We had lunch in a restaurant near the museum and walked around the city center, checking out the holiday decorations. It was very cold out, so we left and headed south toward Arles, where we will spend a few days. It is seven hours away, so we won’t get there today.


photos: a Statue of Liberty replica in the center of a roundabout. It was very foggy; at the Unterlinden museum; the entrance to the holiday market

Tuesday: Strasbourg

We explored Strasbourg today, checking out the Christmas markets, Petite France – the historic part of the city, the huge Cathedral, some ice skating, and the shops. Strasbourg is such a lively place, and the River Ill adds some beautiful ambiance to the city.

The decorations in the cities we have visited are all unbelievably extravagant and unlike anything I have ever seen. Strasbourg is no exception. It calls itself the “capital of Christmas,” and the lights and displays are on every street.

There is a huge police presence throughout the city and most of the officers are cradling their cocked weapons as they walk or stand, and they are constantly looking all around. It is unsettling to observe, but if prevents a repeat of last year’s December terrorist attack here, it is necessary.


photos: the Ill river, running through the city; ice skaters. The rink seems to be a very large piece of plywood and somehow a thin layer of snow is spread on top. Skaters rent orange plastic skates they strap to their shoes – regular ice skates wouldn’t work; the decorations on one street in the city

Monday: Strasbourg

Today was a driving day: Salzburg, Austria to Strasbourg, France. The distance is about 5 1/2 hours but with snow coming down when we left this morning then a complete nightmare of the center of the city being closed off for security reasons, it took us closer to seven hours.

Last year at this time, the Strasbourg Christmas Market was the scene of a terrorist attack, with people killed and injured. This year there is no entry to the city at all by car, so we parked at a garage and walked to where we are staying. We got to a checkpoint and were stopped by police to open our luggage. We didn’t understand it all at first, but remembered the whole awful tragedy once we arrived at our lodging and talked with people there.

Strasbourg is a bigger city than I realized, so we will enjoy checking it out tomorrow. We had dinner at one of the few restaurants open on Monday, and by the time we were finished the market was closed for the day and the streets were quiet.


photos: snow in Salzburg this morning; decorations we walked by in Strasbourg this evening; a building in the city

Sunday: Salzburg

December first! The year is almost over.

There were probably half as many people at the Christmas market today as last night so we were able to walk around, check out the booths, and have some hot punch in a Salzburg festival mug.

It seems that most everything at this city’s market is a holiday decoration or Christmas-related. Other markets we have visited have more random handmade gifts that are not necessarily Christmas- themed.

We had lunch at a busy pub where we were cautioned “One hour!” before I guess we would be asked to leave. That was fine since everything was served quickly and my goulash was very good.

We walked along by the river until the late afternoon. We go to Strausbourg tomorrow.

photos: Mulled wine mug from Salzburg’s holiday market; the river today; a street performer seeming to defy gravity.

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