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

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.

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‚̧