While decorating our Fraser Fir last night, several ornaments triggered memories of a December trip that I took with my husband to Vienna, Austria. There is something magical about traveling to another city during the holiday season—and Vienna is no exception. There’s a festive hustle and bustle in pedestrian-friendly shopping districts, with the sight and scent of Christmas trees, lights, and swags of greenery stretching across arcades and walkways. Bakery windows display seasonal confections, and no matter the weather, shoppers cluster around outdoor beverage vendors for a quick coffee or beer. Shops brim with snow globes, delicate glass ornaments, carved wood figures, and chocolates. Some of these things ended up returning home with us.
Silent night snow globe.
These are delicious, by the way.
These trinkets conjure memories of visiting outdoor Christmas markets and touring Vienna’s historic treasures, such as the Hofburg Palace (residence of Hapsburg dynasty monarchs and rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), and the Kunsthistorisches Museum, with its fine collection of Bruegel paintings. At the heart of the old city, we circled St. Stephen's Cathedral, in existence for over 700 years. We attended a performance of Verdi’s La Traviata at the Vienna State Opera House, and traveled by train outside the city center to visit the Schönbrunn Palace, the 1,441-room former imperial summer residence where Marie Antoinette lived before her mother shipped her to France. We ate Wiener Schnitzel and potato soup. We walked across picturesque squares that inspired poetry.
Snowflakes, airy confections,
drift from the sleepy sky.
a faint path sparkles blue
All is silent in the tree-lined square,
anchored by a stone church,
entry festooned with pine boughs,
landmarks soft, pristine,
glitter in dawn’s light,
as if a pastry chef smoothed
icing across a cake top,
dusted it with something so sweet
it lingers on the tongue for a lifetime.
All these lovely memories are now a part of our holiday tradition, in part, due to the little gifts we tucked into our suitcase.
Wishing you, and those you love, a joyous holiday season.