Two Christmas Trips in Europe- Vienna and Strasbourg
by: Colibri Trader
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year dear traders!
As there are a few days left before the end of 2017, I would like to share with you a short article on my last two trips in Europe.
Instead of Christmas wishes, I wanted to give you a little present and bring you to those two beautiful cities. In case you want to really dig into the atmosphere of the article, I recommend you to listen to this piece of music for Vienna and this one when reading about Strasbourg.
Enjoy and Merry Christmas again!
European trip in Christmas- first city: Vienna
It was a great trip, in which my partner and me managed to visit a great deal of places and although it was freezing cold, this did not stop us to enjoy.
We arrived just after midnight in Vienna and walked to our accommodation. Being absolutely tired, went to bed and set our alarm clock for 7:30a.m.
Day 1- European trip in Christmas
This expressionist landmark is located in the Landstrasse district. With this house, Hundertwasser demonstrated his ideas of forested roofs, “tree tenants” and the “window right” to every tenant to embellish the facade around the windows.
A great spectacle for the eye, this house left us with warm feelings in this cold Vienna morning.
From there, we continued our tour up through Landstrasse, where we met a lot of those carriages starting their working day:
This carriage really brings you back a couple of centuries ago in the era of the waltz and the Vienna ball. On our way to Stephansdom we also found this strange-looking sculpture, which is hard to say what the author meant when creating:
I read online a lot about Vienna beforehand, but only when I went there I realised how much culture has this city gathered throughout the epochs.
There is nothing more impressive than having a walk through those beautiful streets filled with art and history. While thinking and talking about the meaning of this sculpture, we did not realise how fast times passes.
We were already in front of the second place of interest for the day- Stephansdom.
It is located in the Innere Stadt and dominates the Viennese skyline as it has done for centuries. An obvious military target, it has endured two Turkish sieges, Napoleonic bombardment, and in the latter stages of World War II the attention of American bombers and Russian artillery.
No wonder why this cathedral takes a special place in the hearts of the Viennese.
In The Coffee Shop
From Stephansdom, we continued our tour and went to take a break and a Viennese coffee at Hawelka- small, smoky bohemian cafe run by the same couple since it opened shortly after the WWII.
If you don’t know, drinking coffee for the people born in Vienna is more than just about the coffee- it is equivalent to a religion.
In the coffee shop we went to, there was live music and the all the waiters were dressed in formal suits. After a little break and a hot coffee, we continued our walk through to our next stop- The Hofburg (or the Court Palace).
It is a real hotchpotch of a place, with no natural centre, no symmetry and no obvious main entrance.
Its name is synonymous with the Habsburgs, the dynasty which, at one time, ruled a vast multinational empire, stretching the length and breadth of Europe.
Nowadays, it hosts the Sisi museum, which we visited. And here is the Hofburg:
A couple of hours and thousands of silver and gold-plated sets later, we moved on to the nearest Christmas market.
Another very important part of the Viennese culture are the Christmas markets. We found this covered market, which was definitely a charming gem in the heart of the city:
In Vienna, everything seems to rotate around Christmas markets during the festive season. After we had a Glühwein, as they call the mulled wine over there, we continued to the next Christmas market.
On our way to the next Christmas market, we went to see the Mozart statue, which usually gathers big crowds.
I don’t know whether we were lucky or unlucky, but it was raining and we managed to beat the crowds and have the monument for ourselves. Check how simple but beautiful it is:
The Second Christmas Market
From the Mozart statue, we continued our way through the world museum to the next christmas market. The streets were shining from the Christmas decorations and here is an example of what I mean:
The lights from this street led us directly to the heart of the Christmas market that is usually voted as the best of second best in the world.
And here it is- the majestic Vienna Rathaus Christmas market:
We continued through this vast market getting some souvenirs for our beloved ones back home and having a second mulled wine. I also tried a couple of local delicacies to re-charge my batteries.
After a good two hours, we decided to take tram no. 2, which goes anti-clockwise around Vienna’s ring back home. It is one of the most common ways to explore the city- by either tram no. 1 or no. 2.
Vienna is organized in such a way that the majority of sights of interest are located on the way of those two trams. So, if you once visit Vienna, make sure you take one of them- for 1.50 EUR you can see more than any other city sightseeing tourbus can offer you.
Day 2- European trip in Christmas
After a long and tiring first day, we decided to take it a bit more relaxed on the second day. We started the day by having a coffee in a local coffee shop and a small breakfast.
From there, we started walking towards the Karlskirche.
Karlskirche is, without doubt, the city’s finest Baroque church. It’s an eclectic and rather self-conscious mixture of styles, built to impress. It must have been even more impressive when there was nothing between it and the Hofburg except the open space of the glacis.
The story goes that the Emperor Karl VI vowed to build a church during the plague of 1713. The church is actually dedicated to the sixteenth-century saint, Carlo Borromeo, who was canonised for his ministrations during the famine and plague in Milan.
However, the fact the the saint and the emperor shared the same name, no doubt played a part in Karl VI’s choice, conveniently glorifying both of them at the same time.
The interior of the church is head-spinning!
Thanks to the windows and lantern in the oval dome, the interior is surprisingly sparse and light, allowing a much better appreciation of Johann Rottmayr’s vast fresco than you get of the artist’s work in the Peterskirche.
Here is a fresco from the church:
You can see that even the colours that were chosen are so bright that give you the feeling it is always sunny in the church. Overall, it was an amazing experience.
From Karlskirche, we decided to go to the Belvedere. Since, it was pretty cold and the time was flying, we decided to take the Metro (subway).
We went to the Belvedere in no time and started our tour.
The sky was cloudy, but this gave us thrills and snow flakes, which made the Christmas atmosphere even more magical.
Belvedere divides into upper and lower Belvedere. It is thought to be the finest palace complex in the whole of Vienna, at least from the outside. The man for whom all this was built was Prince Eugene of Savoy- Austria’s greatest military leader, whose campaigns against the Turks enabled the city, at last, to expand.
A lot more can be written for this magnificent complex, but due to this article’s limitations, I will move on to the last place we visited while on our stay in Vienna.
This is the Hofburg’s summer residence. It is everything an imperial palace should be- grandiose, symmetrical and thoroughly intimidating.
It was built in the 18th century and contains nearly 1500 rooms- that is correct, I have not added an additional 0.
As you can see, there is a Christmas market in front of that Palace, too. The Vienese, did not miss a chance to enjoy a bit longer this palace with a mulled wine in hand.
After a long day of sightseeing, we joined them and had mulled wine with potato swirls, as well. From there, we went straight back to our accommodation, where we needed to prepare for our next stop: Strasbourg.
European trip in Christmas- second city: Strasbourg
We arrived in Strasbourg just before Christmas. Strasbourg is the capital of Europe and although a lot of people think it is located in Germany, it is actually in France.
Do not be mislead by the name, but a lot of the villages and towns in Alsace still have german names. This contributes to the uniqueness of the place. It is a melting pot of cultures, traditions and also- the oldest Christmas market in the World.
What not to like in a city/region like that!
Our trip started from our accommodation and the nice Christmas tree we had.
Day 1- European trip in Christmas
Our day started with a breakfast in a typical coffee shop and one of the oldest ones in town called Christian. From there we started exploring the city, although the aim of this trip was more to enjoy Christmas than to discover the region.
I have already been in Strasbourg and the Alsatian region and we just wanted to enjoy the places and people we already knew there.
Therefore, do not expect to see a lot of pictures from places of interest, but mostly Christmas pictures and memories.
Every sightseeing tour in Strasbourg starts from this place- Place Kleber. It is also where the city christmas tree is located. As you can see, it was still dark after our breakfast, so we headed to the city itself.
It was pretty empty, since it was just before Christmas and it was really early in the morning.
From there we took the small streets straight to the Strasbourg cathedral, which you can see raising majestically over the rooftops.
A little known fact about the Strasbourg cathedral is that it was built on wooden trunks that are its foundation.
The second south tower was never built, because the river going under the cathedral is making the foundation not suitable for a second tower. Therefore, it remained as it is now- with only one tower.
For close to 227 years (from 1647 to 1874) it was the tallest building in the world. Definitely a magnificent example of Gothic architecture with Romanesque features.
From the cathedral we had a short stroll and we came back, where we started preparing for Christmas.
The same day we rented a car and went on a trip to Obernai. It is around 40 km south of Strasbourg. It is the home of a great Christmas market and one of the most unique places in the area.
St. Pierre and St. Paul
Above you can see the St. Pierre and St. Paul’s catholic church build in pink sandstones from the Vosges. Local people argue that this is the largest church in Alsace after the Strasbourg’s cathedral. True or not, Obernai is the second most visited city after Strasbourg in the department of Bas-Rhin.
From there, we went to the Obernai’s christmas market.
You can see little from the market, but a lot from the Belfry. The chapel tower was built around 1285. When the chapel was destroyed in 1873 the tower was kept and became the emblematic monument of Obernai.
After spending the whole night at this magnificent city, we decided to come back home, since it was already a long day.
Day 2- European trip in Christmas
In the second day of our second european trip in Christmas, we started the day with a leisurely walk through Strasbourg’s city centre. It included the familiar already places, but it was so invigorating.
Nice Little Streets of Strasbourg
You can feel the spirit of the city being so vibrant and European. Being in the capital of Europe on Christmas certainly feels magical.
Instead of lunch, we took some Marrons (or chestnuts) and we continued the walk through the nice little streets of Strasbourg until early night.
I could not resist but take a picture of this nicely decorated window rack. This was the time when we realised time flies faster than usual in this city. We decided that it is time to head back to our car and change direction to Colmar.
Colmar is the third-largest commune of the Alsace region. This town is also considered to be the capital of Alsatian wine. The city is renowned for its well-preserved old town, its numerous architectural landmarks, and its museums, among which is the Unterlinden Museum.
It is also known and voted as the best Christmas market in the world. Coming from Vienna and Strasbourg and going to Colmar is probably the best Christmas tour one can make in a lifetime.
I am absolutely humbled and grateful to have been able to experience the soul of this holiday in such an unforgettable way.
Our tour continued through the streets of Colmar, where we went through a lot of christmas decoration and the smell of mulled wine.
Above is just a glimpse of what the Christmas market looked like. It was packed with tourists from all around the world and keep wine enthusiasts ready to offer you a free sip in exchange for a smile.
It was definitely a magical experience, which is hard to be encapsulated in just a photo. What will remain in me is the hot memory of a Christmas fairy tale, which will stay with me for a long time.
Instead of conclusion I would like to wish all of you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a Happy new Year!
Let 2018 bring us more prosperity, better intentions and happiness!
I hope this article will bring at least a particle of the Christmas spirit that I have experienced during my last two trips and inspire you.
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