Salzburg is our next destination. We left the hotel in Vienna about 10am on a Saturday morning (no snow today so far) to transit to the Westbahnhof for the 2 1/2 hr trip from Vienna to Salzburg on RailJet. When we arrived at the train station, we weren’t sure we could catch the 10:40am train as it was only about 7 minutes before departure and we hadn’t pre purchased tickets. But we hurriedly purchased tickets and went up to the track and found it was still there (3 minutes until departure). We hustled onto the last car just to make sure we were on the train and made our way back through the next car where 2nd class started. Since we were a bit late getting on, we had limited options in seating (no reserved seats) and luggage space, but things thinned out a bit as the train stopped along the way and passengers departed.
It’s an overcast day, about 35° and as the train makes its way towards Salzburg, in places, the clouds come down low into the hills around us and there’s a light dusting of snow on the ground. We arrived in Salzburg about 1:08pm and stopped in the station for a snack since we hadn’t had lunch. We’ve been through this station a few times before, the last time being when we returned a rental car at the airport, took the bus back to the rail station and departed from there (avoid drop off fees).
From the station it’s about a 15 minute walk to our hotel. We’ve visited Salzburg a few times, either by car or by train, venturing into the old town and Mirabell Gardens and Hohensalzburg (the castle that looms over the city), but never the Christmas market. We have a suite at the hotel with a balcony that overlooks a park, and rested up a bit before deciding it was time to start out to the Christmas markets, because by 4pm, it’s starting to get dark.
There’s a neighborhood Christmas market just a few blocks away and on our way to the big one across the Salzach River. It’s pretty crowded for it’s size, occupying one side of a street for a block. They have a very large Christmas tree as you enter the market and there’s a sign indicating the family that donated it. It’s still a little early In the evening to have the tree lit, but the adjoining building is bathed in lavender lights.
The pretzel stand has quite a variety and Santa is there with his own pretzel (the figure actually moves)
It’s another half mile to the river and once over the Salzach, you enter the old town. The streets are narrow in this part of the city, but lights hang above as people move in and out (in, it seems mostly) to the area around Salzburg cathedral, center of the Christkindlemarkt. The tradition of the Christmas market in Salzburg goes back to the 15th century.
It’s so crowded in some places, it’s shoulder to shoulder; we have to work to ensure we’re not separated in this crowd. We perused the stalls as we moved through the Christmas market, with the (by now) usual array of food, candy, stands selling “punsch” , Christmas decorations of all nature, some leather goods and woolens. We can hear a choir singing in front of the Cathedral so we wedged our way over to watch and listen to a choir standing in front.
Saint Rupert founded the church in 774 on the remnants of a Roman town, and the cathedral was rebuilt in 1181 after a fire, and restored again in 1959. In the seventeenth century, the cathedral was completely rebuilt in the Baroque style, completed in 1628. Salzburg Cathedral still contains the baptismal font in which composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was baptized. Once before, in 2008, we visited the cathedral and there was a choir singing out front. The dates on the three gates’ entrance reflect those events in the church’s 1248 year history. We stood amongst the audience, listening as the choir performed (video here, here, here).
Finally deciding to brave the lines to get some gluhwein and something to eat, we are able to get gluhwein and a baked potato with fondue, but it’s a challenge to eat with so little room (finally able to share a standup table).
After finishing, we decided it was time for the exits! As we made our way out, we heard some commotion in the street and saw that Krampus (video) and his minions were making their way down the street on a Krampus run to frighten the little children who had misbehaved. This isn’t the happy, friendly tradition of Santa we have in the US.
As we get ready to cross back over the Salzach, you can look up on to Hohensalzbug, the medieval fortress that guards the city.
Now, it’s a mile trudge back to the hotel and get ready to change cities again tomorrow. Such a life! Salzburg’s Christmas market was a surprise to me in both its sheer size and the number of visitors. It’s such a beautiful venue with lights strung above the narrow streets and all across the Christmas market area itself. While each city and Christmas market are unique, we’d definitely most enjoy coming back to Prague, Vienna and Salzburg’s markets. We have visited Nürnberg twice now and it’s quite a sight, but probably nothing really new to explore to bring us back.
Still to come are Munich (one of our all time favorite cities) and Zurich.
Country count 3
City count 5
Total Christmas markets 10