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The Young Adult and I: Austrian Christmas Markets

The young adult and I stood on a viewing platform at the very top of the Hartkaiser, an Austrian mountain with an elevation of 5,000 feet. We had climbed about 3 flights of snow-covered wooden stairs at the mountain’s peak to reach the platform. It was after dark, and the platform allowed us to view snow-covered trees and Advent lights below us. I admired the view and reflected on a great day – exploration of the medieval fortress at Salzburg, a drive through snow-covered mountains of Germany and Austria, a quick peak at Schloss Itter, and now Bergadvent Hartkaiser, a Christmas event atop a mountain used for skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer.

Our enjoyment of the view complete, we headed to the stairs. The young adult took the first few steps; I saw his foot slip on a snow-covered step. He leaped into the air and took the next 12 or so steps in two graceful bounds, landing on his feet on a platform between flights of stairs. I was happy he appeared unharmed. I descended a few steps and my foot slipped...

Trip Background

The original plan for this week in December was my first trip to Israel, but that was of course cancelled. That trip was with a buddy of mine who is similar in age; he was unable to plan another trip due to an obligation that came up. The young adult is always eager to travel, though, and he was able to rearrange his schedule so that he could travel to Austria. Some of you have read about the young adult in this Normandy/Berlin trip report or this day in Sarajevo trip report. The young adult is a 21-year-old young man whom I’ve known for around a decade. He is brilliant, kind, funny, and good-natured, despite much adversity in his life.

The trip got thrown together about 3 weeks prior to departure and was focused on Christmas markets. The original itinerary for this trip was as follows: non-stop flight from Charlotte to Munich with early morning arrival in Munich, one night in Munich, two nights in Salzburg, and three nights in Vienna. Schneechaos in Bavaria resulted in Lufthansa cancelling our non-stop outgoing flight the day prior to departure due to the airline’s planes still being buried under ice and snow at Munich’s airport. We were re-routed through Toronto on Air Canada a day late… with an 8-hour layover.

Toronto

  • General Thought: I’m a “roll with the punches” kind of guy. The young adult is, too. So… we decided the layover was a great chance to re-visit Toronto, which we visited for a couple of days in the fall because I had a flight credit to burn and neither of us had been to Canada.
  • Transportation: We had a nice flight on Air Canada. After arrival at Pearson Airport, we took the train into the city. Easy peasy. We ended up taking an Uber back to the airport.
  • Activities: We went up the CN Tower (not able to do on our last visit due to a private event there), and we visited the Art Gallery of Ontario. Both are worthwhile, but one significantly cheaper and less touristy than the other.
  • Memorable Food: We ate at the revolving restaurant in the CN Tower; it was ridiculously expensive but very good. The young adult got a seafood platter that included half a lobster. He informed me he had a female lobster and provided great detail about how the external structure of the lobster (including the structure of the tail) made him arrive at that conclusion. The waitress walked up after the food was delivered and said, “Looks like you got a female!” The young adult looked at me proudly and told the waitress at length how he deduced that. She said, “Yeah, and the ovaries are right there.”
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  • The layover worked out great… as most things do… when you learn to embrace the wise words shared with me by my buddy Marvin when I hit a rough patch in college: “Things will work out. They usually do.” Eh, maybe not so profound. But I’ve found those words to be true.

Salzburg

  • Transportation: Most of the DB trains from Munich to Salzburg were cancelled, so we jumped on a Westbahn train. It was superior to DB in pretty much every way. In Salzburg, we ended up using the Free Now app to call a taxi after we ended up at a bus stop with no more bus service for the day. The taxi driver spent much of the ride railing against Catholic holidays as well as against the celebration of Christ’s birth in December. Eh… I tipped him anyway. Of interest to me, the tip options on the FreeNow app are No tip, 5% or 10%.
  • Lodging: Villa Salzburg by Welcome to Salzburg. This villa of about 10 rental apartments was just west of the Altstadt. The tunnel in the mountain that allows cars to enter the Altstadt from the west also has a pedestrian tunnel that we used to get to the Old Town. Super nice apartment with one bedroom and with a couch bed in the living room. More than I wanted to pay, but the trip was a bit of a last-minute scramble, so I was just happy to have a place to stay
  • Christmas Market: The Salzburg Christkindlmarkt is located on the Plätze of the old town, making for a quite magical ambiance. Much of the merchandise is mass-produced, but there are some stands with more original products, too. The holiday atmosphere is strong with this one.
  • Bergadvent Hartkaiser. We had the choice of this holiday event or a Krampus Run in Salzburg. The young adult apparently was kind of traumatized by a Krampus movie he watched as a kid, so he chose this mountain top Christmas event near Ellmau that included a small market, snow-covered paths for walking among the trees, a soup/Glühwein stand tucked between the trees (with nearby brass band playing Christmas music), Advent lights, and visits by St Nicholas and Krampus. Krampus was far more popular with the kids. Bergadvent is about as back door as it gets. Zero English heard except for a cafeteria worker or two who interacted with the young adult. As an aside, I tried to surreptitiously snap a photo from behind of the young adult walking on a snow-covered path with Advent lights strewn above it. The young adult turned as I snapped the photo, and what I got was the young adult looking at me with a mischievous grin. What is not seen in the photo is the snowball in his hand that was hurled at me 1 second after the photo was snapped.
  • Memorable Salzburg Site #1: Hohensalzburg. The young adult enjoyed Salzburg’s medieval fortress quite a bit (as did I). He particularly enjoyed the medieval armor and weapons. He really enjoys being “the expert” and teaching me about things about which he has read a lot (like medieval armor). We bought the extra ticket to see the golden rooms, which are impressive; viewing those rooms is well worth the small cost. We also climbed to the top of a tower to look out over Salzburg.
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  • Memorable Salzburg-ish site #2: Schloss Itter. On our way to Ellmau, we made a stop at Itter to see the castle that was part of one of the last battles of WWII. The castle was used as a prison for high-value French POWs – including a couple of former French Presidents, a couple of generals, and Charles de Gaul’s sister. To make a long story short, early on May 5, 1945 (after Hitler was dead but before Germany had surrendered), an unlikely combination of American troops, German regular army troops and French POWs fought side-by-side to hold off SS troops who wanted to storm the castle and execute the French POWs. It’s the material for Sabaton’s song The Last Battle… which the young adult loves… which made the castle an important site to see (and a surprise bonus site for the young adult).
  • Memorable food: Augustiner Bräustübl. We went there the first night in Salzburg, got our food, and followed the beer purchase choreography. It was fun. We returned there our second and final night in Salzburg because the young adult liked the atmosphere. Honestly, I hate beer. The young adult is not a fan either. We did not follow the beer purchase choreography the second night. Instead, both of us opted for a Coke with our food. Americans!
  • Ironic Event: When we returned to the apartment after our visit to Ellmau, what movie was on TV? The Krampus movie that had terrorized the young adult as a kid. We watched it.

Vienna

  • Transportation: We again chose Westbahn for the trip from Salzburg to Vienna. Another pleasant experience.
  • Lodging: Motel One Staatsoper in Vienna. While I aim to stay at locally owned places, Motel One is still a favorite place. Given the short amount of time planning the trip, I was happy to have a hotel in such a great location. Each of us had one of their single rooms – small, but more than adequate.
  • Christmas Market #1: Karlsplatz. This is the handmade market in Vienna. It is rather massive, and there are many cool things to see here. The young adult bought wooden toys for his nephews. Interestingly, this market had some of the least friendly sellers I have encountered at Christmas markets… not sure why.
  • Christmas Market #2: Spittelberg. A Christmas market across three medieval streets. There is a leather workshop on one of the streets, and I was hoping maybe to buy a wallet to replace the one disintegrating in my back pocket as I write this, but the workshop was not open. Nice shops on the streets. Nice environment after dark.
  • Christmas Market #3: am Hof. We stumbled upon this market as we wandered around Vienna. It is certainly touristy but the sellers were super friendly. The meat stand had prepared foods and raw meat to sell. It smelled wonderful.
  • Christmas Market #4: Stephensplatz. Touristy! But nice environment with the church soaring above the market.
  • Special thanks: To Emily for all her Vienna Christmas Market reports!
  • Interesting Site #1: The Museum of Military History (HGM). The museum has a great WWI exhibit, including the car in which Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his poor Habsburg-hated wife Sophie were shot in Sarajevo in 1914. This was particularly interesting given that we stood at the assassination site in Sarajevo during the summer. On my last visit, the WWII exhibit at the museum was horrible – just a hodgepodge of objects thrown together. That exhibit is currently closed, and a new exhibit is opening sometime in the future.
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  • Interesting Site #2: The Haus des Meeres. An aquarium. Yawn. Built in a renovated WWII anti-artillery tower. Ooooooo. Don’t get me wrong. It is a nice aquarium. And you can even pay to go hang out with lemurs (I did not), which seems like an odd thing to do at an aquarium. But the anti-artillery tower part is what is cool to me. And there are great views over Vienna from the top of the building.
  • Performance #1: Elektra at Wiener Staatsoper. It’s always a pleasure to see an opera in Vienna’s Opera House. Since the trip got thrown together so late, our choice of shows with advance tickets available was limited to Elektra.
  • Performance #2: Voices from Japan and Vienna at the Musikverein. The Musikverein is a performance hall built during Franz Joseph’s rule. The Golden Hall is all kinds of Habsburg wonderful. The first part of the performance was a Buddhist choir from a Kyoto temple; the second part was a classical music trio from Vienna, along with a violinist from Vienna; the final part of the performance brought the Buddhist choir together with the Viennese musicians. It was a unique, enjoyable performance. We had good seats. We apparently had some sort of middle-aged Austrian celebrity sitting behind us (people walked up to ask for a picture with him)… who talked through some of the performance… as he tried to pick up the single woman who happened to be sitting beside him. The young adult was appalled by the number of people taking pictures with their cameras after such behavior had been expressly forbidden at the beginning of the performance!
  • Memorable food #1: Vollpension. This was our Vienna coffee house experience. Another tip of the hat to Emily for her post on coffee houses in Vienna. This one is run and historically staffed by grandmas and grandpas. The main coffee house is set up like granny’s living room… comfy furniture and tables. It’s great. Apparently there are not as many grannies who want to work these days; two of the servers were quite young (college age). Food was great! Humurous moment: I thought the grated food on my plate was cheese and popped a handful into my mouth; it was horseradish.
  • Memorable food #2: Coffee shop on the lower level of one of the Otto Wagner former Karlsplatz Straßenbahn pavilions. It’s a cool environment in which to drink coffee.
  • Memorable food #3: Haas & Haas Teesalon. We had a proper tea at this tearoom steps away from Stephensplatz. Nice little sandwiches… nice sweets… quite lovely tea. The young adult very much likes tea… he calmly drinks a variety of hot herbal teas at home as he murders thousands of creatures/people in Halo, Rainbow Six Siege, and other video games.
  • Sacher Torte. The young adult had said “Vienna” in the presence of his iPhone prior to the trip, so he of course started getting Vienna videos in his YouTube feed… including influencers hyping their Sacher Torte experiences. He was VERY excited about the Sacher Torte, and it became a “must do” on the trip. Hotel Bristol is owned by the same people who own the Sacher Hotel and has the same Sacher Torte. Minus standing in line in the cold for 45 minutes to get it. So… we tried to get into the Hotel Bristol dining room in street clothes; that was a no go! We went back after the opera in our coats and ties – ding ding ding! We got in! Even though the dining room was nearing closing time! We were seated and ordered espresso and a torte. The anticipation for the torte was killing the young adult. Finally, it came! He took a bite, looked at me with a disappointed face, and said, “Not my favorite."
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Conclusion

And that brings us back to our opening story. Dave with his foot slipping on a wooden step. Unlike the young adult, I fell on my backside and slid not-so-gracefully down the flight of stairs. My journey cleared some snow from the steps, dumping it on the people on the flight of stairs beneath me. Cries went up from below. The young adult grabbed me at the bottom of the stairs and stopped my slide. I lay there thinking, “I’m not sure if I’m okay, but I must jump up and declare that I am to allay the concerns of the compassionate bystanders.” I jumped up, smiled, and said, “Ich okay.” There was only one couple around. They looked at me with Austrian faces filled with disgust. I guess “Tut mir leid” (“I’m sorry”) would have been a better choice of words.

The good thing, though, was that I was indeed okay. The words of my college buddy Marvin proved true yet again. Things worked out. As they usually do. And the young adult and I added another humorous travel misadventure (and one heck of a fun trip) to our growing list of shared travel experiences.

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Hi Dave,

thanks for a really well-written and fun description of your Austrian Christmas market trip. You and the Young Adult make good travel partners!

Cheers,
Moomin

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Oh, a delight !! To open the Forum and see a new Dave thread entitled "The Young Adult and I..." !

You guys covered a LOT of ground (in the metaphorical sense). Smart you for taking advantage of Emily's excellent advice. That is so funny about the cursed Krampus movie. And I am SO glad you didn't hurt your ankle or anything else in the slide. It's disappointing that the observing couple had nasty looks on their faces.

And this !.

The young adult turned as I snapped the photo, and what I got was the young adult looking at me with a mischievous grin. What is not seen in the photo is the snowball in his hand that was hurled at me 1 second after the photo was snapped.

Most excellent. Thank you Dave for taking the Young Adult on another adventure, and thank you for writing it up so beautifully to share with us. Happy Sunday.

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You are proof a quick, last minute trip is possible. This is what I was hoping for in retirement. Maybe this year.
What fun adventures you and the Young Adult are having. Thank you for taking us along for the ups and downs (pun intended) of your trip.

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565 posts

Once again, Dave sets the gold standard for trip reports, with the blend of sites, experiences and humorous encounters.

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Excellent trip report, Dave. I have Motel One Staatsoper booked for later this year and glad to read you enjoyed it. Curious, how do they enforce the time limit at Vollpension?

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Mary,

When you check in, they print out the time your reservation ends and attach it to a small stand on your table.

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I love it when you take a trip with the young adult and come share it with us for so many reasons. First, you do a mix of interesting unique things I wouldn’t think of or find and every day things that I think “Oh, I should go there”. Your writing is well-done, entertaining, and informative - all at the same time. Your travels are bounded by your interests and not by common conventional “wisdom”. And then there is the whole concept of what these trips are doing for the young adult and how you encourage him to be “himself” while expanding horizons. Any young adult anywhere would be a better person for it. It inspires me to do better in my own ways.

But I like trip reports of all your trips, too. 🤣

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Thank you, Dave, for sharing this wonderful adventure that you and your friend shared! I enjoyed your writing! I have not been to the places you were describing, so that was especially interesting with ideas for future travels.

Laurie 😊

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2427 posts

I really enjoyed reading your trip report. It was very well done. I have bookmarked it for future reference on writing trip reports which so often can be so cut and dried.

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2329 posts

Another delightful report Dave. I'm glad nothing but pride was injured in the fall and that a travel insurance segment wasn't the wrap up to your excursion.

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Thanks everyone for you kind words. I enjoying writing trip reports! I have to admit I always wonder a bit if my reports include too much detail... they seem longer than a lot of other reports.

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I very much enjoy your trip reports! And they are not too long!!! I have two young adult sons and I can see them in your Young Adult.

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Such interesting stories you get when you travel with a young person. Who knew that you could tell a male lobster from a female?!?

I have to admit I always wonder a bit if my reports include too much detail
I hope I will prioritize a Christmas Markets trip to Vienna and stay again at the Motel One Staatsoper. Perhaps I'll even catch The Nutcracker Ballet, because it's such a beautiful opera house! And when I do make that trip, the details will come in handy!! Bookmarked.