Last Christmas we were by ourselves, marooned in the public transport free zone of London. And it didn't even snow. So this Christmas we headed over to Vienna and spent a few days with my parents who had just done a long river cruise down the Rhine and Danube. Good times!
Hopes of a white Christmas were not high based on the forecast, and so it panned out- it snowed on the day before we arrived but not again. There was a lovely covering of snow when we arrived though, which stuck around for a couple of days and gave a slightly exotic feel to the trip.
Vienna itself was very pretty but seemed to be in hibernation for the end of the year. Whether it was just the wrong time of year or the cold, there really was not much to do outside of the christmas markets- unless you had bought tickets to the Opera or the numerous classical music performances months in advance. So Christmas markets it was! And a beautiful church or two.
The markets at the Schonbrunn Palace were clearly the best- well curated with a good mix of food and vendors selling their often homemade Christmas wares and with a wander in the chilly gardens afterwards, an excellent way to spend Christmas Day. A lot of the other markets weren't that great and more similar to the rubbish ones in England- identikit food and stalls selling mass-produced crap or non-festive things. What's the point! My parents said the best markets were found in the small southern German towns that they had been through already- beggars cant be choosers I guess.
Also at Schonbrunn is the excellent Strudel Show- a show that goes for about 15 minutes, on the hour, with a well-practised pastry chef going quickly through how to make a proper apfelstrudel. Alternating between English and Deutsche, he flung the pastry around, made appropriately lame jokes (twice!) and filled the air with the delicious scents of butter, cinnamon and baked apple. The strudel itself was amazing.
So to sum up Vienna, it was great to see my parents again after 18 months, Vienna is pretty but sleepy, and Schonbrunn Palace is delightful. And the dream of a White Christmas remains unfulfilled.