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Trip Report Christmas Market-ing in the Salzkammergut

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Travelers. DH, DD (14), DDog (8), and I, traveling from our home in Vienna for a long weekend in the Salzkammergut.

For this holiday we rented a pleasant flat in Salzburg near HohenSalzburg for three nights, checking in on Thursday via the instructions sent from the apartment owner. I sent the owner an email to let her know the instructions had been successful, as per request, and that we had settled DDog and were heading out to lunch and the Salzburg markets.

Oops. Hidden in the previous email thread from the apartment owner (but not written in the contract) was a statement I had somehow overlooked, “Please do not leave your dog alone in the apartment.” The owner responded to my arrival email, reminding me not to leave the dog alone in the apartment. I reiterated that DDog is quiet and extremely well-mannered, with slight arthritis in his hind legs that is aggravated by cold weather, and asked if she would possibly make an exception. I received no reply to my request.

We convinced ourselves that the apartment owner could not possibly be Austrian, as we have yet to meet one who dislikes dogs in the three years we have lived in the country, but set about rearranging the itinerary nonetheless. Our original plan had included dinner reservations at St. Peter Stiftskeller for our last evening on Saturday; a special dinner as part of our holiday. Given that DDog would now be with us on every outing, we canceled the reservation and cut our holiday short by one overnight (no point in staying in a rental apartment when the comforts of home are just three hours away!) In the end, though, everything else worked out spectacularly.

Market Impressions.

Thursday afternoon was spent between the markets at Mirabellplatz, the Dom and Residenzplatz, and a market we came upon while walking between the two, SternAdvent at Stern Brau. Light snow was falling, and the city was twinkling.

Mirabellplatz. Small, and definitely the most traditional market of our holiday, with lovely fresh and seasonal floral arrangements at one stall that I regret not purchasing. 'Tis a problem I have, not purchasing beautiful things when I see them, then regretting not having done so later.

The Christkindlmarkt at Dom and Residenzplatz. Refreshingly uncommercial compared to Vienna’s Christkindlmarkt. We enjoyed a small snack of Bauern Krapfen (flat, fried doughnuts topped (in our case) with garlic and a little bit of sauerkraut—an acquired taste, to be sure). One of the tall, cylindrical market mugs also came home with us.

At this market I also found my beloved Schneeball, another acquired taste of fried dough strips wrapped into a ball and covered with sugar powder. We had discovered the Bauern Krapfen in Innsbruck last year (where it is known as “Kiachl”) and the Schneeball in Bavaria on a trip several years earlier, and were happy to meet up again with these yummy friends.

SternAdvent at Stern Brau. Hands down, our favorite market of those we visited in Salzburg’s AltStadt. The setting was enchanting, and the stalls were filled with unique handcrafted items. Several purchases were made at this market. Walking back to our vehicle from the market, we passed a Käse Hütte offering cheeses from Vorarlberg, and combined with some Wild (Deer) Salami, a couple of baguettes and a crisp Weiss Burgundy from the grocery, dinner was born.

Wolfgangseer Advent. Bavaria and the Salzkammergut should merge and become a country where it is simply impossible not to be charmed, and where everyone is required to “Go Alpine” with Dirndls and Lederhosen and felted accessories with antlers for the women. Wolfgangsee should be the capital. The three markets here (Strobl, St. Gilgen, St. Wolfgang) and the setting were the genesis for our long weekend holiday, and they did not disappoint.

St. Gilgen was our first stop. We have been to this lovely village in all sorts of weather; the boarding school in St. Gilgen hosts a cross-country run in the fall and invites the Vienna and Munich internationals schools, and so we have taken day trips to cheer on DD and DS in rain and in shine. For this visit, the Chamber of Commerce must have paid off the weather gods. Crisp and dry air, and just enough cloud cover to make my photos of Wolfgangsee against the snow-capped mountains look Photoshopped. We and DDog wended our way through the village, snacking and shopping here and there. DDog relished a small staredown with the llamas from the living nativity—it was hard to discern which of the two animals was more curious about the other!

Strobl was next. The smallest of the three, but also a bit “out there” by penning wild deer as part of the market! A young buck and two does were in the center of the market, surrounded, thankfully, by a fence that must have contained a slight electric charge, for when the buck caught the scent of DDog (and the other DDogs in the market) he would charge the fence, stopping just short of jumping over. We kept DDog well away from that exhibit! The market is noted for its diorama nativity scenes, too, tucked into hollowed tree trunks and scattered throughout the market, many of which have exquisite detail.

St. Wolfgang wrapped up our Wolfgangsee triptych. Really, when a postcard-perfect Bavarian-style village is dressed up with Advent markets throughout its center, only those with hearts two sizes too small could not be charmed. And, as the visitors from the boats had just begun to arrive when we were leaving our restaurant from lunch, we felt especially fortunate to have enjoyed the village before the tourist crush. I recall my tote being rather full by the time we reached the car, so I would have to say the markets and stores had much to offer, as well.

With the drive from Wolfgangsee to Berchtesgaden being a bit more than an hour, and the weather forecast calling for snow, we all decided that would give DDog plenty of time to rest. Indeed, we could hear him snoring en route! By the time we reached Berchtesgaden, DDog (and we) were ready for more Advent Market-ing. In similar fashion to the markets around Wolfgangsee, the Berchtesgaden market winds through the AltStadt. Nightfall was settling in, and the market stalls and storefronts were all aglow with holiday cheer and lightly falling snow. Wandering about made for a perfect “nightcap.” A quick visit to the grocery yielded provisions for a simple supper before heading back to Salzburg, and everyone was content.

On Saturday morning we loaded the wagon and headed to Oberndorf to see the Stille Nacht Kapelle, the little chapel where “Silent Night,” the only Austrian Christmas carol, was sung for the first time on Christmas Eve, 1818. A tour bus had disgorged just before we arrived, and so while all was bright against the beautiful blue skies, all was not quite calm with the long queue of tourists waiting to peer inside the chapel. In the Stille Nacht Platz was a tiny market of perhaps six stalls, four of which were offering Glühwein and Punsch.

From Oberndorf we returned to Salzburg and the market at Schloss Hellbrunn. Snow was lightly falling now, giving the market a romantic feel. The market offers were exceptional, we thought, and once again my tote was filled by the time we departed with felted and other handmade delights. As we were heading home from this market, we made time for a lunch of deer chili beforehand in one of the cozy huts (Austrian road food is atrocious!). Quite good, and I have made another note to research cooking wild game. Christmas music was streaming softly through the market, and so DDog decided to “sing” along during lunch, much to the amusement of market visitors around us!

Leaving Salzburg we had considered trying to visit the Adventmarkt at Schloss Orth in Gmunden (which had been on the original itinerary for Saturday), but the skies were dropping wet, drippy rain/snow by this time, so we all felt slightly better for having cut our holiday short and just motored home.

So, lesson learned. Read both the email and contract thoroughly. Thankfully this was not our first visit to Salzburg and we were thus not trying to visit museums and other places where dogs are not permitted. Had that been the situation, we would have “eaten” more than just the lodging cost for one night by moving to a true dog-friendly lodging. I have written to both the apartment owner and to VRBO, suggesting that the listing not be labeled as “dog-friendly,” so others will be perhaps spared a greater inconvenience.

All’s well that end’s well, though. We enjoyed a weekend of family time, markets in beautiful settings and with weather to get our holiday season off to a perfect start!

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