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Advent postcard from Austria

Advent Postcard from Austria    

By Inntravellers, James & Fiona Clarke, travelling in December

Christmas market break in AustriaDay 1: An early start from Stansted for our Ryanair flight to Salzburg. All goes well and are met by hotel owner who transports us to our hotel, the Seerose in Fuschl am See. Beautiful sunny morning. We are offered coffee and breakfast which we gratefully accept. Our rooms were ready for us so we were able to see our wonderful lake view before venturing out.

Quickly found out details of local buses – to Wolfgangsee in one direction or Salzburg in other. Christmas market break in AustriaWe decide to go down the valley into St Gilgen and explore that market today. Quite busy with market stalls as well as normal shops all doing Christmas fare. There are also Advent scenes in squares and all lit. We try local crisps, gluwein and beer, plus purchase a few decorations. Good atmosphere, but gets very cold once sun drops below the high hills.

Very ready for dinner, which is excellent and accompanied by a local red wine, also good. Ready for bed after long day.

Christmas market break in AustriaDay 2 Krampusnacht: Awake to another beautiful morning. Misty fog over the lake soon clears. Decided to get bus to Salzburg today (40 minutes) and the first Christmas market is right by the bus stop. It seems all you need is a few garden sheds, some lights and merchandise and you have a Christmas Market! In Salzburg, all the stands are painted green. Very busy and it's only 11:00 am. Have marked all the markets on our map – same merchandise, but each has copious supplies of food, mulled wine or punch, each in their own mugs. There is a fantastic and relaxed atmosphere.

Christmas market break in AustriaWhat sets these markets apart are the wonderful courtyards and old buildings of Salzburg. Concerts in churches and entertainers on the street corners. Lovely city, the home of Mozart. We go up the funicular railway to Hohensalzburg and get views of all the activity below. There is even a Christmas market up there in the castle grounds. Clear blue cloudless skies all day. Very ready for a cup of tea, before we depart. We spot a shop selling craft materials which we shall use for  inspiration in decorations at home.

Back in Fuschl am See there is an event taking place by the church. The whole village seems to be there with 'garden sheds' around the courtyard and plenty of food and drink and a few craft stalls. In the middle, St Nicholas is accompanied by two ugly, horned creatures. These are the Krampus, who brings bad things to accompany the gifts from St Nicholas. The feast of St Nicholas is 6 December and the evening before is 'Krampusnacht'. We return to hotel for another good evening meal.

Christmas market break in AustriaDay 3 Feast of St Nicholas: Another sunny, still and clear morning. After a short walk through Fuschl am See, we catch the bus to St Gilgen. We head straight for the boat for the half-hour trip down the lake to St Wolfgang, home of another Advent market. Huge numbers of people filing along to the old town, which is beautiful and, yet again, a wonderful festive atmosphere. We find a whole life-size Advent scene carved in wood, with different characters and crafts all heading to the crib. We eat freshly roasted chestnuts, drink more punch, gluwein and tea, getting another mug to bring home. After winding our way through the streets we take another boat to Strobl. Together St Gilgen, St Wolfgang and Strobl make up the 'Wolfgangsee Advent Market'.

Christmas market break in AustriaStrobl is the smallest market. It has more wooden carved figures and live animals. We share bratwurst and sauerkraut and try chocolate-covered banana and strawberries – which were very good. Much colder here as we head back to St Wolfgang, where we buy some angels we had seen earlier and also visit the local crafts in the town hall. It's now getting dark and so all the lights are brightly shining, including the huge candle in a lantern on the lake. Very glad we saw it in the darkening evening from the boat back St Gilgen. A wonderful sight and everyone is now very seasonal.

Back on the bus in time for another excellent dinner. Salad to start, then soup, followed by main course (Weinerschnitzel, turkey or a vegetarian option) and sweet. Then upstairs to pack ready for our departure tomorrow.

Day 4: Enjoy a good breakfast before heading off to Salzburg 'W A Mozart' airport – a small friendly airport with no queues. Soon back in Stansted.

A very good short break with plenty of seasonal interest.

All photos (except top main) by James & Fiona Clarke