Sunday Photo: Christmas in Vienna

Christkindlmarkt at Rathaus platz (Christmas Market at the City Hall square), Vienna, 2016

I just love Christmas markets.

What about you? What are your favourite Christmas markets? I’ve been to Christmas markets in Austria, France, Budapest and in London.

 

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Klagenfurt & Minimundus

Klagenfurt, Austria
Lindwurm fountain at the New Square, Klagenfurt

It was probably the hottest day of the year. 29°C on a sunny day in May. Who would have known that it could get so hot in the spring in Austria?

My mum and I took a day trip to Klagenfurt to take a break from my wedding preparations (three years ago). On the way to Klagenfurt we admired the view of the mountains and the green lush scenery. But then we reached the Karawanks Tunnel at the Austrian-Slovenian border and lost a lot of our precious time because of the road works. When we finally reached Klagenfurt I already felt exhausted but my spirits lifted when we started to walk around this pretty little town. Actually Klagenfurt is the sixth biggest town in Austria with the population of around 99 000 people and it’s the capital of the Austrian federal state of Carinthia. It’s on the lake Wörthersee and on the Glan river. According to a legend the city was founded after a couple of brave men slained the dragon like creature Lindwurm who fed on virgins. Today you can see the giant Lindwurm fountain at one of the city’s beautiful squares.

So what did we do in Klagenfurt? My mum and I just walked around and admired its many sights. The first thing we came across was the Theater built at the beginning of the 20th century by the famous theater architects Helmer & Fellner. Next to it is the Stadthaus with the flower clock which actually works. How neat! We noticed a lot of hanging flower baskets around the city. Then we saw the parish church and came to the Old Square (Alter Platz) surrounded by the houses from the 16th and 17th century. You can see the Plague Column at the square and the oldest house in Klagenfurt. It dates from 1489 and it’s got a golden goose on its façade above the entrance. Just around the corner is the Landhaus with the Renaissance façade where the Corinthian parliament holds meetings.

Theater
the flower clock actually works 🙂
Old Square
Landhaus

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Top 10 of the Imperial Treasury Vienna

Vienna
the New Wing of the Hofburg palace

Who hasn’t dreamt of becoming a king or a queen when growing up? We were all brought up with stories and fairy tales about valiant princes and beautiful princesses. However, being an actual royal is something completely different, especially nowadays. Nevertheless, seeing real royal treasures can still be very enchanting ( and educational). On my recent visit to Vienna ( last month) I got to admire the priceless crowns and other immensely beautiful objects in Kaiserliche Schatzkammer Wien (Imperial Treasury) before I enjoyed a delicious cake at yet another Viennese cultural institution: Café Central.

About Imperial Treasury Vienna Museum

Imperial Treasury Vienna is housed in the oldest part of the Hofburg Palace in the center of Vienna (the royal palace of Habsburg family who ruled over Austria and much of Central Europe until 1918). Imperial Treasury may not be the most interactive or family friendly museum but it is one of the most important treasuries in the world containing secular and ecclesiastical objects of immense cultural and historical value. The museum is affiliated with the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, which is just a short walk from the Hofburg Palace. The museum’s collection was compiled by the Imperial House of Habsburg over the course of centuries but it has only been opened to the public as a museum since 1954.

The museum facilities include: ticket office, small shop, toilets and a cloakroom on the ground floor. There’s also an Audio Guide point (for extra charge) just before you climb the stairs to get to the museum’s collection spread over 21 rooms on the upper floor. The admission to the Imperial Treasury Museum costs 12€ for adults. The museum is open every day from 9.30 AM to 5.30 PM, except on Tuesdays. You can take photographs inside the museum but without flash. For more information about the museum click here !

Top 10 of the Imperial Treasury Vienna

As in most museums around Europe you can get a free leaflet with the museum’s plan and some basic information. I decided to find the top 10 objects listed in that leaflet while visiting the museum. Here’s the list of top 10 artifacts of the Imperial Treasury Vienna:

Crown of Emperor Rudolf II
It’s in the first room you enter. It’s truly magnificent and there’s also the Imperial Orb and Sceptre.

crown of emperor Rudolf II in Imperial Treasury Vienna

Cradle of the King of Rome
Now, this is one seriously imposing cradle. But you wouldn’t expect anything less for the Napoleon’s only son, would you?

cradle of Napoleon's son

Emerald Vessel
It’s a small object but it’s actually the largest cut emerald in the world.

emerald vessel in Imperial Treasury Vienna

Agate Bowl
I must say this was my favourite object of them all. It looks very contemporary. It’s rather big and the legends surrounding it are extraordinary. Some believed that it was the Holy Grail. It was made in the Late Antiquity and together with the unicorn’s horn (not real of course, it’s actually a narwhal’s tusk) makes ˝inalienable heirloom of the House of Habsburg˝, meaning it couldn’t be sold or given to anyone else.

agate bowl in Imperial Treasury Vienna

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Have some cake at Café Central, Vienna

Cafe Central, Vienna
Cafe Central, Vienna

„Central is not a coffeehouse like any other – it’s a philosophy.“

(Alfred Polgar)

If you want to rub shoulders with the likes of Sigmund Freud and Trotsky, you should visit Café Central in Vienna. Though, you’ll only see Mr Freud & his friends if you can see ghosts! Today this historical beautiful coffeehouse is overrun with the tourists but they don’t diminish its old-style charm.

The café culture is still strong in Vienna so during the week and off-season (if there’s such a time of the year when there are less tourists in Vienna) this café is still frequented by the locals. But if you’re visiting during Christmas season be prepared to wait in the cold to get in this very popular café/patisserie.

Housed in a grand old palace (Palais Ferstel) Cafe Central has been opened since 1876. It offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts and Vienna coffee of course. Made famous by its notorious patrons and as a rendezvous place for many artists, revolutionaries and philosophers it’s a hot spot for today’s visitors to once imperial Vienna. Everybody wants to eat cake in Cafe Central (or take selfies) as it seems when you’re freezing in the long queue outside this old institution.

When you get in eventually you soon forget all about your half-frozen fingers and look up in awe. The ceilings are very high and exquisitely painted and there are elegant arches, like in a proper palace or church. But the religion preached here is coffee! The central place inside is occupied by two large cake displays and a large gingerbread house. There’s also live piano music after 5 pm. I came earlier so I didn’t get to enjoy this part of Vienna coffee culture.

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Christmas markets in Villach & Velden, Austria

Villach
Christmas market in Villach

Three years ago I took my mum to Austria for a day trip. Our destinations were Villach and Velden and their charming Christmas markets. We both love Christmas markets very much so I decided to ask her and not my boyfriend (now my husband) to join me. Besides my boyfriend and I went to a chocolate factory near Graz (Austria) just a few weeks before this Christmas markets day trip.

About Villach & Velden

Villach is located on the Drau river and it’s the seventh largest town in Austria with a population of around 62 000. It’s got a big Croatian community too so it’s not a surprise that Villach is very popular for shopping and Christmas trips from Croatia. Velden am Wörthersee is a market-town and a popular holiday resort situated at the Wörthersee lake and close to Villach.

Villach
Villach

Villach

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That time I had Sacher cake in Vienna…..

Sacher Cake at Cafe Sacher, Vienna

Who doesn’t like cakes? I can’t resist a dessert  and I often peruse the dessert’s menu even before I order the drinks let alone the main dish. Sacher Cake is probably one of the most famous cakes in the world and there are also plenty of recipes to make it yourself at your home. But you can only have the original Sachert-Torte at Café Sacher in the heart of historical Vienna.

I’ve been to Vienna several times. My first visit was in December 2005 when my best high school friend and I took a train to Vienna. We’ve done a ride on Prater’s Giant Wheel, took photos of colourful Hundertwasser’s house, tracked down the cafe from the movie Before Sunrise and we visited Schonbrunn palace among other things. Above the castle is a great viewpoint and a cafe called Glorietta where I had my first Sacher Cake in Vienna. It was horrible; it was dry and old. A big disappointment.

Glorietta just opposite the Schonbrunn palace
Glorietta just opposite the Schonbrunn palace

Fast forward almost a decade and I’m back in Vienna and I’m having Sacher Cake in a beautiful restaurant Residenz right next to the Schonbrunn palace. Again the Sacher Cake wasn’t really good. I couldn’t believe it. I had other great cakes at this restaurant and I had wonderful cakes in Vienna in a lot of different places but I still couldn’t find a decent Sacher Cake in Vienna even if my life depended on it. Maybe the castle had something to do with it? Both times I had Sacher Cake was actually in places in Schonbrunn palace garden!

I’ve wanted to try the original Sacher Cake at  Café Sacher for a long time but there was always a long queue outside the cafe and I just left it always for some other time, some other trip to Vienna. Finally, last December I had the one and only Sacher Cake. And it was so delicious!!

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Visiting a chocolate factory

Zotter chocolate factory, Austria

When I was a child I thought that visiting a real chocolate factory would be a dream come true. Many years later formally an adult but still very childish in manner occasionally, especially when it comes to food according to my loving husband, I did visit an actual chocolate factory. In November 2013 my husband and I visited Zotter chocolate factory in Riegersburg, Austria. Firstly, we wandered around nearby town of Graz and then in the afternoon we went on our visit of the Zotter chocolate factory. The visit costs 14.90€ for an adult but it also includes the all important tasting of chocolate.

Graz
Graz

Our visit started with a short viewing of the company’s history in a small cinema-like room.The film also explained briefly the origins of chocolate and its production. Then we were given audio-guides and a pretty ceramic spoon for the tasting. We weren’t supposed to keep the spoon but we did 🙂 You can taste everything you see and at the end of the visit you find yourself in a cafe-like room where you can make yourself one hot chocolate. There are clear signs stating only one hot chocolate per person ( we did comply to that rule). Of course, you left the factory via the gift shop but after a lot of hard thinking I didn’t buy anything. You are probably asking yourself: she left a chocolate factory without a single bar of chocolate? Yes, I did. Frankly, by the end of the visit I was almost sick with the mere thought of seeing another chocolate let alone eating one.

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