Salzburg Advent Market – Salzburger Christkindlmarkt
December 6th, 2014
Probably for most North Americans, Salzburg and the surrounding area is very familiar as the background for the movie “ The Sound of Music”. And of course it is the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Salzburg is also known for its Christmas market. 500 years ago, at the end of the 15th century, the Salzburger Christkindlmarkt was first mentioned as a crafts market and was located in front of the Salzburg Dom. By the 17th century the market had evolved and became known as the “Nikolaimarkt” or St. Nicolas Market. It became famous as one of the first Christmas Markets alongside those of Vienna, Paris, Amsterdam and Nuremberg. Being passionate about vintage nativity sets and vintage Christmas ornaments we have decided on a bus tour of Salzburg and the lake region to experience the Christmas Markets.
We have not been on a bus tour before this and we were unsure of what to expect. But on the trip from Trieste to Salzburg the “acompagnatrice” kept us all occupied with her explanations of the diversity of what we were passing along the autostrada. From the Italian A-1 having the highest volume of Truck traffic in Italy to the origin of the name IKEA (an acronym of the initials of the founder’s name and home town) to the story of the Hohenwerfen Fortress (former Nazi training school) we were certainly much better informed thanks to the our acompagnatrice.
We left Trieste at 7:00 a.m. and arrived in Salzburg at about 11:30. Bus drivers must take a 30-minute break every two hours and are not allowed to drive over 100 km per hour so the drive was a bit longer than it would be by car. The driver drops us off at the Mirabel Gardens which is the setting for one of the Sound of Music songs and the acompagnatrice leads us across one of the bridges crossing the Salzach river and into the historic city centre. We are on our own to wander the markets and our rendez-vous point is in front of the house where Mozart was born. The ground level of the house, painted a lively yellow, is a grocery store!
This is also the uber chic shopping area – the Getreidgasse and the Linzer Gasse – with high-end clothing and jewelry stores and with one look at the price points we quickly decide not to linger but head instead to the market area. But it is not easy going. The narrow streets are packed with people making it very difficult to orient ourselves. But we kind of just flow with the tide of people and find ourselves in the fruit and vegetable market that has vendors selling everything from potatoes to pine wreaths and branches to ginger cookies and sausages of all kinds. And everywhere the spicy smell of mulled wine, Glühwein in German and vin brule in Italian.
We move on and find ourselves in the Dom Platz even though we did not actually realize we were there. The sheer number of people in constant movement plus the kiosks lining the platz make it impossible to see the buildings themselves. A huge Christmas tree dominates the Platz.
There are so many Christmas ornaments, trinkets, wood carvings, nativity pieces that we reach, I can’t believe I’m saying this, a saturation point and need some sustenance in the form of pastries. But every spot in the konditori- pastry shop-caffe is of course filled. We spot a table for four with two women seated there and ask if we can sit there. They obligingly say yes and so we are able to enjoy a sacher torte and a cinnamon pastry with some coffee. Having become accustomed to Trieste coffee and prices we found the coffee not up to Trieste standards and three times the price but the pastry was good but again very expensive. The women turned out to be from Switzerland, spoke English, had travelled widely in Canada and we thoroughly enjoyed our chat with them.
Out to the markets again and we run into Saint Nicholas and Black Peter. St Nicholas offers us a ginger cookie and in his basket he also has clementines.
We cross one of the bridges to the pedestrian shopping area on the other side of the river. Very busy but far less hectic. Crossing the bridge we are able to get a good view of the Salzburg town scape. Salzburg is the point where the Italian and German cultures met. The centre of Salzburg owes much of its Baroque appearance to the Italian architects Vincenzo Scamozzi and Santino Solari. In fact today we hear predominantly Italian as this is a long weekend in Italy – December 8th being the Immaculate Conception.
The baroque spires and domes with the fortress of HohenSalzburg above and the river below are splendid and yet fairytale-like. And all lit up in the evening Salzburg is even more fairytale-like and an impressive first taste of Austrian Christmas markets.