St Wolfgang, Wolfgangseer Advent
December 7th, 8th 2014
Sunday morning and the view from our breakfast table is of two swans gliding gracefully through the morning mist rising from Wolfgansee Lake.
We are in the Austrian lake region of Salzkammergut to take in the Christmas markets – Advent markets. The Austrian Lake Region is also part of the Romanticstrasse – the Romantic Road coming from Vienna. Romantic because it was a favorite summer retreat for the Hapsburgs. Another movie link here and a true story – this is where Franz Josef fell in love with the beautiful Sissy – the movie starred Romy Schnieder.
Every Christmas market has its own emblem: in Strobl over the entrance to the market is a large white comet (the Star of Bethlehem in English and stella cometa in Italian), in St. Gilgen the Advent candle is a dominant theme and in St. Wolfgang the Light of Peace is enclosed in a large lantern in the middle of Lake Wofgansee. We are excited about the day ahead because we will travel from one market to the other on Wolfgansee Lake by ferry-boat!
The market in St Wolfgang opens at 10:00 but we head out right after breakfast to take a look around on our own. The hotel where we are staying is lakeside and we follow the road along the lake to reach the main street where the market booths are set up. The morning air is very still. There is not even a ripple on the lake to blur the reflections of the church and the mist shrouded mountains. We both comment on the beauty of this idyllic setting despite the fact that it is a heavily overcast morning.
St Wolfgang is what you would imagine an Austrian town should be – onion domed church, cobblestone streets, frescos painted on the buildings with their long balconies. We even see men wearing the loden green jackets and felt hats decorated with small plumes.
The booths are all made of wood and they follow the curves of the road so there is room between the booths where there are pines trees set up in – Christmas trees all au naturel. There are also small fire pits set up. The food booths provide tall round tables where you can rest your plates and eat. But there are also little “cabins” open on one side with tables, chairs, blankets, some with sheep skins for seat cushions. All are decorated with pine boughs and look very cozy.
In front of the town hall there is a life-size nativity set up complete with all the townspeople of an alpine village – the lumberjack, the apple farmer, the bread maker, the hunter, the milk maid and on. The wood carvings are intricate and colorful and you can see life and movement in their stances.
We are headed to the ferry landing to go to S Gilgen and then return to St Wolfgang around lunchtime. There are a lot of people but not a crush of people and where in Salzburg we heard a lot of Italian being spoken, here we hear mainly German. Now we are getting hungry and are tempted by the smells of the wurst sizzling on the grills, the salamis and speck, the baked potatoes, melted cheese, the vin brule. We finally settle on Knodel for lunch and feel quite satisfied having tried these round flour dumplings with a meat filling and served with sauerkraut.
The market booths are displaying everything from sheepskin slippers, to knit scarves, to candles, to wood carvings, to Christmas ornaments and bling of all kinds. The feeling is relaxed and once again we comment on how idyllic the setting is and this despite the intermittent drizzle.
We then head out once again by ferry to Strobl. By the time we are back in St Wolfgang around 4:00 the market has taken on an altogether different feel. The booths and stores are all lit up – the Christmas lights are actually twinkling in the humid air. The Lantern of Peace on the lake is lit up and is surrounded by small star-shaped lights. The fire pits are lit and the air is filled with the scent of the burning pine logs. We stop to listen to an oo-pa-pa band. When we get back to the hotel we realize that we have brought that scent with us as our clothes smell like smoke!
It was a perfect day. We were outside from 8:30 until 6:00 in the evening, thoroughly enjoy the market sights and smells, the lakeside setting, the warm ambiance, and the Austrian architecture.