It is in December 2019 , when we travel to Europe for a few weeks especially to enjoy the christmas atmosphere here in the different countries and cities and to meet friends we dont know what the whole world will expect in the year later .
We were closing a difficult business year , trying to relax and to enjoy the end of the year in Europe and to join the glittering December christmas and shopping world in the big cities not being aware that the next year all this will be worldwide not possible , that the whole world will be locked down and christmas will be totally different than what the world is normally used to . No travels , no shopping , no work , no school – nothing – just staying at home to be safe and healthy .
There are such nice christmas markets allover Europe as I have visited so many of them in all the past years . They somehow also have a different character and are so interesting to see.
The most beautiful christmas markets in Europe are said to be the one in Prague ( Czeck Republic ), in Helsinki ( Finland ), in Nuernberg ( Germany ), in Dresden ( Germany ) , in Aachen ( Germany ) , in Talinn ( Estonia ) , in Cologne ( Germany ) , in Edinburgh ( Scotland ) , in Colmar ( France ) , in Brussels ( Belgium ) , in Trento ( Italy ) , in Budapest ( Hungary ) and Vienna ( Austria ) and so many more .
For instance the christmas market in Helsinki is totally different than the other markets in Europe – for instance you can buy a lot of iced fish and a lot of wool products over there and hot wine as it is sooo cold in Helsinki in December .
Due to the winter season there is no sun at all , the winter is dark , the days are very short and the nights are very long so that you have the feeling that you are always in the dark . This is why the lights of the christmas decoration looks even more cosy .
When I was there it was about – 25 degree Celsius . We were really freezing while the local people told that the temperature is above the average temperature in December and they did not feel cold at all . Helsinki is such a beautiful city , very unique to its own kind and has a warm touch with its nice locations and events .
On the 13th of December there is the festival of Santa Lucia in Helsinki that we were happy to join – what a great luck we had to be here for the festival of lights !
It is held on one of the shortest days in the year when the darkness is laying on the country and when a young blonde girl with a coronet of candles is coming to the Helsinki Cathedral symbolizing Santa Lucia who was a virgin martyr living in the 4th century enlightning her way with some candle wreath on her head to keep her hands free to carry lots of food to bring it to Christian people hiding in the catacombs in those days . ” Santa Lucia ” is also accompanied by a group of young girls which have candles in their hands and some wreath on their heads to give light to Lucia as well .
The group walks into the cathedral to the altar and a ceremony is held , chrismas songs are sung . The crowd is very prayerful .
After the ceremony in the church “Santa Lucia ” and her maids are leaving the cathedral and taking the steps down to the cathedral place .People are singing and gathering around the girls with the candles in their hands .The candle lights are SO bright in the darkness of the night . The songs are warm .People are joining the event with the whole family – parents with their kids , young people , elder people – everybody is there .
Finally ” Santa Lucia ” is arriving at her horse carriage and together with her maids and their lights they are dissappearing in the darkness of the streets .It is quite fascinating for us as strangers to observe this ceremony for the first time .
This ceremony is very parallel to the advent time in the Christian faith where the birth and the enlightning is also on a dark day on the 24th of December .There are also other cultures in the East eg where the darkness of the wintertime is overcome by the light to symbolize hope and the forthcoming springtime .
During our trip through Europe we also have the opportunity to pass by Vienna . It is such a nice time as Winter in Austria is always nice .
The whole city is glittering in Christmas lights and beautiful decoration .
It is cold and we enjoy the warm atmosphere of the city in these cold winter days . People are enjoying their shopping for their feast .
The window decorations in the heart of the old city are gorgeous ,each street has his own kind of lightning ,the horse carriages are passing by so proudly and so elegant .
In Vienna , nearly at each and every corner there is a christmas market – the most well known ones are at the Schloss Schoenbrunn in front of the Schoenbrunn Palace , Altwiener Christkindmarket which is located right at the heart of the City , Spittelberg Christmas Market , Christmas Market at Karlsplatz which is a gorgeous location , Christmas Market at Maria Theresienplatz which is also aone of the biggest ones and which is just in front of the Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History just to name a few.
Here you can get your roasted chestnuts, Kaiserkrainer which is Sausage with cheddar in the center, your Bratwurst , Wintersoups , Pretzels, Kaiserschmarrn, Waffles with cherries, gingerbread, roasted almonds, fried potatoes, hot and filled doughnuts , hot wine , tea with many different flavours , coffee and punch and so much more !
There is also a little christmas market in front of the Hofburg Palace just at the entrance of the shopping area.
Not to forget all the nice cathedrals in the Viennese City that are richlu decorated for christmas as well , christmas music is playing inside . Lots of people are visiting the churches in these times to pray and to tell their innermost desires .
What I also always do in Vienna is to visit either a ballet or a musical which is super enjoyable especially when you are there in December .
This time it is the ballet ” Coppelia ” in the Burgtheather – a phantastic evening !
Certainly you also need to visit all the great cafes and restaurants when you are in Vienna in Christmas time eg the Sacher Cafe which is very special , the Cafe Hawelka (opened in 1939 by Leopold and Josefine Hawelka was popular for Austrian poets, musicians and politicians in the 1960s and 1970s.) , Cafe Landtmann ( one of the oldest coffeehouses in Vienna , dating back to 1873 and often visited by politicians and Journalists ) , Cafe Prueckel , Cafe Korb ( opened by Emperor Franz Josef I in 1904 and often visited by Sigmund Freud and Andy Warhol ) , Cafe Central , Cafe Museum , the K.U.K Hofbaeckerei , Demel which was the bakery of the palace and 100 of others as the coffee culture of Vienna meanwhile even became Unesco Cultural Heritage and is a great culinary delight in this wonderful city .
Often there is a long queue in front of the famous cafes as there are so many tourists in teh city all the year long and everybody wants to experinece the gorgeous coffee and cakes of the Austrian culture .
We take our time every day and experience a different coffeehosue , restaurant and enjoy to be in this wonderful city .
In the same year and route means last year we also had the opportunity to pay a short visit to Budapest during christmas time as well as it is so close to Vienna .
It was such a romantic trip as Budapest is also a picturesque and characteristic place to be with such nice city marks .
The gorgeous view of the Danube river with all the historical buildings and bridges around is really unique .
We are very lucky as the sun is shining though it is a cold winter day .
Each view from the top of the city downwards the historical hills is full of joy.
We also pass by the beautiful Varosligeti Ice Skating Rink that is very close to the Heroes Square , the so – called Hősök tere. People are skating on the ice rink in the cold .The view is like in a fairy tale – so unreal , so beautiful . It remidns me a little bit of the polsih or Czeck Christmas films that we have seen in the TV as kids .We just take a seat there and take a coffee to watch the kids in their colorful jackets and coats laughing and ice skating .
A little further people are brewing some fruit in a punch – just the right drink for these winterdays .
After having strolled around in the 2 parts of the city we finally make our way to the christmas market at the Vorosmarty Square. The market place is nicely decorated with a huge christmas tree and cottage type wooden stalls that are standing around .
You might buy some christmas presents for your friends and family and also have some bite and drink .
In Budapest you can get traditional honey cookies , mulled wine ,sekler cake , strudel , flodni which is some traditional jewish cake with walnut and plum , some delicious bread pizza with vegetables or potatoes and ham baked in the oven and roasted chestnuts .
If you want to try some typical Hungarian cuisine there is some roasted goose tigh , stuffed cabbage in bun , grilled sausages and meat , roasted pork and so many other delicious meals.
The last stop actually on our roadtrip is Dusseldorf in Germany. Each year the German cities are nicely decorated and there are several christmas markets along the inner old city of Duesseldorf and the so-called Koe which is the Koenigsallee , famous shopping street with high end brand shops and great cafes .
We start our day early in the morning , having a small breakfast and some good coffee .
It is so nice to be on leave and to have enough time to stroll around in the streets , go for some shopping in the city and have look to the bookstores as there is glittering christmas decoration and music everywhere.
All the cafes have outstanding Santa Claus chocolate , christmas cakes , crispy fairy tale houses in their windows and are decorated with little pine trees , pearls , bells and winterflowers in red,white, green, silver and gold color.
What fun it is to buy presents for the family and friends , to smell the good mood in the air , to walk around the christmas market , to have some small bite as there is really everything you might imagine starting from sweets , special donuts , potatoes , fresh bread from the oven , fresh special pizza from the oven , hot wine ,nice little shops with gifts like christmas lights , toys , wool accessoiries , leather and wooden accessoiries and so many more .
In front of the historical building of Galeria Kaufhof there is even an ice rink where the kids can exercise some skating .
Also the Schadow Arkaden with the little galleries and their arcades are so picturesque and worth to visit .
In the afternoon we meet some friends and have some nice venue at Cafe Heinemann – everybody is relaxed and happy since the year is coming to an end and people are hopeful that the next year will be fine .
In the evening the christmas market is getting more and more vivid .
People are leaving their work for the weekend and are meeting up here at the Koe to meet friends , to have some chat by drinking some hot wine .
A visit to the close by City of Essen which has a huge christmas market as well is also nice to see and to explore .
Besides all those christmas markets in Europe one of the most magnificent christmas locations in the world for me is of course New York which I enjoyed a lot when I was there in 2010 but this is the topic of another blogpost : )
I hope that you could enjoy the locations in my blog .
This year the whole world will spend the End of the Year and New Year at home alone .Let us just take the positive things that we have learnt this year and let all the evil things back .
Let us strongly believe and hope that in 2021 the World will overcome this situation and flourish again !