Author: Kiera Reilly, C’93
Back in the summer of 2008, as we worked on the Penn Alumni Travel catalog for 2009, I couldn’t stop thinking about the cover photo we chose. It was a wintry scene from Salzburg, Austria.
Although I have lived in California for over 10 years, I’m originally from the East Coast and miss the snow and romance of a “White Christmas.” So, as we continued working on our catalog, through many revisions and printers proofs, I kept thinking about going to Austria. And once our brochure was printed and many extra copies were in my office taunting me daily, I had to take action.
I convinced my boyfriend that we needed to visit the holiday markets in Austria that December. As a California native, the allure of shopping outside in the cold was lost on him, but he’s a good sport and finally agreed to join me.
We started in Vienna, spending a few days exploring Austria’s capital. We saw the famous Lipizzaner Horses of the Spanish Riding School (no photos of the horses during the show were allowed), visited St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and sampled Austrian pastries at Demel Café. We ate wiener schnitzel and enjoyed eating sausages stuffed in rolls at food trucks with the locals. At the last minute we purchased standing room tickets for the Vienna State Opera to see Wagner’s Götterdämmerung. Although standing is definitely not the ideal way to experience opera, I ended up staying for the entire show because the sound of the orchestra and singing was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. Of course, we also visited some of the holiday markets in town and sipped warm Glühwein as we wandered the market stalls.
We next took a train to Salzburg and stayed with one of my sister’s college friends who had been living there for several years. She provided lots of insider tips for us, and took us to a traditional Austrian dinner on our last night, complete with shots of schnapps to finish our meal.
We hiked up to the Hohensalzburg Fortress, which towers over the city, and were treated to spectacular views. While the weather remained warm for most of our trip, it worked to our advantage as we were never too cold and spent most of our days outside. One surprising find was when we took a Sound of Music trip, and along the way passed by the headquarters for Red Bull!
Of course, there were more holiday markets to visit in Salzburg, but I also enjoyed shopping in some of the local stores.
Finally, on the last night, it snowed. And as the snow fell on the quite town at night and glistened under the twinkling lights of the markets, I was happy.
Do you want to visit Austria’s holiday markets? Penn Alumni Travel is offering a trip to the markets in Germany and Austria this December 6-13. For more information, go here.