As I'm sure most of you have noticed by now, Christmas is almost here!
So far Christmas in Vienna has been a quiet flurry of shopping, menu planning, market touring, and Christmas parties. Though it has been unseasonably warm (apparently it was the warmest November in 285 years), and the promise of a white Christmas has come and gone, Jacob and I have still been reveling in our first Christmas in Vienna. Though our families and friends are greatly missed, we have been so fortunate in making new friends that there was no threat of a lonely Christmas. Before we knew it we had made plans for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day with friends. It is going to be an exciting holiday full of new friendships to celebrate.
Ok, enough with the sappiness.
Along with the cold winds and 3 PM sunsets comes the start of one of Vienna's favorite sports: Christmas Market Marathons. With Christmas Markets set up around every corner - each with their own unique atmosphere and backdrop, and little wooden huts peddling arts, crafts, and kitsch - a tour of each market can easily take you the entire month of December. For most of us though, Christmas Markets are about the food: steaming mugs of mulled wine, rum-spiked hot punch, roasted chestnuts, freshly-fried spiral cut potatoes, fruit-filled powdered donuts, chocolate covered fruit, pumpkin soup in bread bowls, hot melted Raclette cheese poured over potatoes and salami...are you hungry yet? (I am, it's dinner time over here.)
The markets are such a winter fixture in fact, that I wrote an article about it for Our Man On The Ground's travel blog that you can find HERE.
I say that touring Christmas Markets is a sport, and it's true - you even run the risk of injury during your marathon. Aside from the sore feet that can accompany a day of heavy walking, you also run a real risk of trampling. Some of the bigger markets, such as the one located in front of the city hall, or Rathaus, are not for the faint of heart. Getting through the crowds at anything other than a shuffling turtle pace requires throwing your elbows out with shouts of "ENTSCHULDIGUNG!". It's defensive walking, and Jacob and I are perfecting it to an art form. Orderly though Austrian culture may be, queueing and walking tends to be a dog-eat-dog free for all.
Lest you think the risk is not worth the reward - trust me, it's worth it. The Christmas Markets are just the sort of fairytale old-world European Christmas you dream of in storybooks and Thomas Kinkade paintings.
One of the holiday gatherings that Jacob and I attended presented us with the challenge of bringing a dessert to share that was both dairy and gluten free. As Jacob has been having fun making candies rather than cookies this Christmas (our peanut-chocolate-toffee turned out fantastic), we decided to make chocolate bark.
I won't lie, this chocolate bark makes my inner-child seriously happy. It's stupidly easy, and filled with salty bites of potato chips, pretzels, and peanuts robed in rich dark chocolate. Best of all, it comes together so quickly that even if you have a panic moment realizing that you promised to bring something to the party but it's too late to bake...you're covered. And you will look like a genius. Win, win, win.