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Journeys : Oct Nov 2010
October / November 2010 17 Destinations Of course I was wrong, there is no centralised market, and these adventmarkts are every where. Wherever there is ten square metres of space some enter prising soul will have set up one of the identical mass-produced huts with Intent To Sell. They are quite quaint, w ith their little angled roofs and cheer y lighting, and they do sell some lovely things. Baubles for the tree (glass and enamel), gingerbread, wood car vings, dolls, mini-Santas. If it’s pretty, it can be yours, as long as you don’t mind parting with one arm and one leg, which is what most of them charge. I found it best to pretend everything was in Australian dollars, to minimise the sting of realising I’d just paid the equivalent of eight bucks for a bratwurst in a hotdog roll. Although it was exceptionally tasty. But the vague kitschiness of the markets fits in Vienna. The city is beautiful, yes, but it’s almost too pretty. The architecture is invar iably gorgeous, and you’ll often find yourself reaching saturation point, and still wondering which marvel to take in next. The Museum of Natural Histor y is worth a look from the outside alone, it’s huge and imposing and to make it even more incredible there’s an identical building straight opposite it, and a gorgeous plaza between them (which is crammed with adventmarkts, of course). Also worthy of mention is the Leopold Galler y, which houses a great collection of famous art (including works by Schiele and Picasso, and a frankly disturbing exhibition of Edvard Munch) and the Belvedere, a stunning palace containing an even more stunning collection of art (with Klimt’s The Kiss taking pr ide of place) and an entrance foyer with massive pillar- statues of men holding the roof up manfully. It’s amazing. Should you find yourself outside of Vienna, you might just stumble across an extraordinary thing. Every year on the 5th of December, villages across the (gorgeous) countryside put on krampus events. The krampus myth is part of Austrian folkltore (krampus is a contrasting companion of St Nicholas), and involves village youths dressing up in elaborate demon costumes and terr ifying the locals. In the village I was in this took the form of an initially less-than-intimidating organised parade along a route designated by portable barriers, but the costumes are amazing, the people in them quite frightening, and when they start creeping around the back of the crowds and storming into the barriers it’s actually pretty scary. They carry torches, flares and str ing whips, occasionally set off fireworks, and have enormous cowbells attached to the back of their suits. Oh, and they take children from the crowd and put them in a r ickety looking caged wagon. The whole experience is pretty visceral and exciting, particularly given their keen interest in audience participation (meaning the unwary will be whipped, growled at, grappled or kidnapped). On more than one occasion I nearly spilled my hot punsch down my front while trying to take a photograph, and my host was singled out by a rampaging whipper. “He must have known me,” she decided, as we cowered in the warmth of a nearby bar. So, whether you like aesthetic beauty or punishment duty, Vienna in December has plenty to offer (the weather wasn’t bad, either). We can get you there! To plan and book your Christmas in Austria – or anywhere else in Europe – call RACT Travelworld on 1300 368 111 or visit your local branch.
Aug Sep 2010