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Christmas in Vienna

British food writer Nigel Slater says, “Vienna, icily cold and smelling of sweet spice, is like walking into a Christmas card.” He’s definitely correct. Make a holiday checklist and you’ll probably find it in Austria’s capital: mulled wine and music, cakes and carriages, palaces and presents…

Especially at the Christkindlmarkt which has been customary for almost eight centuries. Dozens of stalls line up in front of the City Hall, selling glassware, perfume, handicrafts, toys, chestnuts, gingerbread, and glühwein. Nearby is Rathauspark, where visitors can take a stroll and admire the décor, ranging from Nussknacker (nutcracker) to Zwetschgamännla (figurines made of dried plums). Lovers are especially drawn to Herzerlbaum (tree of hearts), from which almost 300 red hearts hang.

Another attraction is the Schönbrunn Palace, once the home of the Habsburg emperors, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This year, its activities for children include “The Impatient Angel” game, “Poldi’s Christmas Workshop,” and cookie-baking. There are also tours of the place, supplemented with stories of Christmases past.

Being the birthplace of Haydn, Mozart, and Strauss, there is no shortage of Yuletide concerts in Vienna. “Christmas in Vienna 2008” features the Vienna Boys’ Choir, mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca, and baritone Paul Armin Edelmann. Music also finds its way to the streets, with carols sung by gospel groups and hymns played by brass bands.

As Slater says, “Vienna, it would seem, is made for Christmas.”

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