Yesterday we arrived in Vienna, Austria delayed by an hour after passing through another lock. Apparently this is the first year that appointments can’t be made at locks along the river, so all river traffic is at the mercy of the first-come-first-served principle.

We have been cruising in tandem with the Viking Embla during our trip, so it was fitting to snap a picture of Viking Freya’s sister with our reflection included just before we were moored at Vienna.

The Austrian city is decidedly more modern than Budapest was, and this high-rise currently under construction across the Danube illustrates this fact.

I was pleasantly surprised to be reminded that Vienna was the setting for the excellent film noir movie, The Third Man, with Orson Welles. In fact, the original Ferris wheel that was pivotal in the film is still in operation after all of these years.

Emphasizing the city’s modernity are advertisements applied to scaffolds enshrouding church restoration projects.

Horse-drawn carriages roll down the streets, returning a bit to past traditions.

This outdoor corridor of buildings acts as a fresh air shopping mall with high-end retailers like Louis Vuitton and Cartier. I would have loved to have seen this area at night with its chandelier-style Christmas decorations stretching across.

At the end of this retail district is a courtyard with St. Stephen’s Cathedral which exhibits a striking contrast next to this modern hotel across the way.

Inside during Christmas, the church projects psychedelic colors onto its surfaces which was both bizarre and beautiful.

From another angle, you can see the modern hotel perfectly frames the contour of this architectural relic behind it.

And then there were these treats – resembling a cross between jelly-filled donuts and giant truffles – that called to window shoppers.

To combat unsolicited graffiti, the city has a river basin that actually allows the art to be applied to the surrounding walls.

But what is most of interest during our voyage are the Christmas markets, and our ship has been decorated very nicely to match. They even have a lovely gingerbread house display that I’ll share images of later.

At the heart of the city are a number of government buildings that host Vienna’s largest Christmas market immediately in front.

This main building resembles a church with its elaborate construction and spires.

The shops offer an excellent variety of goods that appeal to all ages and demographics. Toys, ornaments, candles, clothing, etcetera can be found, and multiple religions are represented with menorahs and buddhas available to buy in addition to Christmas trinkets.

The booths themselves are elaborately decorated with garland, lights, and whimsical touches such as this plush snowman.

Other displays include this robotic family of musicians playing traditional Christmas pieces. It was an amusing exhibit for sure.

Helium balloons featuring silly Smurf characters plus Sponge Bob are sold with imposing statuary behind.

As nightfall was upon us, the lights began to shine bright and the sense of magic was very much alive.

Surrounding trees are decorated with lit ornaments unlike those I’ve seen in the United States.

And whimsical displays like these easily put smiles on your faces.

Amid our shopping, I tried a local bratwurst which was surprisingly long and narrow, more like a 16 inch hot dog in form. (Forgive me. I’m used to Johnsonville after all.) Of course, the taste was the real treat.

We also tried some giant pizza and dessert pretzels that were also very nice. The culinary highlight was the orange punch, however. It was a sort of warm citrus wine drink that was amazing.

The experience of the Christmas markets can best be described with an exclamation of “wow!” With the cold weather offset by the spirit of the season and the warmth of the food, the effect is simply sublime.

I’ll leave you for now with this heart-melting Teddy bear and plush animal booth which was a favorite of ours. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Continue on to Part 3

5 Responses to Live Voyage Review: Viking Freya, Danube River Christmas Markets 2012 – Part 2

  1. Jeff Titelius

    Your pictures and tales of your journey really bring to life the experience for all of your readers. I have never visited a Christmas market but it’s a dream of mine that I hope will come true very soon! I would have loved to sail onboard the new Viking ship to experience the markets and historic cities. All I can say is “WOW” too my friend. Exquisite work!

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