‘tis the sea­son to drink outdoors at Vi­enna’s Christkindlmärkte

METROPOLE - Vienna in English - - CONTENTS - By Corinna Berger

’Tis the sea­son to drink outdoors! Vi­enna’s Christkindlmärkte re­main a cher­ished tra­di­tion.

Tra­di­tions can be tricky; not ev­ery­thing our an­ces­tors did is worth keep­ing alive. Aus­tria’s hol­i­day sea­son is no ex­cep­tion, the Kram­pus­läufe (Kram­pus runs) on De­cem­ber 5 of­ten pro­vok­ing con­tro­versy. With young men dress­ing up as Kram­perl (an in­fer­nal side­kick of St. Ni­co­las) and ter­ror­iz­ing naughty chil­dren, this tra­di­tional chas­tise­ment some­times gets out of hand. But one lo­cal tra­di­tion stands out as uni­ver­sally beloved: the Christkindlmärkte (Christ Child mar­kets – in Aus­tria, in­fant Je­sus brings the gifts, not St. Nick). These sea­sonal mar­kets sell­ing trin­kets, hot sugary al­co­holic bev­er­ages and a large se­lec­tion of hearty foods to keep you go­ing have been a part of Vi­en­nese cul­ture since the 17th cen­tury, when the first one opened at the Graben. Oth­ers soon fol­lowed on the Freyung and Am Hof – mar­kets can still be found each yule­tide at all three. Nowadays, there are about 20 Christkindlmärkte all over town, each with their own charm and cater­ing to dif­fer­ent crowds. They are a fa­vorite hang­out for af­ter­work drinks, un­of­fi­cial hol­i­day par­ties, dates and Christ­mas shop­ping for lo­cals and tourists alike.

The at­mos­phere ranges from rus­tic at Rathaus­platz with wooden stalls, gin­ger­bread aro­mas and Christ­mas car­ols to mod­ernist at the MQ Win­ter­markt, where min­i­mal­ist decor, LED light­ing and DJS spin­ning turnta­bles reign. Some mar­kets even have carousels, minia­ture trains, pet­ting zoos or skat­ing rinks – mak­ing them a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for fam­i­lies.


How­ever, choos­ing the right drink from the daz­zling ar­ray of vari­a­tions sold at the count­less booths can be a real chal­lenge. There are two main fam­i­lies: Glüh­wein (mulled wine) and Pun­sch. The ma­jor dif­fer­ence lies in strength. While Glüh­wein is es­sen­tially spiced and heated (usu­ally red) wine, Pun­sch is gen­er­ally rum based, some­times with an ad­di­tional shot of hard liquor added. Hence, be­ware the so-called Tur­bop­un­sch! With al­co­hol con­tent ramped up to 10 per­cent or more, it packs a real wal­lop and less rep­utable stands fre­quently use it to dump the dregs, the dodgy fla­vor un­de­tectable amid the booze. Best en­joy it with cau­tion, if at all.

Also, don’t be alarmed if you’re charged more than it says on the sign. You’re not get­ting ripped off, most mar­kets sim­ply place a de­posit on mugs (usu­ally €2). Upon re­turn­ing them, you’ll get your change back – or, keep it as a sou­venir. And while you sip your steam­ing bev­er­age, watch­ing the rosy­cheeked mer­ri­ment around you, re­joice. Some tra­di­tions should be cher­ished.

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