Happy Holidays

So, we might be Christmas market gurus now. We’ve mentioned previously how Christmas markets are somewhat unique to Europe as we’d never seen one while in the States. Well, we’ve made up for it the last couple weeks! We headed to Strasbourg, France or the “Capitale de Noel” as it can be called. The Christmas market there is of the most popular in Europe and it’s easy to see why. A lot of work went into their market as elaborate lights and décor filled several streets and squares. We explored for hours, staying warm via hot drink in hand and one thing we noticed and appreciated was that each stand was different. None of them selling the same items which made it more exciting to wander and see what the next one had to offer.

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Side street of the Christmas market: Strasbourg, France

After returning to Lausanne we hopped on the train to Montreux, a neighboring city and easy to reach. Snow had just fallen as we arrived, setting the scene for the glistening lights and smells of spiced cakes. With fire pits and several shops to pop into it was a cozy stroll. It wasn’t a small market and is considered one of the best in Switzerland, but it certainly felt small after being at Strasbourg’s! Between the markets in Lausanne, Montreux, and Strasbourg, each had their differences, but one thing they all shared was the steady flow of hot wine. Some better than others but all hot wine nonetheless!

Christmas market: Montreux, Switzerland

We didn’t have much time to settle back in after our Christmas market hopping as we made our way to Budapest, Hungary. With a new country to explore, we felt a great sense of adventure heading into the holidays! While in Budapest, we stopped briefly by the Christmas market to see how it compared. Foodie paradise is how we would describe it. The aroma of grilled meats and Kürtőskalács (chimney cakes) was hard to get away from. Dining in Budapest was phenomenal! Goulash, a hearty stew, was available on every menu. After running around getting our fill of the city’s history in the cold all day, goulash was right up our alley. From the goulash to the sausages, everything was incredibly full of flavor. Spice is nice!

Shoes of the Danube representing those who were forced to remove their shoes before being shot into the river during Nazi rule: Budapest, Hungary

The city’s history is prominent and at times grim. It’s difficult to imagine what life was like during WWII but several of the spots we visited in Budapest gave us an idea. Things like the bronze shoes along the Danube and the controversial statue commemorating Hungary’s time under German rule reminded us of a past time. After walking along the river, we climbed to the top of Castle Hill for an awesome vantage point of the city and were able to visit that same spot again by night… even more beautiful. Snow began to fall and we felt like we were in a winter wonderland, admiring how peaceful and grand everything was. We took a moment to look on Parliament across the river, it was so far away yet we could still see how intricate the architecture was. Definitely an unforgettable time!

Hungarian Parliament: Budapest, Hungary

Budapest has a quirky side in addition to its historical one. We stopped by one of the popular ruin bars which was once an abandoned factory. Massive, it was covered wall to wall with eclectic objects, posters, and scribblings from once visitors. Table carrots were offered with our drinks… strange we thought, but healthy and probably what we needed although we didn’t indulge! A relaxing spa day was another thing we probably needed that we found popular in Budapest. There are several thermal baths to choose from, some ancient, some trendy. We ultimately chose the largest with over 15 baths to choose from at any moment. With a couple of them outside in the near 0°C temperatures, getting from pool to pool in the cold air was an adventure!

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Szechnyi Baths: Budapest, Hungary

It’s the time of year that many people like to reflect back, whether it be good or bad. This year for us has been a packed one, memorable, exciting, and fulfilling. Spending Christmas in Lausanne, just the two of us, gave us time to sift through photos and think about everything we’ve done with our time here in Switzerland. To us we’ve experienced a lot, and are so happy not only because we’ve been able to do those things, but that our hearts and minds have grown while doing them. Happy holidays to you all!