Cold Weather, Hot Wine, and Our 2nd Christmas in Europe

Happy holidays everyone (a bit late from us)! ‘Tis the season for a little hot wine and the smell of chestnuts in the air. This year our time was split between Vienna, Prague, and Lausanne. Being abroad for the holiday season has its pros and cons no doubt. Cities transform into winter wonderlands full of lights and markets on every corner. Vienna and Prague were no different! There are moments where we stop and think, “I will miss this when we leave”. The way places feel during the holidays here is one of them! Sure, you see street lamps adorn in lights and a square full of markets back in the States (which we love) but it’s one of the FEW things that feels bigger here. Coziness is amplified. It’s all easy on the eyes but it doesn’t stop us from missing family.

Imperial Palace (Hofburg): Vienna, Austria

Being one of the places we plan to return, we took it easy in Vienna and left quite a bit to do like visiting the opera house for example. We anticipated spending a little more time than usual in our accommodation so we decided to get a spacious one fitted with a sauna! It was welcome after coming in from the cold. We didn’t stay in the entire time though! Veal wiener schnitzel is one of the most popular dishes in Vienna so we of course stopped for this. Locals prefer to top it with cranberry sauce. The sweet and tangy potato salad is another one of those things we think about missing when we go back…it’s not easy to recreate. A big bowl of this could make anyone happy!

Austrian National Library: Vienna, Austria

One reason the holiday spirit felt so strong was because we couldn’t walk far without running into a market. They’re smaller but spread out throughout the cities. All are fairly similar, offering handmade trinkets and delicious foods. The backdrops to some of them though are beautiful. Vienna City Hall Park was converted into a massive skating rink with paths winding in between the trees. It was the perfect time to stop for a mug of rum and be entertained by the range of skaters! Another spot to note, if you’re a book lover (or not) and happen to be in Vienna the State Hall of the National Library is an amazing sight! It’s home to more than 200,000 books, some integral to Austrian history.

St. Vitus Cathedral: Prague, Czech Republic

It wasn’t the whitest of Christmases but we did have some snow on our way into Prague! No offense to Vienna but this was our favorite between the two cities. Its beauty was quick to notice and never ending. It’s always a pleasant surprise when we pop in somewhere we’ve heard nothing of and love it. It’s easy to check into TripAdvisor to see where the nearest, highest rated spot is but going somewhere on a whim has proven to be just as great if not greater. We found some great cafes that we would return to.

Tending to the special “Prague Ham”: Prague, Czech Republic

The Prague Castle is a must do. Walking up, we caught some great views! It’s known as the city of a hundred spires and seeing if from above it’s clear why. The architecture is something to see. I don’t think we’ve ever unintentionally run into so many notable things while walking. We timed it so we would come across the popular astronomical clock at the end of the hour to watch it dance as the bells rang. It’s in the square which is the photo of Prague we’ve seen the most of. We climbed the tower to see the view for ourselves and although busy it was worth it. At 75 feet, the Christmas tree in the square had to be the biggest we’ve ever seen! They do it right in Prague.

Staroměstské náměstí (Old Town Square): Prague, Czech Republic

We spent the actual holidays in Lausanne. Everything shuts down so planning what you may need is key…no last minute Wal-Mart runs here! We spent the New Year celebrating with friends in a small get together, filled with some amazing foods. Our friends who graciously had us over are Italian and Russian so we had an array of things! Smoked swordfish, caviars, tuna steaks, and oysters got the party started. It’s tradition in Russia to have a dumpling soup, one of the dumplings filled with pepper. Who ever gets the peppered one has an awful experience in the moment but good luck for the rest of the year. Andrew was the lucky one! It was interesting to hear how different the traditions were. Not everyone shares a kiss at the stroke of midnight like we assumed! We love learning these cultural differences, especially when it comes from someone we know personally. It’s the busiest time of the year for Andrew workwise so our next big trip will be when we visit the States! My good friend Marcie will be meeting me for a quick weekend in Amsterdam. Excited to see how the city feels in contrast to our spring trip! We can’t wait to spend some time with everyone back home. Until then we will let loose on the ski slopes and hold it down in Switzerland!