A Journey across Central Europe in Winter during the Christmas season

Tripoto
13th Dec 2017

We all have a trip to Europe in our bucket list and doing a trip to Europe during the colourful Christmas season with addition of some wintry snow gives it a completely amazing dimension. Though this was not my first trip to Europe (I have been to Italy and Switzerland in September 2015), I was still always excited about going back to Europe, see the vibrant Christmas Market and enjoy some time in the snow.

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The route of my itinerary

My plan was to fly in to Vienna and fly out from Munich and follow a clockwise path across multiple countries. The cities that I stayed overnightI where Vienna, Budapest, Krakow, Prague and Munich. I did few day trips as well; Salzburg from Vienna, Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum from Krakow, Dresden from Prague, Neuschwanstein Castle, Oberammergau & Linderhof Palace and Zugspitze(the highest mountain peak of Germany) from Munich. All these places are quite popular tourist destinations in Europe, but in winter(in December) with the festive season the cities become more colourful despite having dull weather and shorter days.

Vienna

The so called easternmost city of the west, Vienna is a magnificent city to visit during the Christmas season. There are multiple Christkindlmarkt or Christmas Markets across the city. The markets are decorated colourfully, colourful decorating items, showpieces, antiques and souvenirs are being sold, delicious local Christmas delicacies are sold in several stalls and along with glühwein(or mulled wine) fills up the atmosphere with a warm smell. Tourists and locals alike flock to the Christmas Market. I found the Christmas Markets in Vienna to be the best among the cities I visited.

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The largest Christkindlmarkt in Vienna at Rathausplatz
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A stall at the Christmas Market at Schönbrunn Palace Gardens
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Glühwein being served in a cute little Christmas special mug

A trip to Vienna is never complete without eating the famous Wiener Schnitzel, the original Sacher Torte and attending a music concert. I was lucky enough to do all of them.

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The famous Wiener Schnitzel (a kind of Veal Cutlet, which actually originated from Milan)
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John Lennon wrote in his song, The ballad of John and Yoko - "Made a lightning trip to Vienna/Eating chocolate cake in a bag". It was a reference made to this famous delicious cake from the place it was first made. Need I say more?

For more photos from Vienna, check out my photo series: https://www.tripoto.com/trip/vienna-and-christmas-markets-photo-story-5aa15a1d674f7

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Vienna, from the top of St. Stephen's Catherdral

Salzburg

There are a very few cities that have that feeling of taken out from a fairy tale, with well preserved old world charm despite hordes of tourists visiting. I visited Salzburg as a day trip from Vienna and the journey took around 2 and a half hours one way. Since the city is small, it was not much difficult covering almost the entire city(mainly the old town) by foot. The city of famous classical musician Wolfgang Amadeus is a charming city - with beautiful baroque architecture, fountains and colourful lanes. The river Salzach flowing between along with the Alps in the surrounding truly makes it a charming city. The city centre is the best preserved city centre north of the Alps.

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The Salzach river, from which the city get its name
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A vibrant stall at a Christmas Market in Salzburg

The city also got some fame from the 1965 American Musical drama film(adaptation of a 1959 stage musical), The Sound of Music which was based in Salzburg.

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Mozartsteg, Salzburgerdom and Hohensalzburg Fortress

The fortress of Salzburg which sits on top of the hill is probably one of the best preserved Medieval Castle in all of Europe

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Hohensalzburg Fortress
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"The hills are alive with the sound of music" - what a magical view from the top of the fortress

You will find some amazing display of Baroque architecture in Salzburg. The Salzburger Dom or Salzburg Cathedral is a wonderful example of that.

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Inside the Salzburg Cathedral
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The Christmas Market in front of the main Cathedral
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This was one of my typical meals on the go during my trip - some delicious sausage, a bread and warm cup of glühwein to keep me warm

The colourful lane of Getreidegaße is one of the iconic spots in Salzburg. Though it remains crowded with lots and lots of tourists, but it is a must visit spot for the unique wrought iron guild signs outside the shops and housing the birthplace of the cities favourite son - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

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Sea of people in Getreidegaße - a famous pedestrian zone in Salzburg
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Mozart's Birthplace
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Stroll beside the Salzach River
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The beautiful Mirabell Palace...If you remember The Sound of Music, you will definitely remember this frame, Maria and the Von Trapp children.

For more photos from Salzburg, check out my photo story: https://www.tripoto.com/trip/salzburg-the-city-of-mozart-and-the-sound-of-music-a-photo-story-5aa15f32cc9a6

Budapest

Situated on the banks of Danube in Central Hungary with hilly Buda to the west and Pest to the east, the colourful city of Budapest (or the twin cities of Buda and Pest) exchanged many hands since the Hungarians settled in the area around 10th Century AD. The Mongols plundered and destroyed both the cities in 13th Century. It was rebuilt again, before the Ottomans captured in 16th Century and built several mosques and baths across the city. After around 150 years of Ottoman rule, the Austrians conquered the city and it was a part of Austria-Hungary till end of World War I.

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The Majestic Hungarian Parliament Building

The architecture of Pest is heavily influenced from the Austrians, since most of the buildings were built during that time. The city went through terrors from the Nazis and the Communists through the 20th Century until the fall of Soviet Union.

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Buda Castle and Danube river

Apart from all this, Budapest has the 2nd largest Synagogue in the world(largest outside Israel), the 2nd oldest underground railway system(M1 line) in the world after London and was home to one of the greatest footballer of all time Ferenc Puskás.

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Iconic Szechenyi Chain Bridge
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Christmas Market at Vorosmarty Square

Budapest is also a great city for food lovers, with the Goulash and Langos being must try. The Great Market Hall was one of my favourite places during my stay in Budapest.

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Lángos
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Beef Goulash
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Dohany Street Synagogue - the largest synagogue outside Israel

Fore more photos from Budapest, check out my photo series: https://www.tripoto.com/trip/budapest-the-pearl-of-the-danube-5aa36fdc26299

Krakow

Though the capital of Poland moved to Warsaw more than 400 years ago, Krakow on the banks of river Vistula still remains the cultural, artistic and historic centre of Poland. There are beautiful churches, amazing restaurants, grand architecture, Jewish heritage and museums across the city.

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St. Mary's Basilica, Krakow
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Stare Miasto

Among the first 12 UNESCO World Heritage Sites there are two from Krakow - Wieliczka Salt Mine and Krakow's Historic Center.

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A entire church carved out from rock salts by miners. A wonder!!!

During the World War II, the Jewish population was segregated into the walled area known as the Krakow Ghetto, from where they were sent to nearby Nazi extermination camps at Auschwitz. German businessman and industrialist Oskar Schindler employed thousands of Jewish people from the Ghetto in his enamelware factory and eventually saving lives of around 1200 Jews.

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Oskar Schindler's desk

A visit to the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial as a day trip from Krakow is must. It is one of the most terrifying places that I have ever been to.

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Railway line leading to the 'selection zone' at Birkenau

I had the best food and saw few of the best Christmas Market stalls in Krakow.

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Food getting prepared at Stare Miasto
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Pierogi Smażone - fried Polish dumplings

Ending on a sweet note from E Wedel's Chocolate Parlour.

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For more photos, check out my photo series on Krakow: https://www.tripoto.com/trip/krakow-the-cultural-capital-of-poland-a-photo-story-5aa41448eabfe

Prague

From Baroque and Gothic buildings to colourful Art Nouveau facades, from magnificent bridges to an old world charm with its cobbled streets, from some of the best beers in Europe to city full of artists and musicians - Prague is definitely one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.

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Beautiful cobbled streets
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Colourful facades
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Church of Our Lady before Týn
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Narodni Divaldo or the National Theatre hall at night

One of the very few major Central European cities to escape damages from World War II bombings, Prague is one of the best preserved cities in Europe. The Prague Castle is also the largest Castle in the world.

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Terracotta rooftops of Prague from Prague Castle
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St Vitus Church

There are very few bridges in the world that can be as iconic as the Charles Bridge in Prague.

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Charles Bridge

Czech Republic boasts of being the biggest beer consuming country in the world. It is not surprising when you have some fantastic beers available.

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No wonder the capital of Czech Republic and the historic capital of Bohemia is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe.

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Sunset from Letna Park

For more photos from Prague, check out my photo series: https://www.tripoto.com/trip/prague-the-city-of-hundred-spires-a-photo-story-5aa411fb63f98

Dresden

I decided to visit Dresden in Saxony, Germany as a day trip from Prague. My main interests were to see the beautiful Christmas Market, the Strietzelmarkt (one of the oldest in Germany, this was the 583rd year) and to see one of the cities that got completely ravaged by the bombers during World War II, but restored and rebuilt itself back to its old glory.

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Weihnachtsmarkt an der Frauenkirche
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583 Dresdener Striezelmarkt
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In Christmas mode

The city rebuilt itself from crumbles after World War II.

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charming!!!
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Glockenspiel at Zwinger

Munich

No trip to Germany is complete without a trip to the capital of Bavaria, Munich. It is the most cultural city in Germany. With magnificent architectures in the city that is visible from the Baroque palaces, great museums, theatres and treasury shows a great cultural heritage.

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Crown Jewel at the Residenz Museum
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Nymphenburg Palace

The Viktualienmarkt in the heart of Munich is also one of the finest open air market square I have seen in Europe, though my visit was marked with horrible weather and heavy snowfall.

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Viktualienmarkt

Visiting the famous beer halls such as Hofbrauhaus and Augustiner Keller where some of my best moments in Munich.

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Legendary beers at the legendary Hofbrauhaus

For car lovers, there is the BMW Museum in Munich. I was impressed by some of the collection there especially the Art Series.

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BMW Art Car designed by Andy Warhol

There are several day trip options from Munich. I went for the Castle Tour on one day and another day trip to Zugspitze(the highest mountain of Germany). Salzburg is also another option(though I already covered that from Vienna).

The Castle Tour took us to a quaint little Alpine town of Oberammergau, which is famous for its Passion Play and schnapps from nearby Ettal monastery.

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Blend of winter and fall at Oberammergau (Upper Ammer Valley)

Then we went to King Ludwig II of Bavaria's Linderhof Palace and Neuschwanstein Castle(no wonder Walt Disney got inspired by the design).

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Neuschwanstein Castle
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Linderhof Palace

The day trip to Zugspitze was like a finale to the epic trip. With snow covered mountains and hills all around, clear blue sky and an amazing 360-degree view where mountains from 4 countries(Austria, Germany, Italy and Switzerland) visible it was a perfect way to end the trip. The cable car ride from Eibsee to Zugspitze(new record breaking cable car) was also another great experience. The only regret I have is that I didn't knew how to ski, otherwise it would have been a great experience to have skied in the beautiful slopes of Zugspitse.

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The new cable car from Eibsee to Zugspitze
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A viewing platform at Zugspitze from above
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Mountains from Austria, Germany, Italy and Switzerland - all in a frame

For more photos from Munich check out my photo series: https://www.tripoto.com/trip/munich-bavarian-castles-and-the-alps-a-photo-series-5aa41b2c308ee

PS: I completed this trip with a cost of Rs. 90,000 (€1,200) for 18 days, all expenses included only excluding flight and visa fees.

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