Thursday, December 31, 2015

First visit to Austria through Graz and its Advent market!

I've only dreamed of going to Austria since I was 12 or so, not that long really... ;o) So I was extra excited when a work meeting got organized in the city of Graz in Austria and I realized I'd finally get to make that trip! Not much time to visit (too much work, needed back at the office), but at least I'd get a glimpse of Graz (plus a day in Vienna!).

Adventmaerkte in front of Graz City Hall
2 full work days in Graz, and all I was able to visit was the Adventmaerkte (Advent Market) in front of City Hall on our way out to dinner one night! But that's ok, it was a nice long walk to get to it from our hotel, and another walk to our dinner spot... enough for me to see that Graz is a city worth visiting at some future point (corroborated by photos shared by a colleague who arrived a day before and got to spend it visiting properly).

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmassy travels: delightful Christmas ambiance in the markets of Austria and Germany

Three years ago I went all out Christmas on both blogs, and posted here a series on the various Christmas markets I'd visited in Belgium (Liège and Brussels), the Netherlands (Maastricht) and of course Germany (Aachen and Cologne). There's really something magical about those markets... a concentrated dose of Christmas cheer, plus great food and drink! They're a great place to hang out with friends when it's in your own city, and they're fun to visit and do some of your holiday shopping (when visiting some of the really nice ones). And boy do I miss them!!! Each year, when December rolls in, I get all nostalgic for the northern European Christmas Markets... Alicante is a great place to live, but when it's still around 20ºC and not much in the way of decoration and holiday music... it doesn't feel much like you're leading up to Christmas!

German Christmas markets are usually considered the best, so this year I wanted to take advantage of a 4 day December weekend in Spain to head north and catch the ambiance while visiting some friends who are in their last month of a 3 1/2 year stay in Mainz. Since I've tried to organize a trip to visit them twice before, but something always got in the way, I didn't take any risks this time and bought the tickets back in September! Little did I know back then that my job would be sending me to Austria and Germany the week before that trip, right at the beginning of Advent and the Christmas market season... 
And I think I might have a little nuts with all the Christmas markets and glühwein in those extended weekends!!! The proof: