By Julie LucasDecember 18, 2012
INNSBRUCK, Austria- Whether you have been in the Vicenza military community one month or 10 years, the Outdoor Recreation trip to the Innsbruck Christmas Markets will offer a variety for your senses.
With a short bus ride of four hours (with a stop on the way) you arrive in one of Austria's picture postcard cities. The downtown area has the typical stone-lined, curving streets you are familiar with in central Europe. Innsbruck settled in the valley of the Inn river and surrounded by Alpine mountains, offers five different market areas. If traveling by bus you will walk through a forest garden and approach what evokes a fairytale of a guarded medieval city. After walking 100 feet, you will be greeted by one of the more popular sights in the city, the Golden Roof. Chances are, you won't be able to see the building façade for the huge Christmas tree with more than 1,300 lights, marking the first market. The first thing I'd recommend is finding a Gluhwein or punch stand and getting yourself a cup of warm spiced wine, known in Italy as vin brulè. I was surprised at how many different varieties there are: regular, white, light (less sugar) and non-alcohol for children. You will notice people walking around with colorful coffee cups. To get your own cup it will cost around ,2,80 and a deposit of ,2, which you will get back if you return the cup. I chose to keep my cups as cheap keepsakes.
Once you get a warm beverage, now you can focus on the wares for sale. The more popular items are Christmas tree ornaments and decorations. Some are made of wood, cut into intricate designs. Some stalls have glass balls, painted with scenes for winter or religious. If you didn't prepare well for bad weather, you can easily pick up some wool gloves, sweaters or hats. Numerous gifts can be purchased ranging from home decorations to food. Cheese stands, pastries and Speck are just a few of the foods that can be purchased to take home for later.
Other markets in the area include one just off the river that has pony rides for children, a giant carousel, puppet theater and story time. The modern market offers glass, crystal and is located in the heart of the city. The Panoramic Market is a distance but an experience getting there. You will have a great view of the city after riding a cable car to 2,256 meters.
At this point, your stomach might start to rumble from the aroma of fried food wafting in the air. If the weather is agreeable, you can pick up fried potatoes, wursts and other meats, a traditional pretzel, even cups of warm soup. When traveling I like to eat typical local cuisine and treat myself. I usually duck down alleyways to find off the beaten path hole-in-the-wall places. After a fantastic lunch of schnitzel, potatoes, salad with a crisp Riesling, I was ready to battle the crowds again. Later in the afternoon, I highly recommend trying some of the many desserts available, including an apple strudel, packaged to take home for less than ,10.
The side street paths are called Fairytale and Giants Alley and are decorated up high above the doorways with famous children's stories, such as Snow White. If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle, Innsbruck has an Alpine Zoo and an ice skating rink.
More than 180 stalls will remain open until Jan. 6. Upcoming weekend events include singing groups and concerts on the weekends. If you don't have plans for New Year's, a fireworks show will be set off Dec. 30 and Dec. 31. An international DJ will be spinning at the biggest indoor New Year's Eve party with a laser show.
For more information about market hours, maps, lodging and all other questions visit, http://www.christkindlmarkt.cc/1-1-Home.html or http://www.innsbruck.info/en/home.html (both pages in English) or go to ODR and ask about other upcoming trips. If you haven't skied in Europe, they offer trips every weekend to a different destination.