What is so special about Christmas markets, one would reasonably ask, that an otherwise rational man would travel across six time zones and brave freezing weather for a whole week just to see them. Don’t they mean crowds and trinkets, for which aforementioned rational man has no particular affection? Don’t they huddle in front of architectural sights and therefore spoil the views that the said man likes so much to photograph?
True! On the surface, I should abhor these seasonal obstructions to my enjoyment of a great city. And yet, the colors, the vibrancy, the communal spirit so present at these fairs have always attracted me.
Furthermore, my experience suggests that the best such markets are found in the countries that were historically parts of German or Austrian empires. I have no idea what’s up with the Germans – they are by a long shot no more pious than, say, Italians – but it is in Germany and Austria and Czechia and Hungary where best Christmas fairs are found. Other European countries do them too, but not to the same extent and vigor.
In Vienna, for instance, there are six large Christmas markets just inside and around the main ring. They all, in the end, sell roughly the same assortment of goods and provide roughly the same types of entertainment and food and drink. But string them together in a walking itinerary – and you get a tour of the city as a bonus. Or walk in a random direction and eventually hit a market, make a beeline for the glühwein stand, and warm yourself up a bit from the cold temperatures – also a winning move in my book.
We have already seen a nighttime picture of the market on Rathausplatz. Here are the daytime views of it.
Not that many people, I hear you say. Looks not all that crowded. Well, that was a Thursday. Here is a similar view on a Sunday.
But, of course, it all comes to real life in the evenings. On Maria-Theresien-Platz, for instance, the biggest market in town is accompanied by the light-show on the façade of the Museum of Natural History.
The next few shots attempt to capture some of the market stalls in their entirety, admittedly not too successfully. Let the relative absence of customers not confuse you – I waited out moments of slower traffic and did some post-processing to remove people where I could.
And here is a bunch of close-ups of the wares sold at the fair.
Unusual teas and various teaware.
Vases and decorative glass-blown flowers at the same stall.
All kinds of little snowmen.
Gingerbread cookies. The sentiments range from I love you to Mom is the best to My sunshine to My dream prince and so on.
More tree ornaments.
Colorful animals that I assume can double as tree decorations.
Glass candle-holders, among other stuff.
Nontraditional candles at the same stall.
More candle-holders, of the incredibly colorful kind.
Yet more tree ornaments.
This is obviously just a very small sampling. Combination of cold weather, crowded spaces, and my general lack of skills in the area of product photography limited the amount of pictures available for display here. Nonetheless, I hope it gave you a taste of the explosion of visual senses that are the European Christmas markets.