Christmas markets make for both pleasant diversions while running errands in the city, and as destinations in their own right. I am rather partial to the AltWiener Christkindlmarkt and the market nearby at Freyung public square.  The markets capture my attention for their displays, and strolling amidst the setting of Schottenkirche and several beautiful city palaces makes me happy.

This week friends and I paid a visit to another old friend, the Bratislava Christmas markets. Simplicity reigns with the city’s two small markets, leaving plenty of opportunity to appreciate the eclectic mix of fading Baroque and modern architecture, and sample unusual cuisine.


Duck fat crepes, anyone?

This week I also made a new friend, the Palais Niederösterreich Adventmarkt. The market was set in several of the palace rooms and showcased the bounty of Lower Austria in grand style.

I declared it impossible to leave this market without a gift for everyone on your holiday list. Birch Water is the new Coconut Water, I was informed, only with 20% alcohol.

Whisky, however, never goes out of fashion.

The flavor of Austrian cuisine tends more toward the savory, so I was pleasantly surprised to see so many scharf (spicy) offerings.

Level 1 (sweet) to Level 12 (spicy!). A sauce for every taste.

Saffron spice collected from crocus flowers is used in Gugelhupf, a classic Austrian cake and one of our favorites.

The burning of blessed incense is a tradition associated with Epiphany; the selection from which to choose was extensive and impressive.

Herr Blaich explained how one of my favorite oils, Kürbiskernol (pumpkin seed oil) is made.

Ever so resourceful. Who knew fish skin could become a fashion accessory?

I am also convinced that there is not a grass, or flower, or plant that can not be processed into either schnapps or a jam in this country, and sometimes both!

To old friends, and to new friends. Prost!