Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Glædelig Jul!

So in an effort to blog about our fun times in a more timely manner, I bring you...CHRISTMAS 2014!!!  Wherein, David and I take the train south to Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic for our first Christmas outside the USA.

So, first off, traveling on the train, even with 2 suitcases and a giant bag with snowboards and gear, was about 5 million times less stressful than flying not to mention seriously cheaper.  For real.  Our train out of Aalborg was at 6:00am.  We left our apartment at about 5:48am, walked the 5 minutes down to the train station, and boarded the train with enough time to store our bags and find a good seat.  No security checkpoint, no extra bag fees, and no stale airplane air.  Trains -> highly recommended.

Note from David: the train does have its disadvantages - the main one being finding a place to put your gigantic/heavy snowboard bag on each train.

First stop...Munich!  On our way to Austria, we took a one-night stopover in Munich to check out the Christmas market action and fill up on some Bavarian food and drink.  Shout out to our Munich Airbnb hosts Nadine and Mark who gave us a bunch of great recommendations to make the most of the short stay.  Their apartment was conveniently located around the corner from the Augustiner brewery where they recommended that we dive into Bavarian food and beer culture.  The place seats something like 500 people on long tables with benches where you're encouraged to find an empty spot and make new friends.  While they probably had an English menu somewhere, there wasn't one on the table so I asked the waiter to bring me whatever he recommended and ended up with a giant leg of meat and a huge potato dumpling doused in gravy.  David picked something with a word he recognized "schnitzel", and neither one of us was disappointed.  Afterwards, we hit up the Tollwood Winter Festival (another Mark and Nadine recommendation) to check out the modern version of a Christmas market complete with vegan Christmas food and giant pig statues.  But no German Christmas market (even an untraditional one) is complete without glühwein.

Giant pig art at Tollwood Festival
Glühwein at Tollwood Festival

For the traditional Christmas market experience, we headed to Marienplatz the next day.  The Marienplatz Christkindlmarkt has its roots in the 14th century (or so the Internet tells me) and was oozing with carved ornaments, caramelized almonds, and of course more glühwein (tastefully served in actual mugs rather than styrofoam cups).  With some unexpected good timing, we showed up at Marienplatz just in time to watch the glockenspiel chime and dance.

If you look close, you can see the statues that
dance around when clock chimes at 11am.
The red cone is filled with caramelized almonds,
a Christmas market staple.

Santa Claus dressed as a priest handing out oranges with a
sleigh pulled by angels?  I'm sure this tradition makes sense to
people who actually know what's going on.

Sustained by caramelized almonds and pretzels, we tore ourselves away from Christmas land and caught our next train headed towards Austria and our first European snowboarding experience!  When planning this trip, we basically had no idea what were good versus not as good snowboarding places around Europe, but after some extensive Google-ing and soliciting recommendations from anyone who had an opinion, we settled on the village of Mayrhofen in the Tirol area of Austria.  What it lacked in early season snow fall, it made up for in mountain majesty and traditional Tirolean charm (and enough snowmaking that we still got 4 days on the slopes).  In hindsight, we should have started the trip just a few days later because it started snowing on our last day there.

We spent Christmas day snowboarding at the Hintertuxer glacier, singing Christmas songs as often as possible, and opening the little gifts we bought for each other the day before in Mayrhofen.  After an unsuccessful search for slippers, I got David a sweater.  He was way more creative and got me a fresh-baked pretzel, Mayrhofen hazelnut schnapps, and soap shaped like a pickle.

We probably could have spent another week in Mayrhofen snowboarding during the day and watching Breaking Bad at night, but we managed to say goodbye and headed back to Munich for a few more days of Bavarian goodness.  We braved the snow (yeah, it snowed after we left the ski area) to check out the Olympic park, Museum Brandhorst, and the church where the devil left his footprint.  The cold prompted us to stop in a donut shop we passed by and led us to experience the pastry revelation known as "the cronut".  And David tried something called a "pork knuckle" at another Munich beer hall.

Olympic park covered in snow

The last leg of the trip started with a 5 hour bus ride through the snow to Prague for New Year's Eve fun...
But this is where I have to stop since David has claimed that blog post (and claims he'll actually write it!).  Glædelig Jul og godt nytår!

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