Advent forest, Salzburg

The Advent market of Hellbrunn Palace — just outside of Salzburg, Austria — is open from late November until Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, our guided city tour, which included a 15-minute stop at the palace grounds (otherwise closed during the winter) was on Christmas Day.


However, the absence of any other people among the remaining structures and decorations made it easy to appreciate the lesson of a simple good idea plus repetition.



The market areas in the two entry courtyards of the Baroque palace were set within “forests” of 400 cut trees and 13,000 red balls, according to one website.


The palace was (caused to be) built by the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, Markus Sittikus, between 1612 and 1615. Its 148-acre park includes a section of trick fountains and a pavilion built for the filming of The Sound of Music. 

The Prince-Archbishop used the estate as a pleasure retreat during the long summer days, always returning to Salzburg for the night.


I hope, wherever you are today, that you are enjoying a wonderful holiday season!

Travel tips

Lovely, compact Salzburg makes a good Christmas travel destination, as long as you realize that almost everything will shut down at about 1:00 or 2:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve and not reopen again until December 27. Do your shopping, as well as visit the fortress and other museums, on the 23rd. The two Mozart homes are open on Christmas Day and the 26th, and the guided tour companies are running on those days as well.

Be sure to make dinner reservations for the 24th, 25th, and 26th well in advance (a few weeks out). Our hotel had two good restaurants, and they were so fully booked for Christmas Eve that the hotel was not providing room service that night.

However — this year, at least — the big Advent/Christmas market in the old city center was open through December 26 (although it closed early on the 24th), so it was easy to get a lunch or an early dinner of sausage and gluhwein.

Salzburg’s old city center from a pedestrian bridge. Note The Sound of Music “do-re-me” reenactment on the left side.

Also, Austria is one of the very few European countries that still allow smoking in restaurants and bars. Ask about it when booking or look around for ashtrays on the tables before sitting down if you want to avoid that sort of nostalgic experience. (Two of our three dinners were in restaurants without smoking.)

Aftermath, Stuttgart

So much of any year is flammable. . .*

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What we have learned since about 4 p.m. yesterday is that Stuttgarters really like their (self-administered) pyrotechnic devices on New Year’s Eve.

Sitting at home, the noise was terrific, particularly from about 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Venturing downtown this foggy afternoon, I was a little surprised to see everything — or anything — still standing.

The ground was littered with fireworks debris and broken Sekt bottles, but only this Konigstrasse shelter showed any real damage.

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We went inside the Alte Schloss (Old Palace) courtyard for the first time during the Christmas season, and I admired the trees on the columns and star lights.

Have a happy 2016!

*From “Burning the Old Year” by Naomi Shihab Nye.


‘Tis the season, Basel

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We spent Thanksgiving in Basel, Switzerland, arriving in time for the formal opening of the city’s Christmas market.

The lovely old city center, with many buildings from the 14th century, was mostly decorated with fir trees and lights. It was an idyllic place to start the holiday season.

Click on any thumbnail below to scroll through all my (larger) photos and captions.

‘Tis the season, Stuttgart

Cut long-stem amaryllis flowers.Almost every German city and town puts on an elaborate Christmas market during the Advent season.

The Stuttgart market — held since at least 1692 — is an excellent one. It made The Telegraph’s top 10 list this year.

As I walked around it on Thursday, taking these snapshots with my phone, I wished that I could also capture its wonderful smells: bread and pastry, sausage, and hot spiced wine (Glühwein).

Click on any thumbnail below to scroll through all my (larger) photos and captions.

Vintage landscape: Barclay Street

Barclay St. Station, late 1800s, New York City, via Library of Congress“Cut Christmas trees [at the] market in front of Barclay Street Station, New York, N.Y.,” between 1885 and 1895, by Detroit Publishing Company, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The station was part of the IRT Ninth Avenue elevated railway line and was located at Barclay and Greenwich Streets, north of  today’s Six World Trade Center.  It closed with the rest of the line in 1940.

O glitter-torn!
Let the wild wind erect
bonbonbonanzas; junipers affect
frostyfreeze turbans; iciclestuff adorn. . .

George Starbuck, from “Sonnet in the Shape of a Potted Christmas tree