Monday, November 23, 2015

Weekend Roundup. Perchten, Palaces, and Plenty of Food

It is no secret that we like to venture out on the weekends; and with Christmas markets opening across the region, the weekends seem to plan themselves!

Saturday's itinerary took us to Schloss Krumbach, a former Palffy palace tucked into the Koralpe range of the eastern alps, and to the southwest of Vienna. The palace, like so many, is a wedding destination hotel; there is a palace chapel for the ceremony, beautiful rooms for the reception, and guest rooms for all of the celebrants. Reaching this particular schloss required a 16% grade switchback drive, followed by a short walk from the parking up to the grounds. The effort was worth it.

Perchten roamed the courtyard; while on the inside, the first two floors were devoted to a market for lovers of handcrafted items.

 The small and elegant chapel.
The market and its setting, combined with beautiful scenery on the drive home, made for an ideal Saturday outing.
On Sunday we went east to Slovakia. The International Women's Club of Bratislava was hosting its annual bazaar in the old market hall, and so we joined hundreds of others in tasting our way around the world, from Kimchee to Carob Soda to Egyptian Christmas cookies and a lot more in between.
Pani Puri, hollow fried Indian bread balls filled with spicy lentils and coriander chutney, is a popular street snack in India.
Ebelskivers on offer from Holland's table.
 At the American table, it was Popcorn and Candy Canes. A little odd, we thought, given the effort put forth by the other countries.
Shots of vodka from the Russian Table...
...and "shots" of Cabbage Soup from the Slovakia Rotary Club table, too.
 Near the old market hall was Bratislava's Christmas market.  Though we were quite stuffed from our international sampling, it was too hard to resist a shared Placky, the deep fried shredded potato pancake and a sausage.

 Once upon a time, seeing whole animals being roasted would have surprised me. In Central Europe, though, it's just a regular occurrence. Usually the animals are pigs; this was our first sighting of an entire bull being roasted.
The route home through Austria's Marchfeld, the fertile plains that contribute most of its fruits and vegetables passes near to a number of palaces worth visiting, and even more so when they are aglow with a holiday market. Schloss Eckartsau is a former Imperial hunting lodge, and also served as the residence of the last Hapsburgs, Emperor Karl and Empress Zita, before they left for exile in 1919.
The market theme was Imperial Christmas, and the main salons were perhaps the most beautifully decorated of any market we have visited. The handcrafted items on offer were among the more exquisite we have seen, as well, and for the first time ever we purchased several ornaments to enhance our own Christmas tree.

The Hirschenzimmer (Deer Room). Did I mention this was a former imperial hunting lodge?
 In the courtyard there was, naturally Glühwein to warm one's spirit, along with this most unusual "Imperial Selfie Station" that we could not figure out.

Our lovely weekend ended with a fire in the fireplace at home, and a Beef Stroganov simmering on the cooktop. The most wonderful time of the year, indeed.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Weekend Roundup. Meat and Markets.

Saturday dawned sunny and bright, and thus Tony and I needed no further invitation to head out somewhere. One of my news feeds mentioned a festival somewhere nearby in Slovakia, and that was good enough for us.  It turned out that the town was celebrating the autumn kill, or something (we don't speak Slovak!) Though everything on the grill smelled wonderful, eating barbecued animal parts at 1030 in the morning wasn't for us.

The village was also big on roadside stands for pickled cabbage, known in these parts as, "Kapusta."
So we motored back to Bratislava, knowing that the Farmer's Market at the old market hall would not disappoint. Indeed, a few bottles of cider, and some sausage and sweets, made their way home with us. No Kapusta, though. My team just doesn't eat the pickled cabbage.

Lunch at a Slovak pub. Potato pancakes, Halusky with Bacon, and Salt-and-Pepper Chicken Wings. Just a few, delicious, calories.

On Sunday the forecast cold and rainy weather made its appearance, so we disappeared from Vienna out along the Wachau Valley to Schloss Leiben, to investigate its (indoor) Christmas Market, listed as one of Lower Austria's nicest. The Lower Austria folks were right.
Dozens of warm and Christmas-y, beautifully decorated rooms filled with a mad variety of handcrafted wares and farmstand offerings kept us busy for a couple of hours.

Of course, the one handmade and painted porcelain piece I wanted (the sleigh and reindeer) was not for sale. But the kindly gentleman artist was happy to allow me a photo.

On the way home, past new and familiar castle ruins. 

Later on Sunday the skies cleared, in perfect time to combine Clayton Theodore's afternoon constitutional with a visit to the Weihnachtsmarkt in Türkenschanzpark across the street from our home.

Someone is spoiled. We know.
The market is small and cozy, and perhaps a bit hipster in its offerings.
(Spanish Bean Pot with Chorizo)
(Vegan Vegetable Chick Pea Pot)
Cheers for another wonderful weekend!