Kittie Howard

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Christmas Shop in Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg, Austria's Old Town slept peacefully as we wandered its cobblestone streets. Colorful displays filled windows in meticulously maintained, centuries-old wooden buildings. Summer flowers spilled over flower boxes, as if to tickle our heads when we stopped to admire a window display. We were two of the expected one million tourists who would visit Salzburg this past summer.

Because of the sheer volume we'd thought to by-pass Salzburg, as we'd done on previous trips to Austria. After all, we'd reasoned, we'd explored Salzburg Back in the Day, before "The Sound of Music" had become a serious draw, when Mozart's birthplace was little more than a visit to the composer's house, then snapping Kodak pictures of the sleepy town's castle on the hill.

But we didn't. Months earlier we'd made reservations at a B&B tucked away at the end of a village lane with a convenient bus stop for the 45-minute ride into Salzburg. After a full breakfast, we boarded the bus and, as the miles slipped away, Austria's quiet countryside morphed into an international city with a traffic ring around it to ease the congestion. Fortunately, our bus stop was near the heart of the Old Town and an easy walk to the main square, where we got a cup of coffee and watched the city awaken, probably much as it has for centuries.

Merchants opened shops. Delivery vans appeared with perishable items for thirsty and hungry tourists. Not to be out done, bakeries filled ovens with delights that tempted my full tummy. The sound of horse-drawn carriages, the clippty-clop on cobblestone streets, was music to the ears.

Coffee finished, we decided to browse the shops, including stopping here at The Christmas Store, where I took the photo in the header. It's such a special stop while in Salzburg, Rick Steves highlights it in his travel program on Salzburg.

It was a magical stop. The Little Girl inside me sparkled, eyes aglow at the glittering displays of Christmas decorations, with one room leading to another as the shop deepened.

One of the clerks said they sell 100,000 egg ornaments a month, all from regulated, European Union sanctioned hatcheries and hand-painted in Austria. (The more exquisite the painting, the higher the cost.)

Upon our return to the B&B, the proprietor told us that, yes, the decorations had a "touristy" appeal, but the custom of decorated egg shells was real. Like her friends in the village, her family had its collection of eggshells with yolks elders had removed (there's a process) and kids had decorated for the Christmas tree. When one of her daughters entered the room, she sparkled as she described the first egg the daughter had painted.

From our house to yours, we hope the joy and hope of the holidays make you sparkle . . . and may all of life's blessings be yours in the New Year!

Happy New Year! May 2016 be the best ever!