For a sensationally nostalgic Christmas filled with the sights, smells and sounds that conjure up that special emotion in the most magical of ways, travel to the Austrian Alps.
At Zell am See, a short ride from CLC Alpine Centre, you can step into the most beautiful of Christmas card scenes… Reflections of pretty lights sparkle and dance on the lake, mountains and rooftops glisten with snow, aromas of roasted almonds and mulled wine fill the marketplace, while ancient customs entertain and delight.
To enhance the romance, you can take a steam train ride to the little mountain village of Mittersill, a pioneer ski centre with a castle and Hohe Tauern National Park visitor centre, or to the magnificent Kriml Waterfalls; the timetables include the night before Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The local Pinzgau train dates back to 1898 and is loved by narrow track railway fans.
Each Thursday, but also on December 25th and January 1st, ride a Winter Fairytale Train – modern diesel carriage comfort with a bus transfer. This tour transports visitors through an amazing white winter-scape to the famous falls for a torchlit guided walk, with musical entertainment and a pause at Hanke’s Restaurant for warming refreshments. You may even get to see beautiful red deer feeding.
Other atmosphere laden trips to be savoured are the Star-boat panoramic Sunday tours of the lake in December, with hot toddy, cookies and stunning views; you can also visit the crib on board the MS Schmittenhöhe. Also on these days a unique experience, introduced to Zell: Mountain Advent. Ride by gondola to the 2000m peak of the Schmittenhöhe and tour a chapel built in honour of the Empress Elizabeth (‘Sisi’), followed by mulled wine, cookies and music at a mountain restaurant.
Markets and mayhem
Zell’s Magical Christmas Market is open all four weekends in the run up to Christmas, its 20 alpine kiosks crammed with wooden toys and a variety of crafted gifts, with others selling delicious produce such as Christmas cookies and spiced mulled wine. Kaprun Castle is similarly bustling with Christmas themed stalls and local delicacies within its medieval walls and courtyard.
There are myriad seasonal events happening in this region of Austria, and during early December the annual ‘Krampus Procession’ sees the shaggy, gruesome creatures of legend accompany St Nicholas with raucous bell-ringing and commotion on the old streets of Zell and Kaprun. By custom, these punish naughty children!
On December 25th, a large Christmas tree is submerged in Zell’s lake, from where it is ceremoniously retrieved amid a torch-lit circle of divers to the accompaniment of festive music. Meanwhile the New Year is welcomed by the Dance of the Tresterer – dancers perform extravagantly costumed and with crowns topped with rooster feathers!
If Lapland and the North Pole are not on your Christmas list this year or for the foreseeable, the festive season enjoyed from CLC Alpine Centre could be just as memorable – maybe even more so!
photo credit: © Zell am See-Kaprun Tourismus – http://zellamsee-kaprun.com