Why We Love a Good Christmas Market

We love Christmas markets! 

The festivities, the food, the comraderie, the glühwein – put it all together and we’ve got ourselves a great way to ring in the season!

But really — you ask — how different can they be? Surely one Christmas market is the same as the next? 

Our reply? Not by a loooooooong shot! CONTINUE READING >>

The GypsyNesters love Christmas Markets! Let us show you the best ones in the world!

We love Christmas markets!

The festivities, the food, the comraderie, the glühwein – put it all together and we’ve got ourselves a great way to ring in the season!

But really — you ask — how different can they be? Surely one Christmas market is the same as the next?

Our reply? Not by a loooooooong shot!

Vienna, Austria

The Christmas Market in Vienna Austria

Arguably the oldest of the markets, the Vienna December advent market was the predecessor to the modern Christkindlmarkets, or Christ child markets, and is said to have started way back in 1294.

The idea spread across the Holy Roman Empire, and they remain most popular in the German-speaking regions of Europe.

Hand blown glass ornaments at the Christmas Market in Vienna

As with most of the cities we have visited there are several markets scattered about town, but the Wiener Christkindlmarkt in the Rathausplatz, the plaza in front of the town hall, is the city’s main market.

We were thrilled to wander through the descendant of the world’s first.

Sausages in Vienna's Christmas marke

Selling gluhwien at Vienna's Christmas Market

Local delicacies are a big part of experiencing the markets, so of course we had to sample some from the selection of sausages, (that makes them Vienna sausages, right?) and a steaming cup of mulled wine known as glühwein.

The name is said to come from a glowing hot iron used to warm the wine, or maybe it’s because this staple at the markets really hits the spot when it comes to keeping the shoppers warm and glowing.

See more photos of the Vienna Christmas Market!

See our entire adventure in Vienna

Salzburg, Austria

The Salzburg Christmas Market in Austria

While not the oldest, like its Austrian neighbor, Salzburg has perhaps the biggest and best Christmas market we’ve visited in the country.

Food and drink are certainly available, but this market has much more to offer in the way of local crafts and unique gift items.

Mozart Chocolates in Salzburg, Austria

In addition to Salzburg's famous Mozart chocolates we bought a gewürzstrauss, a traditional spice bouquet that makes anyplace smell like Christmas

In addition to the city’s famous Mozart chocolates, we bought a gewürzstrauss, the traditional spice bouquet that makes anyplace smell like Christmas.

See our entire adventure in Salzburg!

Passau, Germany

The Passau, Germany Christmas Markiet

In Germany we visited the Passau Christmas market at the square in front of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a baroque church from 1688.

Here we discovered something new and truly inspired, the half-meter würst.

The infamous half metre wurst in Passau Germany

Wow, that’s nearly two feet of sausage!

Did we (meaning David) die and go to heaven?

Unfortunately we had just eaten a huge lunch, so we had no place to put half a meter of würstle.

The half meter wurst selfie of Passau Germany

That minor detail was easily overcome when Sausage Boy devised a würst-case scenario, and snuck his way back a little later to partake of the best of the würst, or at least the biggest.

Sometimes he can be his own würst enemy.

The quest culminated in a legendary half-meter-würst selfie.

See more photos of the Passau Christmas Market and the full story of the infamous würst!

See our entire adventure in Passau!

Bratislava, Slovakia

The Christmas Market in front of Old Town Hall in Bratislava, Slovakia

The Hlavne namestie, main square, is filled with booths, mostly selling food and drink, and tables under small shelters where the purchases can be enjoyed

While the markets are most common in the German speaking world, we also found a fun example in Bratislava, Slovakia.

The Hlavne namestie, or main square, was filled with vendors, mostly selling food and drink, and tables under small shelters where the purchases could be enjoyed.

A very social situation and we were more than happy to jump into the middle of it.

We also gave zemiakové placky with cheese a try. This is a pancake made of shredded potatoes, crisp on the outside and chewy within, covered in a layer of tangy white sheep cheese.

We gave zemiakové placky with cheese a try. This is a pancake made of shredded potatoes — crisp on the outside and chewy within — covered in a layer of mild, yet tangy white sheep cheese.

We gave it two gloved thumbs up, very tasty and stick-to-your-ribs on a chilly December evening.

Mulled wine at the Christmas Market in Bratislava, Slovakia

Nearly everyone warmed themselves with varene vino, the local version of mulled wine, but in a twist we hadn’t seen before, hot white wine seemed just as popular as the red.

After giving this regional variety a try, our verdict was that while delicious, it lacked the superior cockle-warming qualities of the red. But the fact that we made our purchase from a vino vender named “The Flinstones” more than made up for it.

Yaba-daba-do (we think)!?!

See more photos of the Bratislava Christmas Market!

See our entire adventure in Bratislava

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest's Christmas Market

Budapest Christmas Market

In Budapest, food also stole the spotlight.

On the Pest side of the city we checked out the main Christmas market, a large collection of stands and kiosks all decked out in holiday style.

While there were plenty of booths selling handcrafted gifts, food — lots of food — was certainly the main event.

Food at the Christmas Market in Budapest, Hungary

töltött káposzta, cabbage stuffed with meat and rice and served with a paprika sauce and sour cream. Exceedingly Hungarian! We also couldn't resist a huge smoked meat dumpling with sauerkraut.

After scouting out all the offerings we ordered a töltött káposzta, that’s cabbage stuffed with meat and rice, served with a paprika sauce and sour cream.

Exceedingly Hungarian!

We also couldn’t resist a huge smoked meat dumpling with sauerkraut.

Veronica drinks a cup of steaming hot Glühwein to warm our body and soul

To wash it all down, and to stay warm too, we tried the Hungarian version of glühwein, which is called forralt bor, meaning simply “boiled wine.”

See more photos of Budapest’s bustling Christmas Market!

See our entire adventure in Budapest

Oslo, Norway

The Julemarked in Oslo, Norway

Ringnes Juleol or Christmas Beer in Oslo, Norway
Juleol or Christmas Beer

On our recent crazy romp across Norway up to the Arctic Circle by train, we found the Scandinavian equivalent to a Christkindlmarkt, a Julmarked, in Oslo.

The Jul, or Yule, celebration predates Christianity but, since it coincides with Christmas, the two have become intertwined.

Elgburgers at the Julmarked in Oslo, Norway

The Norwegian market was very similar to the others we’d seen, with the exception of the preponderance of elk and reindeer based products.

Plus, what they were calling elk, or more precisely elg, sure looked like moose to us, and we all know they don’t really exist.

Flying reindeer, sure, but moose?

No way.

See all of our adventures in Norway!

Helen, Georgia

Horse drawn carriage in Helen, Georgia

While these European markets all have long histories behind them, the custom has spread far and wide.

Christmas markets are even becoming commonplace throughout the United States.

In fact, the first one we ever visited was a few years ago in the mountains of northern Georgia at the town of Helen.

Christmas decorations in Helen, Georgia

Their Christkindlmarkt is in keeping with the town’s reincarnation as an alpine Bavarian village.

It was only natural that this nearly perfect reproduction of a German town would also feature this seasonal tradition.

See our entire adventure in Helen, Georgia

New York City

New York City also hosts a number of Christmas markets throughout the city. Two of the biggest and most popular are the Winter Village at Bryant Park, and the Union Square Holiday Market.

The Winter Village Christmas Market at Bryant Park in NYC

The Winter Village Christmas Market at Bryant Park in NYC

Surrounded by soaring skyscrapers, Bryant Park’s Winter Village began in 2002.

Booths offer NYCcentric wares and food (we saw everything from chimney cakes to sushi), and in lieu of glühwein, New York apple cider is standard fare.

Bryant Park boasts a huge Christmas tree and a full-sized ice skating rink that’s twice as big as the rink at Rockefeller Center — and it’s free to skate!

The Union Square Holiday Market in NYC

The Union Square Holiday Market may not be quite as spectacular, but it struck us as more traditional.

A veritable maze of tents are set up offering all kinds of gifts and goodies that are sure to put even the Ginchiest Grinch in the spirit of the season.

The Union Square Holiday Market in New York City

See 10 things you don’t know about NYC!

See all of our adventures in New York!

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

YOUR TURN: Are you game to give a Christmas market a go? Have you been to a Christkindlmarkt? Tell us all about it below!

The British Isles… Virgin That Is

In the Caribbean, often the best places to visit are not the ones that are easily accessible to most tourists. If you come on a cruise ship you are likely to miss many of them as you hurry from one major port to the next…

CONTINUE READING >> 

A big thank you to Dream Yacht Charter for providing this adventure, as always, all opinions are our own.

As soon as we stepped off the plane in St. Martin we felt at home.

The warm tropical breeze filled our senses and immediately took us back to when we lived on St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands. Having spent nearly a decade down here, we have learned a few things about the Caribbean.

One is that often the best places to visit are not the ones that are easily accessible to most tourists. If you come on a cruise ship you are likely to miss many of them as you hurry from one major port to the next.

Our itinerary for an eight day jaunt across the British Virgin Islands and St. Martin aboard the sailing catamaran Dream Canouan included stops or overnight anchorages at several out of the way places such as Jost Van Dyke, Sandy Cay, The Baths on Virgin Gorda, Anagada, the caves at Norman Island, and Grand Case, none of which are even remotely possible to reach on larger ships.

A few of these are some of the most prominent points of interest in these islands. We woke up our first morning at the Baths, where stunning rock formations of gigantic stones rise above the surface of the water, and quickly learned that beneath the waves can be every bit as fascinating.

Snorkeling between the massive boulders, we found many of the colorful tropical fish that we remember from our days of living down here, but also came upon a school of squid. Never having seen them other than on a plate, we were mesmerized by their neon colors and effortless flowing motions.

We spent that night at the legendary pirate hideaway, Norman Island. Without a doubt pirates did use the island as a base, but whether the stories of hidden treasures that have been found in the past, or might still remain, are less certain.

Didn’t matter to us, we were thrilled at the prospect of discovering natural riches beneath the sea in the caves of in Privateer Bay, then enjoyed the added bonus of a swimming circumnavigation of the rocks known as The Indians on our way to the next stop, Jost Van Dyke.

An unexpected surprise awaited us there, because we met perhaps the BVI’s most renowned citizen, Philicianno Callwood, better known as Foxy. In 1968, with an eye to the future of sailing yachts coming to on his idyllic island, he opened Foxy’s Tamarind Bar.

We first learned of Foxy’s while living on St. Croix, as their Old Year’s Night Celebration (that’s New Year’s Eve outside of the islands) was legendary across all of the Virgin Islands and throughout the Caribbean, but never made it over.

During our afternoon anchorage, we were lucky enough to sit a spell with the man behind the legend and he most certainly did not disappoint. After cordial introductions he regaled us with tall tales and bawdy ballads in the style of a true troubadour.

His welcoming manner and humor made it clear why his fame has spread far and wide over the past half century; even Queen Elizabeth of England is a fan and awarded him with the MBE (Member of the British Empire).

The establishment was certainly impacted by last year’s hurricanes, but escaped the worst of it and is up and running in full swing. Recovery was no doubt easier for open air structures such as the many beach bars and restaurants that dot the coasts of these islands than for some of the more substantial buildings.

Foxy showed us where his family’s homes had been damaged, yet the resilience of these islanders was inspiring to see. Throughout the BVI we were not only impressed by that, but also by the same warm and welcoming spirit that he exuded in almost everyone we met.

The following morning found us offshore of an uninhabited dot of sand known as Sandy Cay. For modern folks such as us, it was an extremely rare opportunity to visit a place where absolutely nobody lives. For some reason the theme song from Giligan’s Island kept popping into our heads.

Fortunately, no storm and no stranding was involved, but we did find an odd monument left behind. Perhaps some stranded castaways had been here.

For a change of pace, and scenery, we made our next call at Anegada. This island is geographically completely different from its sister Virgin Islands since it is a flat, choral atoll. The reef that formed it continues off of the southeastern tip as Horseshoe reef.

This is the largest in the Caribbean and forth biggest in the world, but unfortunately we didn’t get to snorkel it because is also the lobster capitol of the region. We arrived during the season, meaning the reef is off limits to everyone but fishermen.

It also meant that an abundance of the delectable crustaceans were available for consumption. We took the dingy in for a dinner of incredible fresh seafood and more of the hospitality that we experienced from nearly all of the British Islanders that we encountered.

On our way back to Saint Martin, we passed by the private islands, Necker and Eustatia, owned by Virgin Records and airlines billionaire Sir Richard Branson, and Google mogul Larry Page respectively.

We have to say that we now understand the desire to own your own secluded piece of paradise better than ever. Still, all in all we’d rather be seeing it from a boat.

The only bad part of the trip was having to put shoes back on at the end.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

A big thank you to Dream Yacht Charter for providing this adventure, as always, all opinions are our own.

Ho – Ho – Ho! How About the GypsyNester Gift Guide!

With Thanksgiving behind us, we enter the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Of course that means surprising friends and loved ones with something special, so we thought we’d share a few of the handy and helpful travel items that we discovered this year…. CONTINUE READING >> 

With Thanksgiving behind us, we enter the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

Of course that means surprising friends and loved ones with something special, so we thought we’d share a few of the handy and helpful travel items that we discovered this year.

After a week of biking across France with Backroads Travel, we totally fell in love with these shades from Cocoons Eyewear.

They fit right over our regular glasses and kept the wind out of our eyes no matter how fast we glided across Normandy

…and no watery eyes meant that we never missed an important sign like this one.

Not only are these pants and tops from prAna nearly wrinkle-proof for easy packing, they are all made from sustainable materials such as hemp, organic cotton, and recycled wool.

This means way less energy, pesticides, and fertilizers go into creating every outfit.

We found that they are also more than comfortable enough for hiking or riding bikes all day, then good looking enough to hit the town after dark.

Safty is always an issue while globe trotting, and the TARRISS GoDark Privacy Bag provides an added measure of it.

Inside the stylish cover  an industrial strength Faraday cage is hidden and it stops hacking cold by blocking ALL incoming and outgoing signals to our smartphones and tablets.

We realize that life isn’t all about travel, so we have these fun and festive…

Ornaments for Empty Nester’s First Christmas!

This time of year we want to trim the tree, give goofy gifts, and fill the house with music.

We think that we might have just the things – especially for us empty nesters.

These colorful ornaments can lift the spirits of any newly empty-nested parent.

Also a nice gift wrapping element! Available in many styles and colors – and customizable.

Or we have an exclusive line of other GypsyNester Gifts!

Gifts For Boomers: Tee Shirts Gifts For Boomers: Coffee Mugs Gifts For Boomers: Kitchen and Garden Aprons
Shirts & Tees Mugs Kitchen & Garden Aprons

Or for the more experienced empty nester on your list, these cheeky shirts, mugs, and aprons should certainly put a bounce in even a grumpy Bumble.

See our full line of GypsyNester gifts! All items available in many styles and colors – and customizable.

Just in case there is a music lover residing on your Nice list, we have all of the tunes heard on our online videos available right here and here.

For those who might not know, that is David writing, performing, and singing on all of them.

Gifts for Boomers - Going Gypsy: One Couple's Adventure from Empty Nest to No Nest at AllAnd don’t forget the perfect present for any parent that has faced, or is about to face, that Now What? moment that hits us all when the last chick leaves the nest — a copy of our bestselling book, GOING GYPSY: One Couple’s Adventure from Empty Nest to No Nest at All.

We wish you a happy, humorous, and healthy, holiday season – filled with the joy that an advent of avoiding the crowds and ignoring how many shopping days are left until Christmas can bring.

And remember… when reaching to place a star upon the highest bough, that Bumbles bounce!

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

YOUR TURN: Which gifts would you like to see under your tree? Did we spark some gift-giving ideas? Anything we should add?

Considering a Canary Island Cruise

The Canary islands have become one of the most popular places on Earth to visit. The magic of nearly perfect weather, beautiful beaches, and stunning scenery combine to make a legendary vacation destination… CONTINUE READING >> 

Is it really possible to travel to a land that may be a real life legend?

It seems as though it is, because the location of the mythical lost island of Atlantis is often theorized to be the Canary Islands.

Through the centuries philosophers, poets, writers, archeologists, soothsayers, mystics, and dreamers have speculated that Atlantis may have been in the Mediterranean, but most thought it to be in the Atlantic, as the name certainly implies.

We won’t weigh in on that debate, but in our research of this Spanish archipelago just off of the Northwest African coast we did find scientific assurances that the islands have not ever, nor would soon, sink into the sea.

Belief in a long lost landmass aside, the Canary islands have become one of the most popular places on Earth to visit. The magic of nearly perfect weather, beautiful beaches, and stunning scenery combine to make a legendary vacation destination, and we can’t think of a better way to visit than by sea on a Canary Island cruise holiday.

From the rocky, rugged coastlines that are broken up by beautiful beaches, to a soaring mountain summit towering above, there is a year-round feeling of springtime in Spain.

We began our investigation with Tenerife, the largest of the islands, and why not, it has so much to offer. Teide-Pico Viejo, Spain’s tallest peak, dominates the scenery and is both a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This dormant volcano reaches over twelve thousand feet above sea level, high enough to have snow fall in winter, even in this subtropical locale. For an amazing view, there is a ski lift style cable car that carries passengers up to a few hundred feet from the top.

Down below, the mountain includes one of the biggest lava tube systems in the world. These caves, left behind after molten rivers of rock flow to the sea, are some of the most interesting volcanic features we have ever explored and only occur in a few places on Earth.

We discovered another mysterious piece of history beckoning for examination when we read about the Pyramids of Guimar. Like Atlantis, there does not seem to be a consensus on when these were built or who was responsible.

Some claim that they are simply piles of stones that farmers stacked while clearing fields only a few hundred years ago, but others see a much more intriguing background. From what we gathered, we tend to come down on the side that they are likely much older.

Perhaps not quite as ancient as Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl theorized, linking them to the Egyptians and Mayans, but old enough to possibly have been built by the island’s oldest known inhabitants, the Guanches.

That brings us full circle back to Atlantis since some say the Guanches were actually Atlanteans, survivors of the sinking of the lost continent.  More likely they were simply descents of the Berbers from North Africa.

Yet another theory links the pyramids to Masonic symbolism because the main wall points to the sunset on the Summer solstice. Solstices are a very important symbol in Freemasonry, and the land was owned by a Freemason back when the pyramids may have been constructed.

We are undecided as of now, but luckily the ship offers an excursion that includes up close study of the archeological ruins and a tour of the onsite museum that could help us make up our minds.

Other onshore outings include a visit to the Museum of Aloe Vera, a 4×4 romp through the forest, and strolls through some of the island’s historic towns like La Laguna, Garachico, Icod de los Vinos, and Santa Cruz with the added bonus of sampling some delicious local dishes and tapas.

Of course we can’t discuss the Canary Islands without acknowledging the birds, not only those famous yellow ones like Tweety, but the world’s largest collection of parrots at Loro Parque. The park has over three hundred different types, and is also home to penguins, dolphins, whales, and sea lions along with many other animals.

As for those little yellow feathered friends, the name of the islands comes from a different pet, the Latin canariae insulae, meaning islands of dogs. It seems that when the Romans stopped by a couple of millennia ago, they found the inhabitants were fond of canines.

So we wondered, in a which came first the chicken or the egg kind of way, it turns out that the birds are named for the islands, not the other way around.

At least that’s one mystery solved.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

We are happy to present this collaborative post to offer valuable information to our readers.

T’was the Night Before Thanksgiving

T’was the night before Thanksgiving and all through New York everybody was stirring in every apartment and house.

As I rounded a corner on Columbus Avenue what to my wondering eyes should appear
a festively dressed elf, face down sticking up his…. CONTINUE READING >> 

We are in New York again this year for Thanksgiving, so we thought we’d revisit this holiday ditty from a couple of years ago…

HAPPY HOLIDAYS! 

T’was the night before Thanksgiving and all through New York
everybody was stirring in every apartment and house.
As I rounded a corner on Columbus Avenue
what to my wondering eyes should appear
a festively dressed elf, face down sticking up his rear.

macys thanksgiving elf

Certain this odd sight needed more inspection,
I turned on 81st to check out more balloon’s inflation.

macys thanksgiving dino

While there were no tiny reindeer anywhere to be found,
a huge Dino the dinosaur was hanging around.

macys thanksgiving helium truck

With no help from Santa these giants would soon fly,
after being filled with helium from a nearby semi.

macys thanksgiving pumpkin

As the sun began setting in the far western sky,
I thought about turkey, potatoes and pie
for our feast on the ‘morrow after the parade.
We wish all Happy Holidays and a great Thanksgiving day.

David, GypsyNester.com