Today is our last day of holidays! After packing our suitcases this morning we go out to visit Vienna’s Christmas Markets and see some of the Christmas lights. The first market we visit is near the Parliament Building. There are 150 booths here but I was a bit disappointed as the majority of them sold Christmas decorations and there were very few other handcrafted items. I was hoping to find something special as a souvenir for us.
We were pleasantly surprised though to find that food here was reasonable. I bought a cone of yummy hot roasted potato slices for just 3 euros. There were lots of other affordable food options as well as hot chocolate and hot alcoholic drinks and mulled wines for 3 to 5 euros. There are so many people here that sometimes it is difficult to get to the front of a booth to see what is for sale.We enjoy wandering around and as it starts to get dark the Christmas lights come on.
Near the booths is an area with beautifully decorated trees and …. a skating rink! There is a 3,000 m² artificial ice rink with skating paths throughout the park. We watch the kids learning to skate, everyone is having a good time. This all takes place under a canopy of the most beautiful trees, all lit up with thousands and thousands of white lights. Just take look at the size of this tree! It is enormous! A special attraction is the tree of hearts, and we see couples taking selfies here.I love all the lights and there is Christmas music playing, children laughing and everyone is enjoying the evening. I am beginning to feel Christmassy! As we leave the market, I take one last photo looking back towards the Parliament Building…then we walk down a tree lit path to the next market a few blocks away.
This is a smaller market, only 70 stalls, and the only decorated trees are the man-made ones. We see a booth with goods from Bomo Art, the little handmade book store we visited in Budapest. There are also some pretty crazy animal candles, cute stuffed gnomes, blue and white pottery and wooden boxes and cabinet with drawers. The tall one with six drawers is ‘only’ 350 euros! That is about $500.00 Canadian. Still nothing I really love to take home with us though.These little pink snowmen were kind of cute… and a tree decorated with bird ornaments is different. Only at 10 to 15 euros a bird this would be a very expensive little tree! There are at least 150 birds on this tree, so it would cost between 1,500 and 2,250 euros, which is $2000.00 to $3,200.00 Canadian! No bird trees for me! The booths are centred around this big fountain… and there are lights projected on a nearby building, adding to the festive feeling. It isn’t very warm, the high today was only 9° and it is colder now that the sun has gone down. We want to walk and see some of the streets lit up for Christmas … but we are both getting chilled so we head home to finish getting ready for our trip home tomorrow.
We returned from Pompeii early afternoon and decided we should see if we could find some Christmas lights. These festive bows were on the street on the way to the Vatican.
We stopped at St. Peter’s Square and we were delighted to see that the Christmas tree was lit up. I thought that the lights weren’t turned on until just before Christmas, so this was a pleasant surprise.The lights were just turned on at dusk today and they were still cleaning up so we had to sit about 15 minutes until we were allowed into the square.The manger scene has life size figures and there are several rather peculiar additions to the traditional manger scene we are used to. We don’t know why some of the figures look like pirates, and have no idea what the nude figure on the right is all about. There is no baby Jesus in sight yet.
This is the largest Christmas tree we have ever seen, and it is very beautifully decorated with lots of lights and big ornaments painted by children in hospitals across Italy who are receiving treatment for cancer as well as children affected by earthquakes in Italy the past two years.
We walk all the way to Nuovo Piazza to see the Christmas Market. That turns out be a big disappointment. No market, no Christmas lights, and no promised Carousel. Apparently there was some sort of political scandal a few years ago. The powers to be tried to restrict the vendors at the market to those who sold hand made items so all the vendors withdrew in support of those not allowed to sell their ware. It was supposed to be back this year, but nothing is here. Too bad. We were expecting a market similar to the one we saw in Madrid a couple years ago. Further research has revealed that “Rome’s Befana Christmas market, which was scheduled to return to Piazza Navona after three years on 2 December, has so far failed to open due to an argument between the city and stallholders over who pays for security.”
I had Googled where to see Christmas lights in Rome, so next we walked to Via dei Coronari. We did find a few lights but not enough to entice us to keep walking so we called it night. Italy does not have a tradition of putting up Christmas lights and Christmas trees. Pope John Paul II put up the first Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square in 1982. Now every year the tree comes from a different European country as a gift to the Pope. This year’s tree is from Poland. There are a few more lights and trees around the city, but nothing like the amazing Christmas lights and decorations we saw in Spain.
If you want to find out about the strange figures, including the naked man, in the Vatican Nativity Scene check out this link.
We spend most of today cleaning and packing so that we will be ready on Wednesday for our flight home. Packing always takes me longer than I think it will and I want this all taken care of so that we can enjoy our last day in Barcelona. I finally got a photo of the man who sells propane for the on demand hot water heaters and stoves. He walks up and down the streets everyday banging a wrench on the side of these large canisters. The noise can be heard for blocks, even inside our apartment with the windows closed. So different from home.Finally we are ready to go to the opera. We are going to see Lucia Di Lammermoor, which is a tragic opera based on Sir Walter Scott’s historical novel The Bride of Lammermoor. Here is the floor plan and the seats range from the €14.00 we paid for our seats to €300 for a seat in Zone 1. Imagine, it would cost €600 or $900 Canadian for a night at the Opera!
Zone 1: €299.00 Zone 2: €199.00 Zone 2B: €187.00 Zone 3: €161.00 Zone 4: €117.00 Zone 5; €80.00 Zone 6: €56.00 Zone 7:€38.00 Zone 8: €14.00
The first lime green dot on this plan, on the lower right side in zone 8, along with the red dot beside it were our seats. Right up next to the ceiling, with no view of the stage at all! However, we did have a little TV screen to watch the opera and there were English subtitles which were a huge help in following the plot of the opera. The picture quality was quite poor but it was great having the subtitles. Bob summed up the plot this way ”It took the heroine two and a half hours to die!”
The music and the singing was wonderful and of course the venue was absolutely stunning. I didn’t know if I would enjoy it, not being able to see the stage, but really it was OK. Of course it would have been so much nicer to see the actual stage instead of a fuzzy rendition but the only tickets available were in Zone 5 and it would have cost €160, or about $240.00, a bit too expensive for us!
Here is Bob standing by our seats, right up near the beautiful ceiling, and a few more photos showing the theatre, the orchestra way down below us, the cast, and the lobby after the performance.
The Teatre Del Liceu.
On the way home we see many beautiful lights and some sad sights too.