Austria… The Hills Are Alive… With the Sound of Krampus…

It was a few weeks back now, but I made an awesome weekend trip to Austria with a couple of my fellow teachers. It was super rad. I wish I could legally teach in Austria, because it is so beautiful there. I would be so happy living in the mountains, waking up early to the sunset to watch the shadows crawl across the snow-covered peaks. It was so tranquil – I felt completely calm and utterly happy for the first time since I’ve been here.

We started off the trip early on a Saturday morning. It was a tour that we had been able to sign up for at a discount since we did it so late. As we got on the bus, we came to realize two things – one, we were the only people that spoke English, and two, we appeared to be the youngest people there (we later found out we weren’t as we spotted Unpleasant Girl). Oh well – neither of these things really bothered us, as we were used to it.



Hello, Baby Jesus.
After making several stops to pick up people at other locations and an unnecessary amount of pit stops, we finally made it to our first destination – Steyr. This is a sleepy little lower Austrian village tucked away in the middle of the country. Apparently it is renowned for its Christmas celebrations, but I had no idea, as I didn’t even realize we were stopping here in the first place.
Hello, early version of creepy animatron puppets.

Our first attraction was Christkindl, which according to the official website of Steyr, is considered a pilgrimage. That’s weird to think I’ve been on a pilgrimage, but I guess it’s true. Especially weird since I sat on a heated bus eating chips most of the way. Anyway, it featured two awesome displays of wood carvings. Well, wood carvings are kind of inherently un-awesome, but these were probably as awesome as it can get. These were giant nativity scenes that filled the entire room. One was actually a mechanical show – if you turned it on, the people moved around and stuff.

The center of town.
Oh yeah. I like jumping.

Anyway, after that, we headed down to the actual town of Steyr. It was a nice little place, and had a Christmas Market that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was small, but just what I needed to assuage my Christmas Market hunger for that day. I am a huge fan of Christmas Markets, and I had been getting antsy, thinking we might not have any in the Czech Republic (turns out we do, actually). The afternoon therefore consisted of getting a nice cup of hot chocolate and exploring the town – seeing some “castle” with weird gargoyles and walking over a bridge.

No idea why someone would make this statue?


With this part of the adventure coming to a close, we all headed back on the bus and got back on the road to head to our next destination – Schladming. Here is where we experienced something really magical, something really lovely – the Krampuslauf.
For all of you non-German people out there, a Krampus is a devil that is meant to find bad children and eat them. A pretty awesome creature, I think. We need one of those in the Czech Republic. Anyway, it’s kind of a tradition for these devils to go marching around town in a parade to pretend to scare children and try to carry them away. They are accompanied by angelic figures like angels and St. Nicholas, who is meant to scare them away and spread gifts and cheer.
Blargahagrargahrghargahrgar – Oh, hi, didn’t see you there.
Can I please eat your soul? Come on, I asked nicely.
Someone ate my last Twinkie!

Unfortunately, by this time we were starving, as we had opted not to eat at Steyr because it was too early and we thought we would have time for a dinner break. And with the time it took to drive, we just didn’t have enough time before the parade started. However, my two companions found a nice table on the second floor of a restaurant looking right out over the parade, and decided to stay in, eat, and watch it from up there. I decided to venture out on the ground level to witness the children being eaten first hand.

Sadly, I did not see any children torn limb from limb, but I did see a lot of scary demons. They have very convincing masks. However, it was not so convincing when the demons reached the end of the parade, took off said masks, and left them laying on the ground while they went to get beer still in the body of the demon. Oh well! I guess the kids liked it.


The hotel.
I want to build my house in this very spot.

With the parade over and a delicious chicken sandwich in my now warm belly, we headed off to another small town closer to Salzburg for our overnight accommodations. We reached a small and homey hotel called the Gasthof Goldene Traube right in the midst of some beautiful mountain ranges, which I couldn’t fully appreciate until the morning. It was supposed to be a three star hotel, but it reminded me more of someone’s house – it was loaded with old furniture and was three stories tall, with only a tiny elevator that didn’t seem to go up. However, the beds were super comfy, and I definitely enjoyed a nice rest after such a long and eventful day.

Seriously, don’t you just feel like melting?

The next morning we woke up early to check out the town a little bit, since we were leaving right after breakfast. Immediately upon exiting the hotel, we were stunned into oblivion. All around us were mountains reaching to the sky, their jagged peaks framing us in the crisp winter air. Every vantage point we trekked to was more picturesque than the last. We found a cemetery next to an old church, and climbing the hill we could see the whole town before us, the steeple of the church acting as a grounding centerfold among the magnificence in front of our eyes.


Walking over the bridge.

After our hike, we headed back for breakfast, and then were on our way. Salzburg was our next and final destination of the trip. When we got there, we headed out of the bus and explored the city as a group for a while, going through a nice garden, walking over a bridge and past Mozart’s birth house, and then over to the Christmas market. We got separated from everyone as we made our way to the castle, as a group of people wanted to take the incline up the mountain instead of walk. Since we are young and didn’t want to pay 11 Euros, we decided to walk. It wasn’t that bad – I walked up much worse mountains in the name of sightseeing.

A hearty welcome to you too, Christmas Market.

The castle was again, utterly breathtaking. It was a real castle, not that weird modern building we saw the previous day. This thing had been forged way back before medieval times, and has undergone major changes throughout the years, leaving behind an awesome structure with a ton of history. It took us several hours to get through it all, as there was so much to see – including the view.

Now THIS is a castle.
Mountain, can I marry you?

After the castle, we headed back down to the Christmas market. I was overloaded with anticipation, as this was one of the reasons I decided to go on the trip (not knowing we would see so many other cool things!). First of all, we got lunch – for me, a baked potato with cheese fondue, bacon bits, and a little grated cheese on top for good measure, as well as a steaming cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream. Yum. Those Austrians know how to do it. We thought that we had seen the whole market, and I was about to be a little disappointed, when we realized we had not walked through an underpass that lead to the bigger part of the market. Oops.

View from the castle – yes please.

Somewhere along the way, we also popped in the Cathedral. As far as cathedrals go, it was a pretty nice one. What I really appreciated was the way the light streamed through the windows – it made everything glow with what seemed to be a heavenly presence. Also along the way, we got more food. Kind of impossible not to. I ended up getting a bowl of pancake dough chopped up into bits doused in chocolate syrup and powdered sugar. My god. It was brilliant. We also got a chocolate covered pretzel (Like, a real pretzel. Not the crunchy little ones you get in America.) to take with us to much on for later, but it wasn’t until the next day that I could even consider eating.

Proof that I was here.

And that was basically it, unfortunately. Our time was up, and we headed back to the bus. The ride back was long, and it took a while, but it was all totally worth it. I loved that trip, so much. It was exactly what I needed after a stressful few weeks. Unfortunately, most of that happy feeling drifted away as soon as we got back to our apartment for reasons I don’t want to get into, but it doesn’t even matter. For that moment, I was satisfied and content. Even thinking back now – I want to move to Austria sometime and just live in the mountains, Sound of Music style. What a wonderful life that would be J

Oh look, it’s a church.

Kristy Snyder

I'm a creative and quirky woman just looking to make her mark on the world. Writer, thinker, crafter, doer. Loves playing ice hockey and curling up with a good book. Traveling is a foremost passion and the road is always calling. Above all, I try to be an enjoyer of life.

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