Candles and carols, snowflakes and stollen – wander through central Europe’s cosy Christmas markets sipping toasty glühwein as you admire the handmade wooden toys, delectable Christmas fare and intricate decorations drawing crowds every year to enjoy its enchanting festive cheer…
With its many Christmas markets, cosy cafes and snow-sprinkled spires, Vienna is a wonderland in winter and home to mouth-watering regional delights like sticky apple strudel and crisp Wiener schnitzel.
If you’re planning a visit to the Austrian capital during the colder months, Theresa Szejwallo, Managing Director for Trafalgar, suggests warming up with these hearty local dishes and enjoying the good life as Europe uncovers all her beauty.
“Pretty much Austria’s national dish, apple strudel is a buttery parcel filled with a gooey apple and cinnamon filling,” says Theresa. It literally translates to ‘whirlpool’, thanks to the pastry swirls that envelop its moreish filling. It’s the perfect winter warmer when accompanied by a generous dollop of fresh cream.
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire are a quintessential winter treat,” Theresa adds, “and it’s easy to follow your nose to Vienna’s many maroni stands to locate these warm treats on street corners. Here, hot chestnuts are roasted on a giant drum and served in paper bags. Peel off the outer shell and get ready for a nutty surprise. Don’t forget to blow before you bite!
A pile of scrambled pancake smothered in juicy warm berries, this iconic Austrian dish has a brilliant backstory. Translating to ‘emperor’s mess’, Kaiserschmarrn was conceived when Austrian emperor Franz Joseph called upon a farm for something to eat when travelling through the Alps. In a fluster, the farmer messed up the pancake and hid it under a pile of berries and fruit.
“This delicious, plump pork shoulder is roasted at a snail’s pace in fragrant marjoram, coriander and garlic,” says Theresa. Schweinsbraten is roast pork, Austrian-style. Simple in essence, it’s a slow-but-rewarding recipe that creates this classic, comforting dish. You’ll find this easily in Vienna at local restaurants.
Cuddly round dumplings served sweet or savoury, knödel are a mainstay on any Austrian dish – especially during winter and at Christmas. Made with potatoes, flour and a grating of nutmeg, they’re super versatile and make great bedfellows with an apricot or plum filling, or prepared with herbs or spinach and drizzled in melted butter.
Pumpkin soup is a big deal in Austria. Fragrant, warming and healthy; what’s not to love? Loaded with garlic, onion, cinnamon and white wine, it’s packed with flavour, but it’s the drizzle of rich brown pumpkin oil on top that makes Austrian pumpkin soup so special.
America has mac ‘n’ cheese, Austria has käsespätzle. ‘Spätzle’ is a type of pasta resembling chunky noodles, which get generously slathered in hot melted local cheese, onions and roasted to perfection. You’ll find this rib-sticking Austrian dish at almost every Viennese restaurant you visit.
The origins of this legendary dish are somewhat misty, with the Milanese claiming ownership. Nevertheless, it’s a tasty, insulating dish when visiting Vienna in winter, and features tenderly flattened veal coated in golden breadcrumbs and fried to crisp perfection.
A distant cousin of Hungarian goulash, gulaschsuppe is a rich, creamy ragu, within which you’ll find combinations of meat like beef and bacon. It’s thinner and soupier than goulash stew, but is flavoured with paprika to give it that unmistakable scarlet zing.
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Have we whetted your appetite with these deliciously indulgent Austrian dishes? Visit Vienna on Trafalgar’s Christmas Markets of Austria, Germany and Switzerland trips and taste them for yourself. By travelling in the low season you’ll skip the crowds, see Europe at its wintry best and save yourself oodles of cash.
For further details visit www.trafalgar.com or call (011) 280 8440.