Salzburg: Searching for the perfect trinket

The city of Salzburg, Austria is rich in tradition and culture. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kathryn Self)

The city of Salzburg, Austria is rich in tradition and culture. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kathryn Self)

SALZBURG, Austria -- The darkness seemed endless. The sound of our bus wheels on the pavement below filled my ears. I sat there thinking of how most of my friends were still bunkered down in their warm Italian homes, and I, the traveler, was on the move again. Finally, as the sun made its first glimpse, outlining the Austrian mountains with a dull yellow and hazy orange, I was reminded of exactly why I am so fortunate to be stationed at Aviano Air Base.

The holiday season is here and it seems that most of Europe has caught its magic fever. The traditions and cultures that I previously only experienced in books, now fill the air with promises of cheer and glad tidings. As the sun rose higher in the sky, so did my anticipation for my final destination, the Christmas Market in Salzburg, Austria.

This will be my first Christmas together with my husband, and after living in the dorms for the past three years, my holiday decoration selection is limited. As we pulled into the resting place for our bus, I jumped off with the goal of making this first Christmas with my husband as special as possible.

Excitement filled me as I thought about all the tree trimmings and decorations that I soon found nestled in the squares of this beautiful city. As I watched my breath in the cold morning air, I couldn't help but be anxious for what I might find.

Moving with the tour group, I worked my way through the streets of Salzburg, passing the birth place of Mozart and admiring the Christmas decorations in the windows of the homes above me. Walking into the cathedral square, I could see why this market is such a long-lasting tradition. This particular Christmas Market, or Christkindl Markt, is rumored to date back to the 15th century, and it is easy to understand how it has lasted through the years. Growing in size by the year, the market now features 85 vendors, selling homemade products ranging from ornaments to candied almonds. As I searched for the perfect trinkets for my tree, I found not only some beautiful items I wanted for myself, but also gifts for my family and friends.

The smell of the mulled wine and fragrantly decorated wreaths was almost intoxicating and made me realize how hungry I was. The food, much like the atmosphere of Salzburg, is rich and full of tradition, which made it harder for me to wrap up my day and head back to the bus. As I weaved my way back through the festive streets to the designated meeting spot, I tried to take in as much as I could.

Piling back onto the bus, and being surrounded by shopping bags and fellow travelers, I couldn't help but feel a sense of accomplishment. In the growing darkness of the evening, I knew the day was a wonderful success and I couldn't help but wonder if my next adventure could even compare to my day spent within this beautiful tradition.