It's been a busy couple of days! Yesterday, my cousin Sabine and her mom came and got us and this time we took the tram into town. From Solarcity, it takes about half an hour or so to get into town. We got off in town and were immediately surrounded by yet another set of Christmas booths -- it seems that one of the things Austrians love to do is setup markets around Christmas time. I hear the Christkindlmarkt in Vienna is something to see, but I guess we won't get to see that one. But having seen the ones in Salzburg and Linz now gives us some idea of what to expect. It's a fun atmosphere with people selling many different food, clothing, and arts and crafts. There's some fun traditional food as well, that we would try that day as well. In Linz, there are two locations (that we saw anyways) where the markets were setup. The first place we stopped was the first one and then we walked up the main street a ways to the second. En route, we stopped at a grocery store (where we may have purchased some Austrian chocolate ...), and at a bookstore where there was a fair number of English books as well as German ones. We continued up the main street there (I'm not too sure if it is *the* main street, but it was pretty busy and it is where all the trams run up and down the length of the city). We got to the other market and this is where we tried some kind of sausage in a bun (the name escapes me now) with some sort of spicy ketchup. It was rather tasty! We continued on and tried Kirshpunsch (cherry juice mixed with warm wine - very tasty) and a pastry kind of resembling a doughnut, but not quite. Dented in the center and deep fried, they are served with jam in the middle and are also quite tasty (although I'm sure terrible for you!).
After trying some of these delicacies, we bid farewell to Sabine's mother and Sabine took us on a bus up a hill that would let us overlook Linz. The bus ride took about 15 minutes and we were soon looking over the city. The view was a bit obscured by the cloudy sky which was a bit unfortunate, but even with that, it was a pretty nice view. We wandered around the top of the hill for awhile taking photos and then caught the bus back down again. Apparently the bus isn't the normal way to go up there -- but they are upgrading the train that would normally take us up there. The bus dropped us off back in city center next to the market place again. From there, we walked a little ways to the nearby art gallery.
We went inside and had a look around. It was pretty cheap to get in, so we walked around and looked at some of the art. I'm not really much of an art fan most of the time, but there was some neat stuff there to see. It was enjoyable though, and certainly not a waste of time. Probably the neatest thing about the art gallery was the building itself. A new building, the gallery itself is elevated with two "legs" for support. It is quite striking, but tough to describe. The outer walls are glass with words written on them which kind of make the walls glitter a little when you pass by it. About two or three feet behind the glass, the building is mostly concrete within. Strange and interesting to look at, that's for sure!
After checking out the art gallery, we headed back to the tram and took it back to Solarcity to have dinner with Kien's family. They cooked us up a big batch of chili con carne which was pretty satisfying after a day in the wind and rain and relative chill of Austrian winter.
The next morning, we accompanied Kien and his mother to do some shopping. We hit up some discount grocery stores, and we were amazed at how cheap some stuff was compared to Dublin. In particular, the wine on the store shelves was ranging in price from 1.69 to 2.50 euro or so. I don't know if any of it was any good, but it was cheap! We dropped off the groceries and then went back out and walked around Linz's big mall for awhile. It was an interesting experience. Unlike malls in Edmonton or Dublin, people are free to smoke anywhere they like in the mall, which was a little odd and not too pleasant. But people were pretty cheerful and the atmosphere was pretty nice. Because it was just before Christmas, there were tons of vendors lining the walls and/or down the center of the mall. There was a lot of variety in the things to look at!
After wandering for awhile it was getting late for lunch and we started to get hungry. We tried out an all you can eat sushi restaurant -- one where the offerings came by your table on conveyer belts and you just grabbed whatever you wanted. We were a little surprised to find out that it was an all-you-can-eat style rather than similar ones in Vancouver and Dublin we've seen where you pay by the plate. There wasn't a lot of sushi there, but it was tasty. There was a lot of other asian food as well like spring rolls, fried rice, and other stuff. It was all pretty good and we probably ate too much.
We journeyed back home and relaxed for a little while. Our plans for the evening were to meet up with Sabine and her husband in town to enjoy the markt on the last night before Christmas to drink more punsch, eat more of those doughnuts and otherwise enjoy the atmosphere. So that's what we did! We enjoyed some more kirshpunsch, and stood around a table with Kien, Sabine and her husband, as well as one of Kien's school friends and his wife and chatted for awhile. We then moved on to a bar called Punsch Tempel, where we tried another drink called Jobär. It was another sweet fruity drink similar to punsch, but I guess made with vodka instead of wine. Tasty and warm, and probably pretty dangerous as you can't really tell there's alchohol in them!
The big day for Christmas here is Christmas eve, so there will be a big gathering tomorrow to have lots of food. So that's what we'll be doing then!