We had quite a relaxing Christmas. After spending the first couple of days in Austria touring Salzburg and Linz, the speed of our tourist activities slowed down for Christmas eve and day. On Christmas eve, we slept in (as we would do most of the week really), hung around Kien's place for awhile before Kien took us to Enns -- which is the oldest town in Austria, and only a few minutes drive from Linz. The biggest feature of Enns is the giant clock/watchtower in the center square. This tower soars above the town, and was incredibly built back in the 1500s. The cool thing was that even though there was nobody there (it was Christmas eve, afterall!), the tower remained open with an honour system collection box for the two euro entry fee. We gladly paid it as the climb to the top of the tower was totally worth the view! The inside of the tower had a pretty steep staircase wrapping the inside walls of the tower, but we climbed it with little trouble.Once back on the ground, we continued to explore the town of Enns -- walking into an old mansion courtyard and then on to a lookout point to see an outlook onto the river that flows through town.
We returned back to Linz to find that one part of the family had already arrived for the family dinner. In Austria, Christmas is mostly celebrated on the eve. My Austrian relatives had prepared a common Chinese feast in the form of a hotpot. In this meal, the table is filled with plates full of uncooked meats, noodles and vegetables which surround a hot plate with a pot of soup stock. During the meal, you choose food you'd like to eat and toss it into the pot and wait for it to cook before rescuing it with chopsticks or a basket. The meal is interactive, and actually quite a lot of fun -- not to mention tasty too!
Diane had spent some time wrapping up the pile of gifts we had brought with us from Ireland the previous night, and we had people open them. Before we knew it, it was late and we retired for the evening.
The big plan on Christmas day was to ... well ... not do much. We had setup a date to connect through Skype with a party my mom was having at her place with all the Chinese relatives in Edmonton. That wasn't until 9:00pm though in Austria, so we had most of the day to kill, and we really didn't do all that much. It's because of this downtime that I managed to get a bunch of photos up from the first few days of the trip. It wasn't until the afternoon when we decided to go for a walk. Diane and I had just planned to walk around SolarCity some more, but Kien took us a few minutes away to a nearby lake which was absolutely gorgeous in the dimming light. The water of the lake was crystal clear, and was reflecting a gorgeous shade of silvery blue. We even were greeted by a couple swans that were out on the cold lake. Purely wonderful. The walk around the lake was about 3.5km (according to the signage around the lake). It was good to get out and walk around -- particularly the overabundance of food we were getting fed from the family!
That evening, we hooked up on Skype first with Diane's family for a short bit to say Merry Christmas (sorry about the short length!), and then with my family in Edmonton where there was a series of people who all made an appearance to say hi to my Aunt, Kien, Lillian, and the new baby Marisa. By the time this all was over, it was late and we were tired (from eating?) and retired for the night.
On "Boxing Day" (it's not called that in Europe), we didn't have much planned either, but ending up going into Linz with Kien to walk around a bit. It was a chilly, cloudy day in Linz -- much like it had been all week really. The town was pretty much shut down for the day with very few establishments open, and the ones that were were awfully quiet. Still, we did get to see some of Linz's sights. One of our stops was an incredible church. From the outside, it was tall and ornate, but the truly jaw dropping experience doesn't happen until you step inside -- where the church's incredibly high arched ceiling towers above you, and the tall stained glass windows glow. I could feel my mouth hang open as we walked around inside the church, and as might be obvious to you at this moment, am still amazed at it.
After exiting the church, it was starting to get dark, but continued our way along to a museum which was unfortunately closing right away so we didn't get to go inside. We didn't, however, miss a pretty nice view with city lights glittering across the surface of the Danube river.
Eventually we decided to go have dinner at a sushi bar/mongolian bbq place. It was decent, but the nicest thing about it was the price really. Actually, that's one thing we've noticed while we've been in Austria -- compared to Dublin, it's pretty cheap! Stuff like the all-you-can-eat buffet we had that night was far cheaper than we could imagine seeing in Dublin, and this appeared to follow for just about everything we've seen in Austria so far. We've heard a few times that the prices in Ireland and the UK are the most expensive in the EU. Well, we've seen some pretty hard evidence in three cities in Austria anyways.
So that was our pretty quite Christmas. Up next, our short two day trip to Vienna and meeting up with a good friend there!