Winter Cruising In Europe: The Magic Of Christmas Markets River Cruises

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Misty and magical island on the Danube.

Winter cruising can be beautiful. Misty and enchanted, an island in the middle of the Danube River as seen from my balcony during our Christmas Markets River Cruise on Viking Odin. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

A few of my friends can’t stand cold weather. The thought of traveling anyplace where the mercury level resembles a near-empty glass of wine is unappealing to them. They find no pleasure in bundling up or sipping seasonal hot beverages to stay warm.

Me? I am the opposite. I appreciate the beauty of winter as much as I appreciate the beauty of fall, spring and summer. I love bundling up in thick sweaters, extending my hands over the warmth of an open fire and sipping on hot mulled wine — or hot chocolate. I like being cold and coming into the warmth of a cozy restaurant or bar — or stepping back on Viking Odin.

Today, the sky is gray, the mist is thick, and under such conditions, the river banks and islands appear dreamy outside the windows as we make our way upriver toward Vienna. It is not too cold to stand out on the upper sun deck or outside the Aquavit Lounge or to slide open the glass doors to the open balcony in my stateroom.

A Chance To Explore Viennese Coffee Culture

Tomorrow, we dock in Vienna, where my plan is to go out and experience the warmth of Viennese Coffee Culture. According to our cruise director, Marek, more than 2,800 coffee houses have been opened in the Austrian city since the second Turkish Siege in 1683.

I’m not sure that all of those coffee houses are still in business, but no matter, there will be enough for me to try a Melange, which is like a cappuccino, dusted with either cinnamon, coco powder or coffee powder. Or maybe I’ll try a Klein (small) or Groß (large) Braune (brown, with milk) or Schwartz (black, without milk). And, of course, I’ll have a slice of Altwiener Apfelstrudel, which we learned how to make today on Viking Odin.

Yes, the mercury looks lethargic, and tomorrow, the forecast calls for snow. I hope the forecast is right. I want nothing more tomorrow than to walk on the white earth during this enchanting time of year in one of the world’s most magical places. That’s the magic of winter cruising in Europe on Christmas Markets River Cruises.

Traditional Altwiener Apfelstrudel

On a cold day, enjoying the warmth of traditional Altwiener Apfelstrudel (Apple Strudel)
on Viking Odin. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle