Was that a 'Ho Ho Ho' I heard? Oh dear, are we among the first to remind you that Christmas is on its way? How naughty of us. It’s not even November, you cry! Unless you enjoy Christmas of course, or like to plan ahead. In any case, if you’re in Eastern or Central Europe in December, perhaps you should visit a Christmas market and stock up on Christmas gifts with a flavour all their own. Some of the most interesting are the Polish markets in Warsaw and Krakow, the Budapest Christmas market and the one in Riga, the capital of Latvia.
Nobody does Christmas quite like the Central Europeans, and among the Central Europeans, nobody does it quite like Poland. The market in Krakow is particularly recommended. It is probably the largest in Central Europe and in no time will have you buzzing on retail therapy and mulled wine in astonishingly beautiful, traditional ‘Christmasy’ surroundings.
That mulled wine by the way, or ‘mulled Galician’, is stored in giant wooden barrels. You can also warm up at any number of stores selling sausages and the distinctive fried cheese, another tasty highland specialty from the Tatra Mountains.
In the wooden stalls you will find everything from suits-of-armour to wonderful wooden toys, fine woollen garments from the Polish Highlands to amber jewellery from the Baltic. I say ‘find everything’ and I know what I’m talking about. I once had a pair of riding boots made by a chap at the Krakow markets. Took him a few days, cost me around 125 euro, and lasted for 6-7 years.
Anyway ladies and gentlemen, for now I will bid you a fond ‘Do widzenia’ as they say in Poland - but I’ll be back next week when I’ll try and squeeze in both the Riga and Budapest Christmas Markets into another handy, byte-size blog.
Scott Alexander Young is a Writer and Character Actor living in Budapest. His children's book The Wild Cats of Piran (Chronicle One) comes out in December.