Last weekend we took another short trip, this time to Sopron, a small city on the west side of Hungary, and (briefly) to Vienna, Austria.  We stayed at a small panzio (almost like a bed and breakfast) in Sopron, and spent most of our time there.  The weather was bitter cold all weekend, but we did a good job of balancing indoor and outdoor activities.

The Fire Tower in Sopron

Sopron is a beautiful old city — the central downtown has narrow winding streets with some buildings dating from the 12th century. During the evenings, there was a Christmas market in the central square, so both night we braved the elements to enjoy some food and music (Dora even met up with one of her former high school classmates, who is a jazz musician that was performing).


 A highlight on Saturday was our visit to the Esterháza,  palace in the nearby village of Fertőd.  The palace was built in the mid-1700s and was one of several gigantic homes owned by the Esterházy family (a part of the palace can be seen in the panorama photo at the top).  They had some child-friendly holiday programs on the afternoon that we visited.  First was a very nice puppet show, which the kids liked a lot (Matthew even sat relatively still, despite bursting out in laughter periodically even though there wasn’t anything funny).  After that came a visit from, Mikulas!  In Hungary, Santa doesn’t visit the malls (at least not that I know of, though I don’t visit often), and he travels in style!

Mikulas walks to the palace

Mikulas arrives at palace

On Sunday, we drove to Vienna, less than an hour north from Sopron.  We navigated into and through the city and found a nice parking garage near the center.  We walked through the walking street to Stephensdom, a large cathedral with one of the tallest towers in the city. We (and many other tourists) entered the cathedral, trying hard not to disturb the ongoing mass.  We took an elevator to the top of one of the towers for a view of the city — the kids were not thrilled to step onto the wire grated floor of the lookout high above the city.
 After St. Stephendom, we wandered through more of the city, eventually arriving at one of Vienna’s famed Christmas markets.  It was a bit funny, we went to a similar market in Budapest and liked it a lot better.  However, the one in Budapest had very few Hungarian visitors (mostly tourists), while the Vienna market was packed with Hungarians.  Someone should tell them to save their money and shop at home.