I'm in a sweet, fleeting season of life at the moment. One that has allowed me the opportunity to spend Christmas in Europe, just me and my husband. But it is a season that I know won't last too much longer. It is a wonderful and fun, yet the tension in this phase of life is missing out on moments with friends and family back in the US.
With a limited number of Christmases to spend in Europe, there is a lot of pressure to select just the right location to spend the holiday.
I managed to nail it this year.
I grew up in northern New Jersey with cold winters, dreaming of a white Christmas each year and often seeing it become a reality. Bundling up for Christmas is natural to me, so a snowy location never bothered me. In fact, my Christmas requirement was to spend it somewhere that embraces the season along with the cold. Both Christmas seasons I have spent in Europe have led me to Germany and Austria, an area where many of our Christmas traditions have come from, and an area that celebrates it well.
Seefeld in Tirol is a little over two hours south by train from Munich, Germany. The more well-known city of Innsbruck, Austria is just over thirty minutes east via train.
I was originally thinking of staying in Innsbruck for Christmas, but from everything I read, Seefeld seemed to be favored for its charm. After taking a day trip to Innsbruck, I cannot agree more. Hotels are a little more expensive in Seefeld but completely worth it to stay in this charming village.
What Seefeld is known for is cross-country skiing. Seefeld hosted the Nordic events of the 1964 and 1976 Olympic games. It boasts 279 kilometers of trails for cross-country skiing and appeals to all levels of experience.
I had been cross-country skiing once (when I was about 8 years old) and it was Michael's first time. Although lots of people were passing by us quite quickly, we managed to complete one of the shorter loops, no injuries besides a bruised ego. Next time we have resolved to take some lessons to get more out of it.
You can rent equipment from Norz which is right at the edge of the cross-country skiing area. A day rental for boots, classic-style skis, and poles was €12/person (and the rate per day becomes less expensive if you use equipment over a longer period of time). Next time I will be looking into the classes they offer as well!
If cross-country skiing is not your thing, there is an ice skating rink nearby as well as a small hill that kids were sledding down. There are down-hill skiing options in the area as well. Seefeld also has an extensive network of walking paths.
One crisp day we went for a long walk on the trails through Seefeld and walked all the way to the next village over, Mösern. There really wasn't anything of interest to make one seek out walking to Mösern, but we were walking for four hours total so we were bound to end up somewhere. If you saw all the food at dinner, you would be out there walking for hours with us!
Let's pause and talk about dinner. We stayed at the family-run Hotel Haymon. The room rate included both breakfast and dinner daily. By dinner, I mean a four course meal, commencing with an amuse-bouche, followed by an appetizer and soup, then a choice between two entrees, and finally a dessert. Everything I ate there was excellent.
Then on Christmas Eve, there was a note at breakfast requesting our presence at dinner at 7:00pm promptly for "the gala." Christmas Eve seems to be the big evening of feasting with family in Europe, more important than Christmas Day. The gala turned out to be a seven-course extravaganza that ended with the entire hotel gathering to sing two Christmas carols in German together. Oh, and each person walked away with a bag of homemade Christmas cookies.
Dinner went so long that I doubted at one point that we would make midnight mass, which was at 11:00pm instead of midnight. Dinner turned out to be a short three and a half hours though so we had time to make it to St. Oswald's church in the center of town.
After the German "midnight" mass, the church bells struck midnight. As we all poured out of the church into the square, we heard horns. There was a brass band up on a balcony at the opposite end of the square playing Christmas carols.
If the Christmas tree were in the center of the market area instead of off to the side, we could have all joined hands and officially made Seefeld the real Whoville from Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
I say it's close enough.
Seefeld provided a wonderful break from the rest of our hectic Christmas trip. It was relaxing yet offered many winter activities if one felt so inclined. Innsbruck is a short, direct train ride away if sightseeing is desired. But really, Seefeld itself is perfect.
After four wonderful nights, I was truly sad to leave Seefeld. But as I've hinted, I hope to be back next Christmas. That in itself says a lot, being our last Christmas in Europe.
PLAN YOUR TRIP:
I really can't stop recommending Hotel Haymon. The French family sitting next to us told us that their family has been going to the hotel for twenty years. Book your stay here:
Kalkkögelweg 264, 6100
Seefeld in Tirol, Austria
What's your ideal Christmas vacation?