Normally, Innsbruck on a Sunday afternoon is dead. Once when we were out and about, it was so silent and deserted looking that it looked like aliens had come and taken everyone away.
This weekend, however, that is not the case. The city has been invaded by Italians. It’s a three day weekend both here and in Italy, and so the Italians have crossed the border in the thousands, in search of snow, and especially the Christkindlmarkt, or Christmas market.
Normally, I like being around Italians (I’ve lived there a significant part of my adult life), but there’s something about the annual winter invasion that I don’t care much for. Italian tourists can be a bit loud at times, but normally it’s a smiling, boisterous, happy sort of loud that’s not disagreeable. However, multiply a bit of that loud by the hundreds, cram them in a small part of the old town, and set them to jostling one another for a crack at the stands selling cheap, chintzy, gaudy Christmas crap, and the whole thing starts to get unpleasant. Italians are generally pretty good tourists, from what I’ve seen – curious to see the sites, interested in learning something about the places, people and culture that they’re visiting. However, I don’t think those that show up in this period get much of that, as it’s so jam-packed full of them that all you hear on the streets is Italian, rather than German (the locals have presumably ran off to hide in their dens in the woods). Indeed, my suspicion is that many of the people are here with package tour type deals that include a day or two skiing, and a day or two looking at junk in the markets. I even saw a few of those big tour busses that tend to disgorge people at regular intervals in various touristy locations throughout Europe.
There are, in my opinion, only two things worthwhile at the Christmas markets: Gluhwein – sounds like "glue wine" – warm, mulled wine with spices; as well as a sweet reminiscent of elephant ears, that’s made from fried dough, and topped with a berry sauce.