So on a whim (and because it was cheap), I decided to pop over to Salzburg, Austria last week. And I mean cheap – if I’d stayed in London, I’d probably have spent more on shops and at the pub.
And I went primarily for Krampusnacht!
For those unaware, Krampus is a horned, hoofed demon who appears around Christmas to punish the bad kids. He’s sort of like St. Nicholas’ bad cop. He’ll whip them with his branch and twigs (not a euphemism), kidnap them in large burlap sacks, and/or just steal their souls.
And he’s a bit of a cult figure in Alpine countries – there are multiple Krampuslaufs (Krampus runs) in the days leading up to St Nicholas’ Day (6 Dec), with most of them falling the day before (much like All Hallows’ Eve/All Saints’ Day).
I wasn’t prepared for how popular these parades were, or how much effort people put into their costumes. There were some serious, theatrical furries in that lauf. Including one in a cart! And the whipping – holy shit, these guys do NOT fuck around. I was whipped by several Krampi on my legs (thank god for two layers of thermals), and my funny walking thereafter made it pretty obvious to everyone downtown that I was one of the Designated Bad Kids. I blame the red lipstick.
And there were a LOT of people watching. Orderly, yet bulbous throngs of parade-watchers, that transformed into a polite moshpit following the Krampuslauf once it passed us. It was early enough in the evening (6pm) that people were out with their families, and it was cute how little kids were excited to see these scary demon dudes. It reminded me of the Hallowe’en parades and zombie walks in Salem.
And it was safe! Good amount of security, and Salzburg didn’t strike me as an area for pickpockets, despite how insanely packed the narrow little shopping streets were. The city’s small, and you could cover most of it in a day. Do check out St Peter’s church if you can. Awesome stonework on the catacombs:
The Krampuslauf itself was pretty minor (sadly, I didn’t find many shops selling Krampus-related items, so he’s not that big of a cult figure there), so the city’s big draw is actually the Christkindlmarkt – the Christmas markets. There’s one major one just off the main shopping precinct, with some smaller Advent markets clustered around the city.
It’s everything that every English Christmas market tries to ape: little chalet market stalls, Gluhwein/mulled wine, German sausages and a ton of stalls selling handmade Christmas decorations. And MASSIVE PRETZELS.
It was insanely-packed, and I’m glad I got there early in the day, and that the city was so close (15min-drive) to the airport, as there’s not much in the way of nightlife in Salzburg, particularly if you’re on your own. There’s one major beer hall, and there are some cool-looking bars, but it’s pretty sleepy in comparison to what I’ve been told about Vienna. Probably why it’s so cheap to visit.
Still, I had fun literally hunting for Krampus-related items (I scored chocolate, some gingerbread, and a cheap Krampus felt hat), and the Krampuslauf was a fitting close to the trip. I did watch a short (We Always Come Back), but it was so crappy that I figured this and my leg welts made for a better entry for the day.
Look! I filmed some of it! Look how awesome it was! ^_^