Vienna, Austria Christmas Markets

Friday January 30, 2015 at 6:06 AM | 0 Comments

While some Christmas Markets claim to be the most authentic or have the oldest ancestry, there is no denying that Vienna claims the distinction of hosting the most Christmas Markets in one city. There are approximately 20 Christmas Markets sprinkled about Vienna, Austria, bringing the term pop up market full circle. During my Viking River Cruise, I was able to take in three charming Christmas Markets in one day.

Schönbrunn Palace, Sunset, Vienna, Austria

Schönbrunn Palace Sunset. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


I was already excited to visit Austria’s capital with its stunning architecture, blended with old world imperial traditions. Add on Viennese pastries and Lipizzaner stallions and I was in horse heaven. A team of matching white horses waited patiently next to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, ready to take visitors on a tour of old Vienna. On the other side of the cathedral, a Christmas Market welcomed holiday revelers with steaming mugs of glühwein, roasted chestnuts on an open fire (yes, really) and endless stacks of fresh pretzels. Tis the season to be jolly, indeed! There’s no escaping the holiday spirit when you are surrounded by dancing puppets, gingerbread houses and rosy red-cheeked dolls made of cinnamon sticks!

horses, St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna, Austria

Horses next to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown



Demel, snow globe, Vienna, Austria

Snow globes in Demel bakery. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Stephansplatz, Vienna, Austria

Stephansplatz holiday mug. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

After exploring a smaller Christmas Market in downtown Vienna, some of our Viking River crew opted for an excursion to Schönbrunn Palace in the afternoon.
Schönbrunn Palace

In 1569 a member of the Habsburg dynasty purchased a large plot of land, built a mansion and created hunting grounds. Schönbrunn, meaning “beautiful spring” was dubbed the summer residence of the family. In 1918 the Austrian Republic took over the property and turned the 1,441-room Baroque palace into a museum. In 1996 it because a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition to strolling the formal gardens, visitors are able to take a guided tour of the imperial apartments and explore the furnished rooms in the palace. There was also a carriage museum tour (for an additional charge) with 94 carriages on display. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to visit the museum.

Schönbrunn Palace was an optional four hour excursion on my Viking River Cruise that I wanted to take to see yet another Christmas Market and I’m glad I did.The Christmas Market at Schönbrunn Palace offered some of the best hand-made crafts in my opinion. This is the place where I purchased some unique Christmas ornaments to take with me back to California. It also gave us a memorable sunset over the palace. What a send-off Vienna!

puppets, Schoenbrunn Palace, Vienna

Puppets at the palace. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Schönbrunn Palace, Austria, Vienna

Glühwein at Schönbrunn. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


Chestnuts, Christmas Market, Vienna, Austria

Roasted chestnuts. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Article written by, video and photos courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. Disclosure: thanks to the folks at Viking River Cruises for making this trip possible. As always, all opinions are my own.

Skin Cancer Prevention Basal Cell Carcinoma

Wednesday January 28, 2015 at 6:06 AM | 8 Comments

As I left my deep water aerobics class and stepped into my car, I quickly scrolled through my phone messages. Two missed calls from my dermatologist office with no messages left. I was waiting to hear my biopsy results from a skin sample removed the week prior. “No news is good news,” said my dermatologist when I left his office on Christmas Eve. We’ll call you if there is a problem.”

synchronized swimming, swimming, skin cancer

Unprotected sun exposure leads to skin cancer. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


Skin cancer

My heart skipped a beat as I called the doctor’s office knowing this was not good news. Sure enough, the receptionist told me that my biopsy came back positive for basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer. Fortunately, they do not spread and are almost always a local growth on the skin. Treated with local surgery, in my case a 50 minute in-office procedure, they have a very high cure rate.

There are several types of basal cell carcinoma; the superficial type that appears as a red, scaly patch, the nodular type that appears as a pearly growth, the pigmented basal cell carcinoma and the aggressive morpheic basal cell carcinoma. Squamous Cell Carcinomas are less common but have the potential to spread beyond the local area. Please refer to a medical doctor for proper diagnosis.


Originally, I thought the blemish by my jawbone on the right side of my cheek might be acne. My husband thought that, as well. I showed it to my primary care physician who instructed me to see my dermatologist if it didn’t disappear in 30 days. Busy with travel assignments, I disregarded her instructions and waited until Christmas Eve, eight months later, before going in for my yearly mole check.

basal cell carcinoma, skin cancer, skin cancer prevention

Basal Cell Carcinoma pre and post surgery.


Sun safety tips to prevent skin cancer

Back in June of 2008, I wrote a blog post about “Top 10 Sun Safety Tips to Prevent Skin Cancer.” The three main factors in the development of skin cancer are how much unprotected sun exposure you have had, your skin type and your age.

As a Northern California native with Norwegian heritage, I have three strikes against me. In my youth I routinely subjected my fair skin to unprotected sun exposure through swimming, horseback riding and my general preference to live outdoors and now, as as active adventure baby boomer, my age is working against me.

What have I learned from my skin cancer diagnosis? Always wear broad-spectrum sunscreen, lip balm with strong SPF, a broad brimmed sun hat, clothing with UPF protection and UV-blocking lenses in your sunglasses.

Do you have experience with basal cell carcinoma or Squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer? What are your tips on how to prevent skin cancer?
Article written by and photos courtesy of fair-skinned travel writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California.

Germany’s Passau Christmas Market

Friday January 23, 2015 at 6:06 AM | 4 Comments

Are you looking forward to the Christmas Markets of Germany? Passau’s Christkindl Markt was special to me in that it had some very unique holiday items and foods on offer and the festive atmosphere was magical. Located in lower Bavaria on the Austrian border, Passau is known as The City of Three Rivers or Dreiflüssestadt, as this is where the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers come together.

Passau, Germany, Christmas Markete

Passau at night. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Our Viking River Cruise dropped us at the base of the old city, sandwiched between the Veste Oberhaus Castle on the hillside of Passau and St. Stephens Cathedral on the opposite side of the Danube River. The cobblestone streets were filled with living art displays and hand-crafted holiday ornaments. Scents of wood-fired pizza, glühwein and gingerbread filled the frigid December air.
The Christmas markets are also a place to try foods that are not typically served at home. I couldn’t resist the warm cheese known as raclette, served slathered on a thick slice of German bread and topped with your choice of local jam, fried onion bits and diced ham. Wash this hearty snack down with a steaming mug of glühwein, surrounded by friends and strangers, and you have created a favorite food memory.


Living Art, Passau, Germany

Gingerbread lined streets in Passau. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Glühwein, Passau, Germany

Glühwein photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

St. Steven's Cathedral, Passau, Germany

St. Steven’s Cathedral. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Wonder into the Cathedral of St. Stephens with its Italian-baroque architecture. Look up to the ornate ceiling and take in the world’s largest church organ with its 18,000 pipes. Then explore the Christkindl Markt or Christmas Market in the Domplatz, the cathedral square as you mingle with locals. Certainly, you will find one-of-a-kind gifts for holiday giving and don’t forget to bring something back for yourself to remind you of this special European vacation.

wood carving, Santa, Passau, Germany

Wooden holiday figures. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Café Simon, Passau, Germany

Café Simon gingerbread making demonstration. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown.

Insider Tip
Do not miss Café Simon in Passau! This historic confectionery, owned by the Simon family, has been making gingerbread and chocolates for over 100 years. This was one of the few gift items that found its way into my carry-on luggage and back to California.

Have you been to any Christmas markets in Germany or Europe? What treasures did you bring home with you?

For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter @Nancydbrown.

carousel horses, Passau, Germany

Carousel horses. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown.

Article written by, video and photos courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. Disclosure: thanks to the folks at Viking River Cruises for making this trip possible. As always, all opinions are my own.