I travelled to Schladming on a Christmas mission to experience the magic of Advent! What awaits you? The Christmas market in the Talbachschenke, the beautiful Talbachklamm winter hiking trail, the Krampus parade, and – last but not least – the magic of Advent in the TUI BLUE Schladming!
Christmas market in the Talbachschenke
The first point of my pre-Christmas exploration tour started right at the Christmas market in Talbachschenke, just a five minute walk from our hotel! Every weekend in December, from Thursday to Sunday, the Christmas market opens its doors and awakens the holiday spirit in me and the other visitors. Often less is more, and in this case it’s completely true. The Christmas market in the Talbachschenke is the polar opposite to the over-commercialised winter markets found in the cities. Only handmade products are offered. From the hand-knitted bonnets to traditional costume jewelry, to the hand-carved Rudolf, everything will find its way to your wishlist. Each stand offers something different!
The scent of roasted almonds tempted me to the food stalls. I treated myself to delicious sweets and Raclette bread after tasting chestnuts and a previously unknown mulled wine. With jolly Christmas music piping around me, either played live by local musicians or from a first-class playlist, I easily got in the mood for the upcoming festivities.
There was even a small hill for tobogganing, a track for curling, and a Christmas workshop. What can I say? I fell for the magic of Advent in Schladming! Every Grinch is sure to become a Christmas angel here!
Talbachklamm Gorge Winter Hiking Trail
The winter hiking trail of the Talbachklamm is a “delicacy” of the region, and – as far as I know – totally unique. The Talbachklamm is accessible year-round and leads from Schladming into the Untertal, completely walkable at a leisurely pace in about 45 minutes. For active visitors, it is also accessible by bike in summer! In the winter, however, the trail twinkles with magic, thanks to permanently installed lighting designed to emphasise the natural beauty. During Talbachklamm’s Advent display, which takes place twice in winter, even returning visitors like myself are astonished.
When I arrived at the entrance, the friendly faces of the rural youth awaited me, allowing entry for a small fee. The path was illuminated with hundreds of candles, like a runway for Christmas fans. Dozens of colourful spotlights ignited the gorge in a rainbow panorama, and set frozen waterfalls and icicles in spectacular hues. At regular intervals, the colours and natural spectacles were enriched with entertainment programmes.
Beyond the brass quartet, to whom I raptly listened for a few songs, I suddenly found myself in front of a choir. The resonance in the gorge was simply phenomenal – “You’ll get goose pimples,” as the Schladminger would say! After the musical programme, I caught sight of a few beer benches and a warm firelit brazier. Here, Alois Strimitzer – a legend of the region – regaled audiences with 15-minute fully-costumed Christmas tales. Especially for the younger visitors, this is an unforgettable experience! It was slowly growing colder, and so I took the opportunity to warm myself up with a hot drink at the mulled wine stall near the fire before my journey led me back to Schladming.
Schladming’s Angels and Demons
Traditionally, on the 5th of December, the “Nikolaus”, accompanied by his evil minions and angelic companions, pass through Schladming. In actuality, the characters are a local “Krampus club,” whose members play different roles and teach the inhabitants the terrifying story with elaborate costumes, walking through the town in “passes”. The finale of the whole spectacle is the visit of the Nikolaus himself (a precursor to Santa Claus), when the well-behaved children receive sweets, and the naughty ones get only whips from the Krampus. It was at this event that I heroically risked my physical well-being in my selfless reconnaissance mission to bring you this information!
It was 5:30 pm, cold and windy. The snow cannons had blanketed the Talbachschenke in snow, and the mood was already exuberant. The first pass was scheduled for 6:00 pm. I got a cup of punch to counteract the incoming hypothermia. “Safety first!” I always say! When I arrived at the track, I found a spot and watched the action unfold. All the little kids were in excited anticipation. They waited eagerly, but soon excitement turned to impatience as the clock ticked on, and the little ones began expressing their displeasure to the nearest authorities they had – their parents. Indeed, we were all sensing that the first pass wasn’t forthcoming, as just before 6:30 pm nothing had happened But then, just as I began to wonder what might be keeping the gentlemen, dense smoke appeared in the sky. This was joined by the red light of Bengal torches – which could only mean one thing – it was time!
The Krampus cometh
The infernal sound of a chugging two-stroke engine with self-made exhaust was spreading – the rebuilt lawnmowers were really hellishly loud! Behind the “highMower to Hell” the first demons could already be seen, and they didn’t hesitate to terrorise the naughty ones! The wooden rods looked very unpleasant, hoods were pulled from heads, and in very difficult cases, a monster would take a child over his shoulder for a few metres and and “steal” them from their parents. The children here, however, knew what to expect and took it accordingly with humour rather than pure panic.
If someone disguised as the Krampus had torn my six-year-old self out of the hands of my parents, I don’t know if I would have reacted as well as these kids. Suddenly, a ray of light on the horizon: St. Nicholas arrived with angels and witches and a large chest full of sacks stuffed with treats. The little visitors finally got what they came for – a treat handed over in style! Traditionally, these are filled with chocolate, peanuts, and tangerines. The organiser thanked everyone for coming, and even invited us to drinks. Each year, a portion of the sales help needy families in Schladming. This year, many children who cannot afford skis (skiing is a regular part of our physical education) were provided with complete equipment, including a season pass. So the punch-drinking became even merrier. Cheers!
Advent magic at the TUI BLUE Schladming
The grand finale of my pre-Christmas exploration tour then took place at the Advent Celebration at our hotel, the TUI BLUE Schladming. In Schladming this year, for the first time, there was a special Advent Calendar, where every day in December a new “door” opened. Each participating company hid special offers and promotions behind its door. The whole thing was for a good cause, so we didn’t wait to be asked twice and reserved the 9th of December for ourselves!
In the afternoon, we opened the “door” on our Advent calendar and rang in the Advent celebration in the hotel. Two large, fiery braziers at the entrance signaled that there was something going on! Beyond the flaming braziers, our visitors were greeted by the beautifully decorated lobby, complete with a huge Christmas tree. Right next to the decorated pine stood our “Punch Master” Michael, who kindly supplied me with a hot drink. Yes, even in winter you should always stay well hydrated! I jumped straight to the next station and fed myself with the delicious cookie buffet. The cookies weren’t baked by just anyone, but by the mother of our hotel director, Bernhard Haselsteiner. In the past few days, the compliments about Mama Haselsteiner’s baking skills had been unending – and rightly so! I had really never eaten such good gingerbread before. Honestly, I didn’t know it could taste so good! Admittedly, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the time-honoured Christmas pastry up to that point.
Live music and tasty treats
Supplied with sweets and punch, I immediately slipped into my role as a BLUE Guide and chatted with some guests about our region to shorten the waiting time for the upcoming band “The Attic”. Then it was finally time: The Attic live on stage. Had I not already known the singer, Sarah, from a few other performances, I would probably have been just as awestruck as our guests. Supported by two guitarists, her voice was given even more power; the Christmas songs The Attic performed especially for us were just phenomenal. At the end, some guests came up to me looking for a peaceful and cosy Après Ski experience.
That was it, unfortunately, from my exploration tour. And if you prefer active holidays, then check out the blog posts from my colleague Dirk. His trip involved biking in the snow and strapping on snowshoes to climb the Planai. Next time, I’ll tell you about the top 5 ski lodges in our region. Thank you for reading and see you soon!