In case you haven't noticed the theme, I'm behind on this blog because I spent all of December going to as many different Christmas markets as I possibly could. Means I took full advantage of being in Europe during the holiday season, and reliving it in the photos makes Christmas last through January! I had heard that Salzburg's market was extra magical, so I have to check it out for myself.
Nuremberg, aka Nurnberg in German, has a mixed history, what with being established around 1050, but to modern US citizens, predominately being known for the Nazi Party Rallies pre-WW2 and the subsequent War Crime Trials that took place after the war. When you read about visiting Nurnberg, multiple guides point out that the rally grounds and courthouses are open for visiting, but not exactly close to the city center, and not built up with much detailed museum exhibits, so it's hard to get the full sense since it seems like visting a generic expansive lot or courthouse. Since we only had one day and wanted to focus on the Christmas market, we didn't see any of the WW2 sights, but I did want to be sure to mention them to give a slightly more balanced picture, since the rest of what I describe about Nurnberg was pretty great. Above was a carriage in front of one of the buildings in the old town city center.
When we first got in Friday night, we went towards the central plaza, which had the main Christmas market in front of a church and the Schöner Brunnen (thing on the right that translates to Beautiful Fountain), which is a fountain that was finished in 1385 with forty colorful figures that represent the world view of the Holy Roman Empire. Because the Holy Roman Empire ruled everything and was everywhere back in the day. The church on the left wasn't listed in guides or labeled on google maps, so I can't tell you what it is.
In things that probably only amuse me, I am now humming Gagnam Style in my head after writing German Style above. Hehe. Anyways, in Munich (and from what we have seen much of Europe), Christmas tree lots like in the US don't really exist here. Hardware stores sell Christmas trees, but otherwise, very small squares here get filled with maybe 100 total trees ranging from one foot to eight feet high. They only have one type of tree (looks similar to Douglas Fir) so it makes going to pick your tree a pretty quick process since there literally isn't much to choose from.
Part of the fun of living in a new country is to see the changes throughout the year. When we arrived in February and for as long as we had known, the Chinese Tower was one of the biggest, most popular beer gardens, since it is located in the middle of the English Garden (main park similar to SF's Golden Gate Park) and had a band that played often. In winter, they were only open on weekends; during the summer, every wonderful day! Above is a photo from over the summer of me with the band. Spending a warm afternoon with friends and family at the Chinese Tower beer garden was definitely one of our favorite pastimes.
But, since Germany embraces Christmas in a way that words can't describe, they even removed all the benches, tables, and other signs of the beer garden from around the Chinese Tower, and instead, installed a smallish Christmas market, complete with carousel, kids rides, food stands, and booths selling ornaments and other goods. If you wondered what would get Germans to part with their beer gardens, at least temporarily, it seems Christmas succeeds in doing just that!
We had been to Prague in the summer (post linked here), which aside from an unfortunate incident with a bee sting, we truly enjoyed and kept thinking it would be amazing if we could somehow manage to see Prague for one of the couple times each winter that it snowed. Lucky for us, going for the Christmas market worked out and we got to see the city with a couple inches of snow!
For an added bonus, the first night we were there, no snow, but it was still incredibly beautiful. This is the old town city center with the Astronomical Clock on the left.
The city of Dresden has been having a Christmas market in some form since 1434, which makes it the oldest Christmas market in Germany, and gives it a serious leg up on other cities. Like most, they actually have about five smaller markets and one major one, but they did the best job of providing information in English about where they were and what was at each one. Some of the main sights in Dresden include the largest pyramid candle in the world which is 46 feet tall, a larger than life erzebrigge (wooden scene with an arch of candles) that you could walk up, two carousels, a ferris wheel, and loads of stands.
For those who can't picture a Christmas market, there are a couple things to know. In Europe, there are big empty squares, at least the size of a football field, and they are everywhere, so they get filled with wooden stands that are lined up and decorated, which sell all sorts of winter, holiday, and household items. The decorations on the stands are often just as I'm impressive as what they have for sale. It is hard to see in the photos above, but often the decorations involve moving bits, like the dwarves who were making teddy bears - above a stand that sold teddy bears.
The markets are crowded all day, but get way more magical at night, when all the light displays turn on, and you see ornate, larger than life German pyramid candles spinning (top left). Stuttgart had a choir that sang in one of the empty courtyards inside a former palace (there are former palaces all over Europe!) so everyone got to listen to them and admire the surroundings, which included a statue of some ruler on a horse (bottom photo).