In truth, this should be the first post in our Bavarian winter wonderland roadtrip, but I could not quite figure out how to say what I wanted to about our trip to Nuremburg’s Christkindelsmarkt and I still cannot. This has been one of those keep-you-up-at-night-writing-in-your-head posts. Initially what I wanted to talk about are the additional strains living in a foreign country can put on a relationship – from cycling in the rain to pick up a rental car, to driving all night while listening arguing over whether to listen to Serial or pop tunes mashups, to figuring out a new GPS, to finding parking spots in a new city when your spouse wants to take a bus instead. But, thinking back, all of those issues that finally gave rise to sitting alone in the rain surrounded by glittering ornaments and eating gingerbreads whilst drunk on hot spiced wine seem small and silly as they always do in hindsight. Traveling, in the cold and rain on the short winter days while also having the flu and visiting the depressing, history-heavy Nazi Documents Museum beforehand also do not a cheery, festive mood make. So, I am going to save that post for another day.
The Bavarian winter wonderland roadtrip was initially inspired by the Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt, the most famous Christmas market in all of the world with more than two million annual visitors (mostly non-German tourists.) After very much enjoying Toulouse’s marché de noël last winter and the Ostermärkte in Vienna in the springtime I was quite excited to visit the Christmas market and initially planned our trip around it. The Christkindelsmarkt is one of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets, dating back to the 16th century, and has now grown to include hundreds of red-and-white-striped vendor stalls and side markets, such as a children’s village and international market where the Atlanta booth is the most popular for its Jack Daniel’s-infused hot cocktails. Most of the items available are handmade – carved wooden ornaments and hand-painted glass, ceramic village sets and wooden nativity figurines, children’s games and hand-knit hats and mittens. Unique to the market are Zwetschgenmännle, odd figurines made out of dried plums whose purpose I still have yet to grasp even after reading their history. And, of course, there is the food and drink – iced cookies, spiced nuts, Lebkuchen gingerbreads, Nuremberg sausages, raisin logs, Glühwein, hot spiced beer, and the world’s largest Feuerzangenbowle, a 9,000 litre cauldron that holds a run-soaked, flaming sugarloaf and mulled wine. For a little extra kick, you can simply order your cup “mit,” which will get you a shot of extra liquor added in.
The main attraction at the market is the angelic Christkind (Christ child,) who leads the festivities, including, on the day we visited, the annual children’s lantern parade. Every two years a young woman is chosen to be the Christkind, a surprisingly demanding job with more than 170 engagements during the advent season, ranging from opening the market, to appearing daily for photographs, to meeting with sick and impoverished children in the region. This year’s Christkind was Teresa Treuheit, a woman whom I think I would very much like to meet for more than the few second we smiled at each other over the camera lens; she snowboards, motorcycles, and travels.
The children’s parade was beautiful with thousands of children marching down the street waving handmade, paper lanterns, representative of post-war peace in a city that was once the rallying grounds for anything but. Entire classes and schools seemed to participate in the procession, parents and assistants keeping tight grips on children who otherwise wanted to run, their lanterns flaming. The long procession ended at the base of the city’s castle where the children put on the story of the nativity.
The Christkindlesmarkt was impressive, and, after we regrouped and I introduced the Frenchman to the Feuerzangenbowle tent, a great experience and start to our winter wonderland roadtrip around Bavaria.
The Christkind’s traditional opening of the Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt:
“You men and women, who once yourselves were children,
You little ones, life’s journey just beginning,
Each and all, who troubled tomorrow, are full of cheer today,
Pray listen to what Christ Child has come to say!
Every year, four weeks before the time,
To decorate the Christmas tree, to celebrate the season,
Appears upon this square, your forebears knew it too,
What you here see, called Christkindlesmarkt by you,
This little town within the town, of wood and cloth made,
Whose short-lived splendor so fleeting seems to be,
And yet it is eternal. My market shall forever young remain.
As long as Nuremberg stands, and the memory of that market’s fame.
For Nuremberg is both old and young at once,
The many features of its countenance beyond all count.
Here this noble square. But now adjoining it,
The tall buildings of today, the factories of the modern world
The new city of so much green. And yet, you men and women true
It will remain forever the Nuremberg that is you.
Now as the old year ends there comes the day,
When wishes can be made and presents given,
When the market shines forth far and wide,
With decorations, and crystal balls, and blessed Christmastide
This you may not forget, you men and women, heed my word,
He who has all needs nothing more,
There are the children of this world and poor,
Who know the best what giving’s for.
You men and women, who once yourselves were children,
Be them again today, happy as children be,
And now the Christ Child to its market calls,
And all who come are truly welcome.”
Read part 1 of our five-day Bavarian roadtrip here.
Read part 2 of our five-day Bavarian roadtrip here.
Read part 3 of our five-day Bavarian roadtrip here.
Read part 4 of our five-day Bavarian roadtrip here.
Read part 5 of our five-day Bavarian roadtrip here.