Monday, 9 December 2013

A Visit to Nuremberg Christmas Market

German Christmas markets are legendary, but Nuremberg Christmas market is the icing on that cake (or perhaps I should say the chocolate on the Lebkuchen?)

Technically, it’s a Christkindlesmarkt (Christ Child’s Market) rather than a Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market), but regardless of how pedantic you want to be, Nuremberg’s is Germany’s most famous Christmas market, drawing hordes of tourists from all over the world every year.

The Germans will tell you not to go to Nuremberg’s market precisely because it’s such a tourist trap, and if you really insist on going, they’ll tell you to go during the week as opposed to the weekend. Naturally, my girlfriends and I ended up visiting the market on a Saturday afternoon. But hey, we are tourists really.

The delightful Stef had ventured out of Baden-Württemburg and into Bavaria for the first time to visit me, so along with my fellow language assistants, Emily and Emma, we left behind an extremely snowy (and beautiful) Bayreuth and set off bright and early for Nuremberg. As it’s so nearby, I find myself in Nuremberg an awful lot really, but it’s a fab city and I really enjoy spending time there.

Whizzing through the snow-covered Bavarian countryside on the train was really rather stunning, and as the snow continued to fall, I felt like I could’ve been on a skiing holiday up in the Alps. And I tell you what, if we hadn’t already been feeling festive, the snow would’ve definitely been the tipping point!

We were heading to Nuremberg somewhat early because we had tickets to see Cinderella the ballet at Nuremberg Staatsoper theatre. At 11.30am. For 5,50€ each. Yeah, I know. We’d found the tickets on the official website, but to be honest, we weren’t entirely sure what we were going to see. I was hoping it might be some sort of early preview or dress rehearsal of the ballet… I was wrong.

Going to see a ballet is one of my favourite things in the world, and it’s extra special at Christmas. Unfortunately, we didn't really see a ballet. Now, we all speak pretty good German, and we were pretty sure there wasn’t anything online which gave details about what was actually happening that morning, so as we sat down in the theatre, we were slightly puzzled to see four chairs and a table with some water glasses on the stage. Hmm. Could these be abstract props? Was this the set?

A few minutes later, four people walked on stage with microphones, sat down, and began what was essentially a Q&A. Right. So, as the choreographer, costume designer and producer discussed the ballet, we at least got to practice our German listening skills!

Luckily for us, we were treated to a few little snippets of dance, even though the dancers were all in rehearsal gear. I say ‘dance’ rather than ‘ballet’ because in my opinion it wasn’t ballet. Well, not classical ballet. It was very modern, there were men playing the stepsisters and stepmother, and THERE WAS NO SHOE in the story at all! Cinderella! Without a glass slipper!? MADNESS.

So yes. All in all an interesting experience, but it was nice to see the theatre, listen to some German and watch some professional dancing. For a little over five Euros, you can’t really complain.

Afterwards, we were definitely ready for some lunch. Emma, Emily, Stef and I made our way into the old town centre to meet my fellow Bristol Bavarian babes, Frankie and Anna, who’d come up from Munich for the day, and we all went for a big ole lunch and a long overdue catch-up.

Schnitzel, Kartoffelsalat, Bratwurst, Kloß… It was German grub at its finest. Staff in Dirndls and Lederhosen, a cosy atmosphere and delicious food – I love traditional restaurants.

Duck with Kloß for Anna
And Kartoffelsalat for me!
Having warmed ourselves up in preparation for a chilly afternoon outside, we left the restaurant with pleasantly full tummies and ambled up the hill to show the first-time-Nurembergers amongst us the castle… Along with about a kajillion other tourists.

And then it was time for the main event: The Christkindlesmarkt. We all took a deep breath, psyched ourselves up and entered the festive throng.

Let me tell you, Nuremberg Christmas market is HUGE! There’s so much to look at, and especially on a Saturday, it takes a fair while to wander round. Naturally, one needs to re-energise along the way with Glühwein (do I blog about Glühwein too much these days?) and snacks.

After treating ourselves to a steaming mug of my new fave drink (I may or may not crave Glühwein on a daily basis at the moment. Not an alcoholic, honest!), we carried on strolling up and down the aisles of wooden huts, decked out with fairy lights and enticing offers.

As you’d imagine, most things aren’t cheap, but there are cute little finds that are also budget-friendly to be had - I got a lovely little tree decoration to take home. However, in my opinion, the charm of the Christmas market is something to experience in itself, whether you consider a visit to be a real shopping trip or not.
Decorations, accessories, candles, wooden toys and random Playmobil sets… There’s a rather random array of offerings to peruse.

Unsurprisingly, the busiest stalls are the food and drink ones. And oh, my! There’s a lot to try! Enjoyably for us, we managed to find a fair few free samples too. (Students always find the freebies.)

Lebkuchen, Stollen, chocolate fruit, crêpes, sweet roasted nuts, waffles, biscuits, chocolates, traditional German heart biscuits and so much Bratwurst… You’ll be really spoiled for choice. Thanks to the very generous Frankie, I tried Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars) for the first time – I’d been expecting them to be crunchy like a biscuit, but they were actually soft and chewy, and I am a new big fan.

Here are some foodie pics for your viewing pleasure:

Nibbling as we went, we gals had a great time ambling through the market and trying not to lose each other. As the sun went down, the atmosphere became super buzzy and the market really came to life – there was a band playing and the lights were all twinkling. We even had our picture taken and were briefly interviewed for the local paper! All in a day's work, eh?

We strolled round for a good couple of hours, and that was just the main section of the Christkindlesmarkt too – there’s also an international section with stalls from round the world and a separate children’s market.

Although it was packed with tourists, I absolutely loved the whole thing. As we strolled back to the station to go our separate ways and say our goodbyes, I realised quite how sprawling the market is - it's basically taken over the whole city!

Christmas magic, babelicious girlfriends and yummy food... It was an utterly charming and wonderfully Weihnachtlich (my new fave word) day. 

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