Germany Travel Blog› entry 33 of 69 › view all entries
A trip to the Christmas Markets of Central Europe is the quintessential Holiday experience. I basically felt as if I was roaming through a set of traditional Christmas Card scenes from Currier and Ives. Once we landed in Munich, the guide met us at the airport and the bus whisked us to our quaint inn in the impossibly pretty town of Oberammergau, Germany. This town of Passion Play fame is also well-known for it's artisans who craft wonderful creches. This was our base for exploring the Christmas Markets of the region.
The markets are very interesting and not like anything I have seen in the United States. There are many shops set up in a town square in temporary cabins selling many many different kinds of traditional crafts and toys. Despite the market atmosphere it does not feel commercial at all. People are with their families, eating lots of traditional street food like wursts, spaetzle with cheese, pretzels, etc. and drinking gluewein a hot mulled fortified wine, usually red but sometimes white, (I preferred the white). The gluewein really does warm you up which is necessary because the temperatures are quite cold. No worries though if you don't drink, there is plenty of hot chocolate available as well.
The journeys are not only about the markets however. In Munich, for example we were given a city tour which showcased the history and the modern life of the city. We were free to explore what we wanted and many of us walked over to the famous Hofbrauhaus for a real Bavarian Beer hall experience. I mean how can you be in Munich and NOT have a beer? In Nuremburg the focus was on Nazi History as we explored the Parade Grounds and talked about the reconstruction of this heavily destroyed city.
But mainly it was about the Christmas experience. The landscapes were perfectly snow-kissed. We visited Seefeld, Austria where we had a horse & carriage ride in the Alps, drinking traditional schnapps, and singing Christmas Carols in our somewhat inebriated voices. We were treated to a Christmas Concert performed by a local choir in a very old candlelit chapel in the Black Forest. We had Mass in Strasbourg Cathedral In France, where I got to cantor in one of the most beautiful church settings I have even experienced. But most of all, our group became like a family and it felt like one big Christmas Party. Our guide felt like a wise aunt who kept track of us and regaled us with stories. Evenings were spent at the bar socializing or walking around snow-covered towns at night. Celebrating Christmas at home a few weeks later was strange and almost anti-climactic after having been to the place where many traditions were started, but at the same time, made all the more richer when gazing upon the beautiful Christmas ornaments I purchased on the journey.