Erfurter Weihnachtsmarkt

December 23, 2011

What a setting for a Christmas market!

Somehow my husband came across the Weihnachtsmarkt in Erfurt and we were so blown away by the photos, we immediately added it to our must-see list. Being just over two hours away made it possible to do on his very first day off for the holidays. So on Wednesday, we packed up the car with some snacks - and the dog - and headed east.

When we arrived in Erfurt, a bit later then we'd hoped considering our late start getting on the road and bit of bad weather slowing things down, we soon realized this Markt was much like Düsseldorf in that it was spread throughout various parts of the city. What I've come to like about this is the lack of traffic jams as everyone tries to get around the same small space dedicated to the celebration. It certainly helped out on this trip, seeing as we had to maneuver our four-legged family member through the crowd as well. 

The first section we happened upon was the Medieval part of the Markt, done up like a real tattered shanty-town from the 15th century. The booths were strewn with laced-up canvas as their roofs, hand-painted signs and its sellers donned era-appropriate outfits. I wouldn't call myself a Renaissance Faire/Medieval Times kind of gal, but something about the atmosphere in this old German town was contagious, and I almost wished I could swap out my jeans and sweater for a long skirt and bosom-displaying shirt. 

Look at that GIANT pan of roasted potatoes! 
I just wanted to jump in.

We headed further into the town to explore more of the Markt as it got later, knowing there was still so much more to see. On our way to the next Platz, we encountered a few things that made us laugh:

This little car all decked out for Christmas 
(love the mittens on the side mirrors!)

This funny, life-size Brotmann (we thought he was a waffle, but his plaque set us straight)

The next area of the Markt was impressive, both with its ornate architecture and with the culinary find of all the Weihnachtsmärkte to-date: the Hungarian Lángos. This deep-fried flat bread is served either savory, with a choice of various sauces and cheese, or sweet, with just sugar, or Nutella or apple sauce and cinnamon. After our dinner one of spicy sauce and cheese, we decided we'd come back on our way home and get a sweet one (yes, they were that good!). Now I'm really looking forward to a trip to Hungary so I can enjoy more of these tasty treats!

The Hungarian Lángos - my new favorite thing

Making our way down to the final area of the festivities was a breathtaking finale to a lovely evening. As we came further down the curved street, the main Platz, framed by a huge, colorful Ferris Wheel and the amazing cathedral, came into sparkling view. The setting was gorgeous and the set-up still allowed us all to enjoy ourselves, me without getting knocked into and sloshing Glühwein all over myself (an inevitability of the crowded holiday market) and Bailey free from being stepped on. 

While we didn't end up there for too long (considering the 2-1/2-hour drive to get there), it was definitely a worthwhile stop on our tour of Weihnachtsmärkte. Perhaps next year, we'll have to spend a bit more time - if for nothing else, to enjoy more Lángos! 

Candy apples all colors of the rainbow - but no caramel  :(

Only in Germany does a Marzipan potato count as a sweet

Talk about setting the stage!

Frohe Weihnachten!

And so on this final night of Weihnachtsmärkte in Germany, we're off to enjoy an evening at our own Christmas market. Here's to that last Glühwein!

*Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische

Weihnachtsmärkte Season: A Tale of Two Cities

December 22, 2011

Düsseldorf's Weihnachtsmarkt. Pretty, oder?

With our hopes of spending the holidays in Paris dashed in a pile of unplanned bills and various financial obligations, we've been trying to not let it get us down by seeing more of what our local holiday celebrations have to offer. This past weekend offered quite the tour, with both days filled with a little bit of travel and a whole lot of Weihnachtsmärkte.

On Saturday, we took a trip south into the Pfalz wine region for - what else? - some our favorite Sekt, sold only at the Weingut, and a stop at one our favorite little towns, Freinsheim. We were introduced to it by a German friend last spring (on a wonderful little road trip which somehow I forgot to blog about) and immediately fell in love with its amazing history and quirkiness. The town has apparently been settled since the 6th century and most impressively still remains built around the 15th century wall that once protected the city. Because everything was built - and then rebuilt after the Nine Years' War - around this massive fortress, streets and passageways are often winding, tiny and super-old, giving one the feeling of stepping back in time.

Not surprisingly, the Weihnachtsmarkt there was just like the town itself - small, charming and surely full of centuries of tradition. While there weren't many booths, some of what we managed to pick up was the best we'd experienced anywhere. A small booth selling hard candies - sold at just about every holiday market - had the very best-tasting candies I'd ever tasted (we bought mandarin, apple-cinnamon and milk-rum with filling - yum!).  The Glühwein was offered in original, Dornfelder and even a Potugiesier variety, and every one was the most delicious Glühwein we've had at any of the various holiday markets we've visited. It was obvious in this tiny town that they weren't just churning stuff out for mass amounts of tourists. They really took pride in what they served at their Weihnachtsmarkt - and it showed. We're looking forward to making Freinsheim a regular stop at Christmastime. 

The picturesque town of Freinsheim, done up for Christmas

Bailey is always well-behaved when there's Wurst involved

Very different Glühwein mugs, 
but the very best Glühwein we'd ever tasted

Just in case you didn't know what you were eating, 
here's a lovely picture of the animal it came from

A fuzzy end to an afternoon full of many mugs of Glühwein 
(really only because I wanted the perfect mug to take home)

The incredible medieval outer gate of Freinsheim 
- the Eisentor, or 'Iron Gate''

Sunday was a trip with some of Russ' work friends to Düsseldorf, which was quite the opposite in every way from Freinsheim. Where Freinsheim was a traditional small town with small town offerings, Düsseldorf had more of what you'd expect from a major city - everything was bigger and there was just more of it.

Düsseldorf 's Weihnachtsmarkt - or I should say Weihnachtsmärkte, as it's really a bunch of smaller markets connected on a path of lights around the city center - was impressive in its scale and light displays, as well as range of Glühwein mugs (I picked up three different ones to bring home!), but in terms of food and things to purchase, I wasn't really blown away. The atmosphere definitely made up for its average offerings though, as did the light sprinkling of snow we got in the evening.

While we really didn't get to see much beyond the Markt, just being there for the evening, it was our first time to Düsseldorf and we enjoyed seeing a new town. It was also nice to spend some time with folks I rarely get the chance to see and catch up. In the absence of family, friends really do make the season for us.  

The Rheinkniebrücke and Rheinturm (which tells the time with the light display down the tower)

Our group, freezing down by the chilly river

One of the most impressive sections of the Markt boasted a beautiful carousel and giant Christmas tree

Holiday stars light the path to the next section of Weihnachtsmarkt

Angels watch over the booths in this section

This raised platform/bar was quite impressive 
amongst all the lights

And onto another Markt area...

...where blue 'stars' lit up the sky

The Glühwein stands here were mostly enclosed 
- a nice respite from the cold - 
and this one even had super-swanky chandeliers inside

After our whirlwind weekend touring Weihnachtsmärkte, we definitely got inspired to see more to fill our holiday since we're staying home and on our own this year. Yesterday, we drove to Erfurt, in Eastern Germany (more on that later), and we hope to make it into France just after Christmas, as their markets go on till the end of the year. There are definitely people we miss this time of year, but it's hard to get too lonely with such amazing seasonal celebrations going on. I feel rather spoiled - I really couldn't imagine not having the holidays done up as the Germans do.   

*Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische

Der erste Schnee!

December 20, 2011

Imagine my surprise when I woke up 
and saw THIS out the window!

Between our holiday trip to Paris falling though, all our friends leaving and no one coming to visit us, the forecast of only rain for the week seemed like a kick in the teeth. If nothing else, a white Christmas pretty much makes the holiday, but it didn't look like it was going to happen - until this morning! I don't know if it was my husband being more noisy than usual, or that I just knew, but something got me up early this morning and when I happened to look out the window, I started squealing like a child. My snow had come! Not just a lame sprinkling either - an honest-to-goodness white covering of everything in sight. 

Like any good snow aficionado, I immediately threw on some clothes over my pjs, did a quick mouthwash rinse and laced up my snow boots. Bailey knew something was up (she probably can't remember the last time she saw me up before the sun), but it wasn't until we stepped out the door that she realized what all the excitement was about. Always unsure at first, it didn't take too long before she was racing around in the snow, burying her face in it and generally acting like a crazed animal. Bailey and I are kindred spirits where snow is concerned. 

After walking Russ to his car, the two of us decided to make the most of it - after all, who knew if it would stick (it's looking good so far!) - and headed to the park. Bailey got to do all kinds of running around off the leash (like several other doggies with the same idea this morning) and rediscovered her affinity for eating snow, while I got to take all kinds of pictures and just revel in the early, pristine whiteness that so many had yet to discover today.  

So, without further ado, Wiesbaden's first snow this winter:

Crossing my fingers it will keep this up for a White Christmas...

*Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische