Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nürnberg Christkindlmarkt

As you may have noticed on the blog lately, the German Weihnachtsmarkts (Christmas Markets) have been in full swing for the past couple of weeks in cities all over Germany.   Now there are plenty of famous markets in all of the big cities and we get mixed reviews about which one is the best, but we’ve consistently heard that Nürnberg has the most well-known market this time of year.  Needless to say, we had to take a 3-hour train ride with our friends, Katy and Ryan, to verify in person.  We wanted to be part of the 2 million visitors that partake in the festivities each year.
                  In short, Nürnberg has jumped up the charts to one of my favorite places in Germany.  There is an old walled-section of town that is very neat, in a medieval kind of way that meets you right across from the main train station.  The city was beautiful and we’ll let the pictures do the talking.  We followed the crowd down through the streets that were lined with permanent shops, seasonal stands, loads of people, and smelling of sweet goodness – a mixture of mostly Glühwein (spiced red wine), and Lebkuchen (gingerbread). We had lunch at an awesome brewery restaurant called Barfüße which featured the local Nürnberger sausages (small, sweet sausages – reminded us of breakfast sausages), deer gulasch, and some excellent beer.

Nuernberger Sausages - petite and sweet (like my wife)

Large signs suspended across the street guided us toward the market, but before we reached the main square our eyes were caught by about 20 men in Santa Claus costumes.  As I was taking a picture of the curious group, one of them called to us and approached us, speaking in German.  After generously switching to English for the group, he explained that he was with a group of local church pastors that were telling people about the true meaning of Christmas (not to give it away, but it’s Jesus).  After thinking about it later, it was kind of ironic that they dressed up like Santa Claus to tell people about the REAL meaning of Christmas – I guess it was easier than building 20 wooden mangers and warmer than laying around in straw……..I don’t know.  At any rate, he was asking if we knew Jesus personally and asked us about where we’re from and what we’re doing here, etc.  He was a pleasant fellow and he was only disappointed that none of us were familiar with Connecticut……..the only state that he’d been to.  He ended the encounter by praying for us and it was a pretty cool experience.  Not a bad way to kick off our day.

Loved this guy - his prayer for us included hoping that we would "not waste our lives on things that don't matter" - not wanting to let him down, we had a Gluehwein minutes later, so yeah!
The market itself was a bit crowded, which is to be expected, but we managed to make our way around all of the shops and have our share of Glühwein and another delightful concoction called Feuerzangenbowle (basically Glühwein with rum and sugar that is set on fire before being poured into a large copper cauldron in which it is served).  For some awesome reason, they like to serve these warm beverages in little ceramic boots – what a great idea!  I definitely would’ve never thought to serve a drink in a boot……then again, I’m no cheeky German either.
                  Contrary to popular belief……this is not called “das Boot”, which is German for “boat”.  Rather, this is a “Stiefel”, which is German for “boot”.  Although I think the boot scene from “Beerfest” wouldn’t have been as funny if they called for “DAS STIEFEL!!”

the market square, before the other million people showed up

view of the cathedral on the market square

also on the square, this phallic monument either commemorates the achievements of hometown artist Albrecht Duerer (famous woodcut-print guy) or the superiority of the Nuernberger sausage

Glueweihn - hot n' ready in the 0.2 L holiday fun size

In a section of the market entitled "neighboring markets", we found stands from around the world and wouldn't you know.... (I asked the ladies working the stand if they'd ever been to Atlanta......nope - one was from Jersey though).

Look, you can even buy one of those "bees"

If you look close enough you might notice the powerbuy of the market - Jif peanut butter for 20 Euros ($30 - no kidding).  My mom isn't THAT choosy.

"The largest Feuerzangen Bowle in the world" - if anyone else has them then it's a big deal I guess.  You can see the huge copper kettle ablaze from across the river.

Gluehwein from a boot - the way it's supposed to be done.

The whole crew: Marisa, Ryan, Katy, and yours truly

It was a great time had by all, and a seriously long day with the train rides there and back.  We came away with a few “crafty” purchases – pun intended (all they sell is food and crafts) that will either adorn our Charlie Brown Christmas tree or be sent across the pond to family members in need of said crafts.  Nürnberg is definitely a city that I want to revisit in warmer weather to take a historical tour around and get the lowdown on this place.  All I know is that the Nazi party held some large rallies in the city and they have a famous museum there discussing how the regime came to power and how it was able to grow so popular and strike fear in the hearts of so many Germans at that time.  Stay tuned for a follow-up post when I get the chance for a return trip.
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