Germany and Austria are considered as the homeland of Weihnachtsstimmung (Christmas mood) and the German speaking world takes the credit as the source of the modern Christmas. They were the first nation to bring a tree into the house and decorate it and are also the original region for Christmas markets.
Their traditions have of course spread far and wide and in recent years, the U.K. has seen the popularity of Christmas markets spiral in just about every town and city in the country.
Well, call me an old stick-in-the-mud, but I just cannot get excited about markets in my homeland as laudable as many of the efforts are. The likes of Manchester, London & Birmingham give it a damned good go, but they do not cut the senf for me I am afraid.
I have also been to very good markets in Paris, Nice, Prague, Dublin and Athens – fun, but for me just imitations of the authentic Chtistkindlmarkt. It’s like soccer in the States or school proms in the U.K. – it doesn’t quite fit.
I have not visited that many in fairness and from what I have read there are some real Germanic crackers, but here are my two favourites.
I visited the Köln Weinachtsmarkt only last week on the back of watching football in Monchengladbach the previous night.
With the towers of the Groß St. Martin church & the Rathaus (town hall), plus the enormous cathedral as imposing backdrops, the market has everything that you would expect in the way of gifts, decorations and refreshment. Everything really does look homemade, even if this is highly unlikely. The colourful stalls are wonderful to linger at and even though bargains are hard to find, buying from one of them as opposed to a shop is somehow very special.
Apart from the great setting and the myriad of shopping options, I also loved the skating rink that takes you on a circuit around some of the market area. The wooden bridge over the ice gave a great view too. As well as skating you can also try your hand at curling – if only I could stand up on skates!
There was also a jolly lady pushing around a music box, a melodic merry-go-round and an entertaining troupe of colourfully clad musicians hanging out of a restaurant window and captivating the small gathering below. The Christmas spirit was definitely stirring!
You can see a few seconds by clicking here.
In order to earn my bratwurst and Cologne brewed beer known as Kölsch, I decided to climb the top of the Kölner Dom tower. 533 steps later I was whacked! The views were excellent though out across the railway bridge over the Rhine, so it was well worth the effort. The cathedral is a World Heritage site and ordinarily definitely the city’s premier attraction.
The steps back down were nowhere near as strenuous to tackle, especially as I was driven forward with the thought of a hot sausage and a cold beer! Delicious it was too. Would you like another one sir? Oh yes, go on then!
Sadly after a four hour visit my time was up and it was time to take the train the short hop to the airport. I had a wonderful short stint. I would have liked to have stayed until the place was all lit up of course – that will have to wait until next the.
I love the whole place, but the Christkindlmarkt is absolutely wonderful. Sprawling through the main central squares around Salzburg Cathedral and in the shadow of Hohensalzburg Castle, again the setting is extra special. The market is huge and stuffed full of goodies to adorn your home or fill your stomach.
As ever, a warming mug of glühwein and a satisfying Wiener schnitzel or bockwurst is heaven on earth as and perfect fuel for fighting off the cold.
Up at the castle is a smaller market, delightfully lit and feeling far more exclusive. Whilst we were there, children and adults froze in mock terror at the sound of chains and cowbells. The grotesque looking krampus stomped up the hill to whip ‘naughty people’ around the legs with. Children ran, the krampus growled and parents guffawed. It was all good natured fun and sweets all round redressed the balance somewhat.
Back down by the cathedral a youthful choir sang carols by candlelight, the sound of music peels out in Salzburg perpetually.
The festive spirit flows over, Weihnachtsstimmung in spades. Even any Scrooges amongst the visitors & locals would surely feel a warm glow in this place. I even let Mrs Wilbur talk me into a horse and trap ride around the centre!
The whole of Salzburg is geared up for a brilliant festive break, including the many excursions up into the surrounding hills & mountains and the nearby lake district. The Sound of Music tour is also great fun even if the film is not one of your favourite things!
Where are your favourite Christmas Markets?