The Christmas markets of Germany
Dorner Family Vineyard
December 5, 2020
Our anticipation grew as we sat back and watched the German countryside sail by our window during the train ride from Munich to Regensburg.
This trip, in early December 2019, was very different than any of our previous trips to Germany, or anywhere in the world for that matter. We were here, with our son and daughter-in-law, specifically to visit the German Christmas Markets we had heard and read so much about.
Dating back to the 1400s, these “street” markets are held during the four weeks of Advent every year. Originating in Germany, Christmas Markets are usually held in the town square ... most times in the shadow of the town’s cathedral. Gazing out the train window, we wondered if the Christmas Markets would live up to the hype. Were they as delightful and memorable as we had heard? Would we leave Germany only wanting to return to discover more of these charming markets? Over the next 10 days, as we journeyed from town to town, we would find out.
Our first Christmas Market was in the picturesque town of Regensburg. As we walked from the train station to our boutique hotel, located in the Old Town of Regensburg, we caught a glimpse of our first market. Red and white striped canopy roofs sheltered the individual stalls. Located in each were all sorts of handcrafted artisan goods and tasty treats awaiting our perusal. We practically ran up the stairs in our hotel, threw our luggage on the bed, and even though a bit jet-lagged, we raced back out to the square to experience our very first market. First on the agenda was the crepe and hot chocolate stands. We had to, after all, keep up our strength if we were to truly experience these legendary markets.
Actually, Regensburg has not one, but four individual markets located in three different areas of the Old Towne, with the fourth located on the spectacular grounds of Thun and Taxis Castle just a short 10 minute walk from our hotel. With our stomachs full for the moment, we wandered up and down the timeworn cobblestone streets, just taking it all in ... the sights, the sounds, the smells. We were really here, bundled up in our winter jackets, boots, gloves, scarves and hats, standing amidst the enchanted markets in this tiny town of Regensburg. We were already captivated. We had never experienced anything like this in our lives.
As we continued to explore, the sun began to set, and the town took on a whole new beauty. The individual stalls sparkled and shimmered from within with the soft glow of lights, Christmas trees came to life covered in thousands of tiny frosty white lights. Garland, lights and giant snowflakes hung overhead, draped from one building to the next over the narrow cobblestone streets. It was even more charming than we had imagined.
Food was in no short supply at the markets. Delicious bratwurst sandwiches were a daily treat, along with giant salted pretzels, Nutella-filled crepes, fresh baked local cookies, Lebkuchen to be exact, and Gluhwein. Gluhwein is a hot mulled wine infused with fruits and spices. It is sold in a specialty mug that you can keep as a souvenir. Each town has their own individual mug, so you can collect them from each town you visit.
Over the next week we stayed in the city of Nuremburg and the quaint town of Esslingen. We visited the markets in those towns and the nearby town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber (on the river) and Hohenzollern castle. The market of Nuremburg was huge. Located directly in front of Frauenkirche (“Church of Our Lady”) built in the 1300s, it has a stunning location. Showing Rothenburg ODT to our son was especially significant to us.
Mike and I both fell in love with this stunning little town during our first trip to Europe in 2009. As we entered Rothenburg through the town wall, our son turned to us and said, “Now I get it.” He understood instantly why we loved this special little town. The Christmas Market here was held in the town square, surrounded by unique shops and restaurants, with additional individual stalls lining the side lanes. It was wonderful to return to one of our beloved places.
Each market we visited was as distinctive and individual as the towns they were located in. Some were huge and bustling, others consisted of a mere well-placed dozen or so stalls. Esslingen, for example, has a Medieval market where artisans create their goods with textiles and tools from centuries past. Along with their modern day market, and small town feel, it was definitely one of our favored stops.
At the end of our 10 days we knew that we wanted to host our own “German Christmas Market” once our tasting room at Dorner Family Vineyard opened, complete with decorated vendor stalls, German food and Gluhwein. The markets were all we had hoped they would be and more. They left an indelible impression on us, one that we will not soon forget.