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Trip Report Nuremberg Christkindlsmarkt Opening 2013

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I attended the opening of the Nuremberg Christkindlsmarkt yesterday evening. Normally I don't attend these kinds of events due to the massive numbers of people that are there, but one of my students was the Nuremberg Christkind (Christmas Angel) this year. Since that is a pretty big deal in Germany I decided to go.

All in all it was fairly what I had expected. The Nuremberg Christkindlsmarkt is world famous, which means that a couple of MILLION people visit it every year and that over 20,000 were present for the opening. Since I had to work before the ceremony I couldn't camp out in the square all day long to ensure that I had a good spot. I ended up on a side street with no view of the ceremony and pretty distorted hearing of Theresa giving the opening speech. I was finally able to shuffle along with thousands of other people towards the church where she was on display and got a glimpse of her arm as she left the balcony. LOL

After I viewed the (empty) balcony I drank a glass of kirschwein with rum (so my husband could get his 2013 Nuremberg Christkindlsmarkt souvenir mug, I kind of hate gluhwein) and headed home on the train. It was a bit drizzly and of course there were hordes of people everywhere (the penalty one pays for attending a world-famous Christmas market opening ceremony), but all in all it was nice to have been a part of it. Don't need to do it again, the Weihnachtsmarkt in our small town is just fine.

I am mostly writing this report because I wanted to share how I observed my fellow Americans behaving during this ceremony. Although I am American, I am also a resident of Germany. My perspective is therefore that of a resident, not a tourist. And frankly, I was a bit puzzled and sometimes embarrassed by how many of the American tourists conducted themselves on this night that is so special for Germans, particularly families with small children.

Please understand, I totally empathize with how stressful it is to take a transatlantic flight and deal with a different language and jet lag and a packed travel schedule--it is something that we do on a regular basis ourselves. What I don't get is how so many people can come to the opening ceremony of a world famous event and then be upset that there are so many other people there. It's as if a person attended the opening of the Olympics and then was unpleasantly surprised that the stadium was packed full of people.

But that's okay, if people want to spend their holiday being upset that is their right. The problem that I had was with the way in which most of my fellow Americans chose to express their disappointment with the event--loudly, in English, right in front of children and families and other tourists--as if 90%+ of everybody in the crowd, including reporters, didn't also speak excellent English and understand every word they said.

They complained about the crowd, about getting pushed out of 'their' spot (as if they could claim ownership of a couple of feet of cobblestone in a public market square), made denigrating comments about the Asians, the parents who put their kindergarteners on their shoulders so the child could see the Angel, and the ceremony itself. Hey American tourists who thought it was okay to make rude comments about the ceremony, doing that was the equivalent of a German making fun of the national anthem being sung before a baseball game and then saying how stupid baseball is during the game. Not cool.

They griped about not being able to get to every booth selling hot wine so they could be sure to get one of every souvenir Christkindlmarkt glass (there are only a couple, don't worry I think you got them folks). They moaned about having to walk back to the area where they could take the taxi, it was too far! and on cobblestones! and can't they get some better lighting? nevermind that the buildings themselves were illuminated for Christmas. They made rude comments about the food that was available. Hey guys, you are in Bavaria. Nurnberger sausages and lebkuchen are about all you can get at the markets. And Germans don't take any more kindly to you making disparaging remarks about their cherished holiday traditional foods than you would to THEM making disparaging remarks about corn dogs and funnel cakes at your local county fair.

What really made this stand out for me was that hardly anyone else was complaining--I heard a few Canadians say something to the effect of 'hoo boy there's a lot of people here!' And those who did so did it quietly. They actually left the crowded areas first, you could see from the gestures that they were like 'wow man that was WAY too crowded and people pushed WAY too much.' Pretty much everybody took the overcrowding in good humor and just shuffled along with elbows in their backs and their faces in the jacket of the person in front of them. My fellow Americans seemed to be the ones who consistently got angry about the crowds and then talked like jerks about them while still being IN them.

I get that people can form pictures about the wonderful festive experience that they will have on the expensive trip they are taking that is using up their precious vacation time. I get that the actual reality of the experience can be quite different from what one hoped it would be. But Germany (and Germans, and other tourists, including the Asian ones) is not responsible for your good time. And it is no more to blame for your lack of good time than the good people of New York City are for a German coming to Times Square for New Year's and then being surprised by how many people are there and disappointed that they couldn't really see the ball drop.

My feeling is that if a person wants to get a bird's eye view of stuff like this but don't want to be bothered by other, you know, PEOPLE--they can stay at home (or at their Hotel) and watch it being broadcast live. It was, all over Germany. Maybe that would have been a better option for some of these frustrated travelers.

My advice for people thinking about traveling to these kinds of events is: If you want to go to something that attracts as many people as the Nuremberg Christkindlsmarkt, why don't you read up on it? Look at some of the pictures from years past and think about if you really want to deal with that kind of madhouse crowd scene. Really think about what it would mean to stand for hours in the drizzle and snow and wind, waiting for the big moment. Do you really want to make that kind of commitment?

If so, great! If it doesn't live up to your expectations, though, you might want to consider keeping your complaints to yourself until such a time as you are alone instead of sharing them--loudly--with thousands of strangers who understand every word you say.

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