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Trip Report Our Brief Bavarian Break: Christmas Markets

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A little late for this season, but perhaps our impressions of a long weekend getaway before Christmas to explore markets will be of use to those planning ahead!

Lodging. We rented a small house in Munich, near to an U-Bahn station. With two teenagers and DDog, having a little space for everyone makes for a happy traveling family. Plus, we dislike having to “dress” for breakfast in hotels.

Munich Christmas Markets

Christmas Village at Munich Residenz. Described as a “recreated farming village” in the courtyard, to us it was indistinguishable from any small and pleasant market we have visited. A large Christmas pyramid and the lighting made the market festive at night; and the storybook scenes were enjoyable to walk through even with shoulder-to-shoulder crowds.

The Munich Christkindlmarkt at Marienplatz met all of the criteria of a major European city’s showcase market: a spectacular setting (in front of Rathaus), a large Christmas tree strung with twinkling lights; and striking wooden pyramids with eye-popping pricetags. Of course, the €460, five-tier pyramid was the one I admired the most, but with not an ounce of German in our heritage, we passed. If there were 10 straw ornaments to choose from, there were 10.000! But, at a mere Euro or two each, I easily added a few dozen to our tree without breaking the bank. Many, many sweets stalls to choose from, though the savory food choices were a little lacking.

Nürnberg Christmas Market

We have the fortunate advantage of living in Europe and are spoiled by the number and variety of Christmas markets; this makes us sometimes a little choosier and perhaps a little more critical of the market offerings than a first-time visitor. With that caveat I can write that Nürnberg did not disappoint! We arrived on a Sunday, three days before Christmas, and explored the section of the market hosted by the “Sister Cities” of Nürnberg first. Lavender products from Nice; handmade ties and scarves from Scotland; intricate Matruschka dolls from Ukraine, and so forth. The stall from Macedonia amused us; there were no gifts or comestibles from the nation on display or for purchase—the representative had merely set up a bar! Conversely, the stall from Atlanta, GA disappointed us. Thinking “Coca-Cola” products, all that was on display was Kool-Aid, M&Ms, and Hershey products.

By this time we were near to the lunch reservations I had made, and so we sat for a rather ordinary but perfectly satisfactory lunch at an Italian restaurant on the square. The reservations were our lifesaver; by the time we left there was not an empty table available. And when we stepped outside into the market, the perfect Christmas market storm of sunny weather and the proximity to the holiday meant there was not a free cobblestone to walk upon. There was a line simply to enter the Käthe Wohlfahrt store! We heaved to and fro with fellow marketgoers, thoroughly exhausted by the time we found our way back to the car. The experience was grand, mostly because we had no agenda and were not under any pressure to find last-minute gifts. For this market DDog remained at the rental house; crowds are not kind to dogs, and DDog’s view would only have been of people’s knees, anyway.

Garmisch Christmas Market

Our final day was left open, and the children selected Garmisch, about an hours’ drive from Munich. The Teenage Son was a counselor at the BSA camp in Garmisch for the past two summers, and wanted to take his sister atop Zugspitze. Alas, the windy weather had closed the cars to Zugspitze temporarily, so they had to “settle” for the Seilbahn to the top of neighboring Alpspitze. While the two of them played atop Germany, taking selfies off the viewing platform (not closed because of high winds, interestingly!), DH, DDog and I took a leisurely walk through the city and its charming, but very small market where I somehow ended up purchasing more at than from the bigger markets! The children caught up with us and we all enjoyed some of the most delicious bierwurst we’ve ever eaten before heading back to Munich for our final night. Dinner was enjoyed at the Augustiner Keller, and the following morning we pointed the wagon home to Vienna.

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