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Need advice on seeing German Christmas markets

Need advice on seeing German Christmas markets

Old Dec 28th, 2012, 06:30 AM
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Need advice on seeing German Christmas markets

The German Christmas markets have been on my "bucket list" for some time, so I'm hoping to be able to mark it "done" next year. I have several questions: (1) tour or self-drive? DH is a good driver, can handle icy road conditions, and has lots of experience driving in Europe. However, I'm not comfortable driving/riding on icy roads. I think I might prefer a short tour -- any recommendations? (2) clothing - where we live we have winter about 4 days each year, so my winter wardrobe consists of one old leather jacket worn over a turtleneck wool sweater. So, packing light, what do I need to have so as not to freeze to death? Especially need advice on footwear. And I don't want to spend a fortune on winter-wear that I'l seldom-if-ever wear again. (3) Which markets? DH isn't really excited about Christmas markets, so three would be the most I think he would put up with. Nuremberg is a must. Which other 2? I'll be most appreciative of all recommendations. Thanks.
k
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Old Dec 28th, 2012, 07:28 AM
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Hi crckwc1,

The good news is that you don't have to force yourself to drive to see the Christmas markets -- German trains run frequently and link all the German cities and towns. It would be quite easy to create a tour for yourselves by taking the train between the sites -- for instance Dresden, then Frankfurt, then Nürnberg, then München. Trains will whisk you from city center to city center without any worry about staus or road work or getting lost or trying to drive in the pedestrian areas of a German city.

You can check the train schedules at

www.bahn.com

To stay warm, you need to dress in layers. I was raised in Saudi Arabia and Florida, and now live in Germany, so I am very concerned about keeping warm. I always wear a "long-john" type top right on my skin -- they wash and dry easily. On top of that, I wear a medium-weight sweater. I add a cardigan or polartek vest if it's a really cold day. Then top it with a winter-weight waterproof coat. You can get away with maybe 3 or 4 sweaters, the one cardigan/polartek vest, and the one coat. You can bring along five of those long-john tops, and then wash them out after every 5 days or so. I used to love the Cuddle-duds they sold at Target as that first, warm layer.

Make sure you also bring a scarf to keep your throat and chest warm, gloves, and a hat.

Have fun as you plan!

s
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Old Dec 28th, 2012, 07:54 AM
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First, know when the markets open at http://www.germany-christmas-market.org.uk/. Different markets open on different days. I was there the first week of December this year to be as earliest as possible to minimize the bad weather. The coldest day during my trip was 18F and the warmest during the day was just at the freezing point. You need a hat to cover your ears. It is cold! I really liked Nuremberg. Munich market was quite small. The Frankfurt market was very busy and large. Another market I liked near the Erzgebirge area was Chemnitz where I had a train change. I decided to stay there longer for lunch and visit the market. Even though it was a small market, I liked that it was a local fare with no tourists. They clear the snow from the road quickly, but count on snow almost everyday. I used trains and they ran almost at full speed even in the snow storms even when the highway road traffic came down to crawl.
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Old Dec 28th, 2012, 09:18 AM
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On a Danube river cruise in 2005 I visited three Christmas markets, including Nuremberg. My favorite was the one in Passau, which featured wooden items by local artisans. Regensburg came in a close second, although I had time only for the two near the town center. There was another out at a large estate.
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Old Dec 28th, 2012, 09:59 AM
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I would also add that the accommodations in Nuremberg during the Christmas market season was very tight. It was a very big market and was also crowded perhaps due to large number of local and foreign visitors it attracts. It even seemed as if every other group was speaking English. There were also many flag waving tour groups speaking Chinese and Japanese. No other market I visited this year had that many foreign visitors.

One intimate market I liked was a small Christmas market at the Chinese tower in the English Garden in Munich. It seemed it was geared to families with small children. Even though it was in Munich, most of the visitors seemed to be local young families with strollers.
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Old Dec 28th, 2012, 10:26 AM
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You might get lucky with the weather. I was in Germany last week. Dec. 15-23 and had 1 day of light snow in Nuremburg on thursday. It was my third trip to the Christmas markets
and coming from Florida I really wanted to see snow. Every other time I have gone there was lots of snow. I have accumulated heavy winter clothes over the past 3-4 years and did not wear alot of it.
I went from Berlin down to Munich and for the first time went to the market that Greg did by the chinese pagota in the english garden. I found the families there fun to watch and they had interesting booths also.
But to pick three I would go with Nuremburg, Munich and Dresden or Frankfurt.
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Old Dec 28th, 2012, 11:13 AM
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Thanks so much for your recommendations. Don't know why I didn't think about train -- excellent advice. Also good advice about clothing and about the markets themselves. I suppose one would have to book accommodations very early? How early?
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Old Dec 28th, 2012, 03:15 PM
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We have traveled 4 times to Germany to see the markets. We traveled by trains and preferred moderate sized towns.

Regensburg was our favorite combination of town and market. One market at the Thurn & Taxis palace sits at the edge of the pedestrian zone.

http://mcchelsea.smugmug.com/Advent-...5028020_t5NQGm

http://mcchelsea.smugmug.com/Advent-...5030947_4WtqMc

Rothenburg is very scenic and far less crowded in Advent than in summer.

http://mcchelsea.smugmug.com/Advent-...5010043_Ck957T

We enjoyed Nuremberg, Stuttgart and Munich as well.

A personal favorite of mine was Würzburg, more for the town than the market.

http://mcchelsea.smugmug.com/Germany...6792297_6rThtQ

Other smaller markets/towns that we enjoyed were Aschaffenburg, Landshut, Bamberg, Freising and Passau.

http://mcchelsea.smugmug.com/Advent2...7269752_mTt8bM

I would visit a mix of medium and large towns. Market wares are very much alike in all locations. Munich, Regensburg, Nuremberg and Passau lie pretty close to one another by train.

Regards, Gary
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Old Dec 28th, 2012, 03:22 PM
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Clothing. I don't know where you live, but for the sake of illustration, assume you need to deal with temperature range 40F-100F at home. For visiting Christmas market you might need something good in the range 20F-35F. So do you have to buy something for one time use?

If you insist on using a single garment, then you have boxed in yourself into an expensive solution.

However, if you combine several garments, you can cover wide temperature range using items usable at home as well as being able to pack light. I spent 10 days in Germany this year and I had more than enough room in my 20inch roller carry-on bag. I used combinations, but carried much less than the other posters. I carried one very warm sweater good for 50F-65F by itself and one jacket using high tech material good for 35F-60F by itself. By combining them, I could deal with temperature in 20F-65F range. I also carried one winter hat and one very warm scarf. My wife wanted more change of clothes. She took two sweaters. Even if you end up with warmer temps, you can still deal with them with the combination strategy.

Accommodations. I made arrangements in September. For all but Nuremberg, it was easy to find rooms. Nuremberg was different. None of the recommended places had anything left by September. I had to settle for a boring business hotel. If I go to Nuremberg again, I would book much earlier.

Footwear. You need to consider several aspects. You will often end up walking on frozen path/stairs. You need good traction. It is very cold. My wife was ok with boots made out of high-tech wide operating temp range material. I did not find such shoes for men and my toes were freezing even using hiking grade warm socks. It can be slushy -- need something with enough water protection.
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Old Dec 28th, 2012, 04:21 PM
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Clothing. We rely on silk long johns and polartec type sweaters in addition to lighter clothes for warmth. My wife has not settled on foot ware. I chose Goretex boots for warmth and moisture protection. They are not very stylish. Locals seem willing to dress for the weather, why not me.

Regards, Gary
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Old Dec 29th, 2012, 12:04 AM
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Husband visited Nuremburg this year on a weekend and said it was the most packed place he had ever seen and wouldn't recommmend visiting this marker to anyone unless you could go on a week day.

Some of the nicest markets are in smaller towns, but will only be held on one weekend a year. Towns like Idstein, Büdingen or Marburg. The one in Bad Homburg is really nice, but is only held on the weekends during Advent. Büdingen and Idstein are both towns on the Fachwerk route, so the atmosphere here is fantastic, with the stands winding around the small, medieval streets.

My favorite markets this year were Esslingen, which goes to the very top of my Christmas market list, and surprisingly, Stuttgart. The city goes out of its' way to be well decorated, the stands are lovely, and the market is spread out enough that you never get that claustophobic feel, like one gets in crowded markets. (like in Nuremberg, where all you can do is slowly shuffle your feet)

Esslingen has a large, medieval market and the setting is perfect. Lots of old, fachwerk buildings add to the atomosphere. Once night falls, they light torches, lanterns and candles and it was truly unique. They put on a lot of shows here too and the food was also different than the usual Christmas market fare.

I also enjoyed Colmar and Strassbourg. A bit different than the German markets, but absolutely beautiful.

This website will give you the most comprehensive list of Christmas markets in Germany, as the UK website doesn't have all of the small towns listed.
http://www.weihnachtsmarkt-deutschland.de/
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Old Dec 29th, 2012, 10:10 AM
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All great information and I thank each of you. Any specifics about ladies footwear (brands, type, where to buy -- online such as LandsEnd, zappos, etc.)? I haven't a clue other than they need to be waterproof, have traction, and keep my toes warm.
Ladies -- lined wool (other fabric?) slacks with longjohns underneath?
I'm questioning now because I hope to purchase some after Christmas sale items for the trip. Thanks.
k
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Old Dec 29th, 2012, 10:55 AM
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I wear either jeans or cords, with Silk Cuddle Duds. You can add a pair of tights too, if you like, and nice thick socks. What will keep your feet warmest is if the sole of the shoe or boot is thick, as this keeps the cold away.
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Old Dec 29th, 2012, 12:04 PM
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Great decision to see some Christmas markets and start planning early. There are so many, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. You have gotten some great advice here. I have been to dozens of markets throughout Germany, all types and sizes. I think they all have something to offer and as a first timer, you won’t go wrong no matter what you pick.

Some of my thoughts on your questions:

1) Tours serve a purpose, but I am biased against them and think you can easily do this trip by yourself.

2) Clothing – the only “special” clothing I think you need is silk long underwear, waterproof/Gore-tex boots, a warm hat, gloves and scarf. The silks are the perfect insulating layer and can be worn under anything plus they don’t take up much room in your suitcase. Walking around on cold concrete/asphalt will make your feet cold even if the outdoor temp is comfortable. Waterproof boots will keep you dry in the rain, snow or as you walk through the puddles. You can go for a simple hiking type boot, a tall riding style boot, or low booties, just make sure it is waterproof. You want your feet warm and dry. I also recommend “Smart Wool” socks. Then, think layers. Layers will prepare you for Germany’s changeable weather and you won’t have to over pack. You probably have everything you need in your closet already. Many people prefer their outer layer to be water-resistant, but if you carry an umbrella, it’s not required.

3) Where to go? I suggest picking a city as a base (Nuremburg, Frankfurt, Berlin, Dresden etc) and then visiting markets in the area of that town. The suggestions you’ve been given are all good and you could easily combine some of them. No matter what, be prepared for large crowds on the weekend at any market in a large city. I completely agree with Mainhattengirl’s comments about Nuremburg. Big city markets are best seen during the week. I also suggest you visit at least a couple of markets at night, whether that means staying overnight or taking a late train back to your base location.

4) My suggestion - this is what I would do, if Nuremburg is a must. Travel via train and avoid the hassle of finding a place to park. Stay in Bamberg for a couple of days and do an overnight (or two) in Regensburg to see the market at the castle(one of my favorites). See Nuremburg on a weekday. Then pick a few more markets to visit as day trips from your base location(s): Passau, Rothenburg a.d. Tauber, Wuerzburg, Schweinfurt, Coburg, Steinau, Aschaffenburg, Augsburg, Munich, are a few suggestions, but there are many others that are within an easy train trip from Bamberg and/or Regensburg. I would do one market/town per day so you have time to visit some sights as well as the market. The shops will likely be nicely decorated and you’ll want to sample some local food. If your husband doesn’t want to join you, leave him in Bamberg to go beer tasting!

Have fun!
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Old Dec 29th, 2012, 01:31 PM
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Many thanks again! Each of you has offered super recommendations on everything from the markets to travel to what-to-wear. I appreciate all your advice. I'm so excited!
k
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Old Dec 30th, 2012, 08:20 AM
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Good advice from Wanderfrau. Last year I packed extra clothes for the cold weather and found that my normal winter clothes were enough. I didn't even need the long underwear pants. Just have enough for layers. Daily weather was around 35F.

Nuremburg on a Wednesday afternoon was not crowded at all. Stuttgart on a Sunday was not bad. Rothenburg was not crowded at all - weekdays it closes at 7 PM which we didn't expect.
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Old Dec 30th, 2012, 05:10 PM
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For future end of year trips some may wish to check out the <i>Melodien der Berge, Weihnacht</i> tour mentioned here -

http://chicagoschlager.blogspot.com....1_archive.html
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Old Dec 30th, 2012, 07:07 PM
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There is some great advice here. I love the Christmas Markets and returned at the end of November of this year to Bavaria. I spent my time in Salzburg and Munich. I also travelled out to Augsburg which was a delight to experience. It did snow one day in Munich but it didn't last very long. I found the weather to be a bit cold and I'm from NJ, so dressing in layers should help. Remember to bring a hat, gloves and scarf unless you want to pick them up as a reminder of your trip. As for boots/shoes, if you can get something waterproof and lined coupled with thick heavy socks, it should keep your feet warm. My feet were cold with just thick socks and sneakers.
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