We landed in Germany early on a Thursday morning. The first thing that we noticed was that Nuremberg was bitterly cold. The kind of cold that freezes the tip of your nose, bites at your fingers and creates a thick puff of cloud with every breath you take. Even bundled up against it in thick wooden hats, scarves and mittens it seeped through and chilled our bones. At the hotel we added extra layers before setting off for the markets.
As we entered Hauptmarkt the smell of candied nuts, cinnamon and mulled wine hung thick on the air, punctuated occasionally by the waft of smokey grilled sausages. Twinkling fairy lights and wreaths adorned every stall and light glittered off the hanging glass baubles. An assault on the senses, stepping in to Nuremberg Christmas markets was like stepping in to a Winter Wonderland; somewhere between old fairytales and dreams.
Shoppers bustled around, clutching ceramic mugs filled with Gluhwein, trails of steam curling up through the cold air and leaving behind a tantalising scent. Hungry from our journey we ordered two mugs of Gluhwein with an extra shot of Amaretto for warmth and followed those with Bratwursts in brioche buns. When you order Gluhwein there is a deposit system which means you can wander around the stalls with your own mug before returning it. We warmed our fingers on the mugs as we shopped. The stalls were varied and displayed a vast array of festive goodies. There were stalls laden with cookies, cakes and sweet treats, others with carefully crafted glass ornaments and trinkets, stuffed teddy bears and old fashioned metal toys. And of course, the traditional prune men- there truly was something to please and delight everyone.
My favourite little purchase was a funny little pickle ornament with a tag that read: The Christmas Pickle. This original custom brings alive the spirit of gift giving. The lucky person is the first one to find the glass pickle hidden in the branches of the Christmas tree. Whoever finds the pickle is rewarded with an additional gift.
I bought two of these pickles. One for our tree and one for my parents. I think it is a lovely and unusual tradition.
We came back to the market when the sun had gone down and it was dark outside. If you had told me the market could become even more magical I wouldn’t have believed it – but at night Hauptmarkt is particularly special. The locals came out to stand on the cobbled streets and chat over steaming drinks, a brass band played music on a stage outside the church and every inch of the market was illuminated with pretty lights. We shopped and wandered around once more, taking in everything we had seen earlier from a new perspective.
Later we ate in an Italian restaurant, having stuffed our faces with all kinds of German cakes, chocolates and sausages earlier on in the day. Located near the Hauptbahnhof, Osteria Del Centro was a little restaurant with dim lights, scrubbed wooden tables and a real pizza oven. We ate a full three courses there (something I almost never do) including bruschetta, delicious pasta for me, pizza for Gareth and profiteroles to finish- all washed down with cold Keller beer.
The next morning we took the train from Nuremburg to Bamberg. The 40 odd minute journey seemed to go by in a flash as we whizzed through the German countryside.
The market in Bamberg was much smaller than the Hauptmarkt but it was filled with fun gifts and yet more delicious food. I purchased a beautiful knitted scarf in shades of orange that reminded me of spaghetti hoops and a small clockwork chicken. I spent quite some time lusting over the beautiful clockwork toys, my attention piqued by a lovely little snail. We ate more bratwursts in buns and these hot potato shavings that were just like crisps and then set off to look at the towns architecture.
Certainly Bamberg is a very picturesque town. The buildings are mostly original, and we had fun pointing out the intricate structures to each other. We meandered through the narrow cobbled streets, gazing in awe at everything around us, tall pastel coloured buildings standing out against the grey sky. Each shop was beautifully decorated with wreaths, baubles and pinecones and seemed to be in competition with the last. Gareth even managed to find a record shop down one of the side streets and we spent awhile in there rifling through dusty vinyls.
If you’re visiting Nuremberg, I can’t recommend a trip to Bamberg enough as it is a very beautiful place.
On our last day in Germany it began to snow. Tiny glittering specks falling down from the sky and leaving the thinnest coat of ice on the ground. It was colder than the previous days but, full of plans for the day and in awe of how beautiful it looked we barely noticed the chill. We visited the Nuremburg castle and took in the views of the town from the top of the tower. Afterwards we paid a visit to Albrecht Durers house. It was interesting to learn about the famous German painter and to wander from room to room in his house taking in the views and catching a glimpse of what life was like in Germany during the high renaissance. However I did find myself wishing they had more of his original paintings (his self portrait resides in Munich.)
Our last stop of our last day was the market- there we made our final purchases said our goodbyes to the beautiful Hauptmarkt.