Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Munchen to Frankfurt via Nurenburg

Our last day in Germany visiting Christmas markets!  We left our hotel in the town of Starnberg south of Munich under very cloudy skies but by the time we got to Nurnberg the sun was shining.  We drove through a region where they were growing hops.  Field after field!  We exited the autobahn to get a photo of the hops and as we drove through a village I saw a farmer working with his cows in the barn.  I quick took a photo of his barn yard. 
Hops Fields

Barn in Town

Due to our time constraints we were on the autobahn most of the day.  Cal was feeling pretty smart when he was driving 100 mph, but then this little red sports car blew by us as if we were standing still – Wow! They had to be going 120mph, as they were out of sight in no time.  They sure knew how to burst Cal’s bubble!   

We walked into the Nurnburg market just as things were opening.  The longer we were there the busier it became.  Busloads of people were coming!  We went into the main Cathedral around noon – they were apparently having a simple Mass.  A men’s choir was singing and Alpine men were played instruments during the service. The Cathedral was packed for the concert/service – standing room only.

It is interesting, even though most Europeans do not attend church, they definitely celebrate Christmas and the meaning of Christmas is everywhere. It is amazing how many booths sell creche’s or items to design your own creche’. 

The oldest Christmas market is Nurnberg’s which began in 1697.  Unique to Nurnberg are the ’prune figures’.  The legend has it that a farmer was too poor to have Christmas for his children, but he remembered a prune doll his grandmother made for him so he made some that year to sell at the Christmas market.  They sold so well that he not only had Christmas for his family but had enough profit to make it through the hard winter. The dolls have now evolved to have prune bodies with a walnut head on which faces are painted.  Some of the dolls now include fig bodies, and have accents of raisins. They were very interesting and this is the only place we have seen them. 
Famous Nurnberg Building on the River
Nurnberg Christmas Market

Friendly Store Keeper

Marzipan Fruit Candy

Nurnberg Date People

Nurnberg is also known for its gingerbread.  Gingerbread was everywhere.  We bought a piece that had been dipped into chocolate.
Around 12:30 the market was so packed with people, you could hardly move. They say 2 million people visit the Nurnberg market each season, well I think 1 million were there today!  It was no fun any longer, plus it was beginning to sprinkle.  The sun had disappeared and heavy clouds were everywhere.  By the time we reached the car we were wet! 
Solar Panel Fields
 It rained most of the way to Frankfurt, very had at times – actually a miserable drive.  We drove directly to the hotel we had reserved, checked in and unloaded our stuff.  We returned the car to the rental company at the airport before catching the train into downtown Frankfurt.  It is Sunday night and here again the crowds of people were horrible.  We walked through the market and bought some food before returning to the hotel to repack for our flight tomorrow morning. 
These three weeks in Germany have been great, so glad we came -we have seen and experience so much.         

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Munchen (Munich)

We were not in a big rush this morning but we did make sure we had breakfast and were on our way to the train depot, just across the street from the hotel, by 9:00 am.  We did what was usual while we lived in Holland in the 70s - we went to the tobacco shop to buy a ticket for the train to Munich (some things don’t change!).  The ticket cost 13.50 euro for both of us for the whole day (actually it is good for 24 hours.  I was asking how to use the ticket and where to go, when a local lady told us to follow her because she was going the same place as we were.
It was raining very steady when we left the hotel this morning, and we were afraid it would be a nasty day walking around Munich.  45 minutes later we were at the Marienplatz plaza where the main Christmas market is in Munich and the rain had stopped.  The Marienplatz is next the very decorative new Rathause, City Hall.  The Rathause has a mechanical clock that performs on each hour on the our. .Due to the warmer weather the snow was melting, so the sidewalks were a slushy mess, - thanks for good all weather walking boots. 
Munchen Rathause

Mechanical Clock

In all, we visited five Christmas Markets in Munich (did not visit the pink market) and nearly as many Cathedrals.  It is easy to stop at the cathedrals as we walk by on our way to the next market.  Each cathedral is unusual in its own way and most make you say Wow! Several were having services so we returned 15-30 minutes later as we wanted to spend time looking around.    
St Peters Cathedral

Theater Church/Cathedral

Monochromatic Sculptures-Releifs

Our favorite was the medieval market.  When we arrived the crowd was watching a man doing a tight rope/cable act.  After the show we walked around the market to see the new and different items.  The shop personnel were all dressed in medieval clothing. The environment in this market was unique. 
Tight Rope Act

Medieval Musicians

Sampling some more Gluhwein
The Medieval Market
One of the markets was held in the Residenz courtyard – this was very nice too.  The regular Munich fruit and veggie market had a few seasonal stands located throughout the market and the rest of the Christmas markets were standard to what we have seen elsewhere.
Entrance to the Residence

Residence Market

The Pyramid

Dispensing Mustard - Where is this at the State Fair
Saturday Morning Market


Rachel with Santa
Mercedes Benz Gallery

Friday, December 14, 2012

Ravensburg to South of Munchen (Munich)

It is Friday night already.  Our 3 weeks in Germany is rapidly coming to an end.

Last night while at the Ravensburg Christmas Market, we saw a Rotary tent.  The Rotarians were giving children the opportunity to make Christmas cookies. Dough was prepared so the children could make cookies in whatever shape they desired.  The cookies were baked and within minutes the children were able to decorate them. It was a very popular place and a wonderful Rotary fundraiser. While the children were baking cookies the parents or grandparents were having coffee or shopping. 

Since we want to be near Munchen by Friday evening we knew we needed to be on the way earlier than in the past days.  After getting the car packed we were on our way to Fussen.
Germany in the Snow

To get to Fussen we had to drive through more of the German Alps.  With the snow still clinging to the trees and the sun shining we enjoyed the scenery of the snow covered mountains.  Fussen is near Neuschwanstein, one of the castles of Mad King Ludwig.  We did not go into the castle, as we had been there in the past, but we drove near so we could get some photos.  Fussen is enclosed by a wall and has the old town feel to it.  We found the market in the courtyard of the cathedral/museum.  The problem was that it did not open until 2:00 pm.  Since we did not want to delay that long, we walked around the town before returning to the car and were on the road to Garmisch.
Fussen Market and Basilica

Fussen Castle

Hohenschwangau - Ludwig's Parents Castle

A Panorama with both castles
Austrian alps

Anyone want to try the slopes?
To get to Garmisch we had to go through Austria.  The Alps continue to captivate us with all of the snow.  We drove through ski towns and past ski slopes.  With all of the snow the slopes are open and the villages were busy.  We thoroughly enjoy driving through Austria.  Before we knew it we were back in Germany and into Garmisch.  We had trouble finding the market, but all of a sudden it was in front of us.  The market was smaller than we had anticipated, but it was nice.
Garmisch Market - Mountains in Background
From Garmisch we went to Oberammergau, the town of the painted houses and passion play.  There were not as many painted houses as we remembered from an earlier visit.  The market definitely had a local flavor.  The goods being sold were locally made rather than brought in from the big producers.  We also browsed around in several souvenir shops before we were back on the road.
Oberammergau Painted Building and Market

One of the towns we drove through on our way to Oberammergau also had a market.  The town of Ettal has the St Marys Kloster Basilica.  The market was located around the Basilica.  This was a different environment but very nice.  While walking through the market, we sampled a sweet bread we had seen them make at other markets, but had not yet tasted.
St Marys Basilica

Market around the Basilica

Notice the amount of snow

After leaving Ettal we were on our way to the Hotel Seehof in Starnberg, which we had booked on-line last night.  We found the hotel, and relaxed for a while before eating dinner in an Italian restaurant associated with the hotel. The food was excellent.  It was a busy restaurant with locals, as it appeared groups were having Christmas dinners.  Before they seated us we had to agree to be out of the restaurant by 8:00 (2 hours) as they had other reservations.  There was plenty of time for us.
Starnberg is located at the north end of the Starnberger Sea, which is 30 minutes south of Munich. Several lakes are this is region and many of the small towns around the lakes had Christmas markets last weekend.  From our hotel room we have a lovely view of the sea and the Alps in the background.  Hopefully in the morning we can get some good photos.   
Tomorrow (Saturday) we plan to take the train into Munich for the day.