Yes, I admit – I was not in France for Christmas!! For the first time in several years, I spent the holidays in Bavaria with my family. I travelled early enough to be able to catch some of the Christmas markets which close well ahead of Christmas, and to have as much time to spend with family and friends as possible. The first stop on my Christmas market marathon was Schloss Tuessling, a small Renaissance castle, where the Christmas market takes place over four December weekends each year. The stalls are varied with a good mix of crafts and food/drinks, and spread around the grounds of the castle, and through some of the outbuildings. There was still snow on the ground to make it all look lovely and wintry, and I was glad to have brought a hat and gloves! A walk through former grain silos (I think 12 in total) took me on an adventure in Christmas decoration, and at the end was a staircase up into the granary, where there were stalls under the most amazing roof construction! The walk continued through a wing which had formerly been staff accommodation and then an old people’s home, and which had a kind of “Marie Celeste” feeling to it. The stalls in that section had been carefully chosen to fit in with the ambience and sold a mixture of old and new, and some beautiful jewellery. And then there was the stall with the cinnamon stars – imagine fresh doughnuts but in the shape of a star, and rolled in cinnamon sugar. They got eaten so quickly that I never did manage to get a photograph!
My second Christmas market that day was at Burg Burghausen – the longest castle in the world. I’ve often visited the castle over the years, but never for a Christmas market, so I was very excited to see the halls which were used to house the artists and craftspeople selling their wares. Out in the courtyard were the food stalls, and some artisans such as the blacksmith and the wood-carver. A bonus was that a visit to the State Gallery in part of the castle was included in the admission to the market. The rooms are magnificent as are most of the paintings exhibited, but the highlight was the viewing platform on the roof. Not for the faint hearted, I warn you, as the drop is vertiginous (but the railings solid) – but oh what a view!! On the way in was another stall selling cinnamon stars, so that was number 2 and a little bit better than the one I’d had earlier that day!
A day trip to Munich was another opportunity to visit Christmas markets. I don’t remember just how many there are, but I managed to visit three. But first I went to visit Villa Stuck to see the Gunter Sachs exhibition, with wide variety of works, from Max Ernst to Andy Warhol. Villa Stuck was the palatial home of Franz von Stuck, at his time a celebrated and successful artist. Unfortunately the website seems to be only available in German.
On to the Christmas markets though. My first stop was at the mediaeval market at Wittelsbacher Platz. The name implies the theme and it was very well done. All the stallholders were in costume, and the booths were imaginatively built, each one different from the next. There was some wonderful food here (wish I’d known in advance, I’d had a light lunch at Villa Stuck) and I had the best apple fritters I can remember eating.
My next stop was the Christmas village in the Emperor’s court of the Residenz palace – a beautiful courtyard filled with a great variety of stalls with a focus on crafts.On the way there, across Odeonsplatz I spied a group of musicians just outside the Hofgarten. They were playing beautiful classical music and must have been frozen. I wonder how the instruments managed to stay in tune! Outside the Residenz “Santa” had taken up residence with a small fair organ, entertaining the passers by.
Inside the courtyard, food and especially Gluehwein played a prominent place, and those stalls were busiest wherever I went at whatever time of day! There was also an area for children, with animated displays and Christmas songs.
To warm up a little I visited the Cuvillies theatre, the theatre of the Residence palace, a heady confection of white and gold roccoco. If you are ever in Munich don’t miss this gem.
On to the market in front of Munich’s gothic town hall on Marienplatz. This market had been changed around somewhat since I’d last visited and there were more food stalls and fewer stalls selling the beautiful decorations of a few years ago. The market selling Christmas creches and nativity scenes had been moved from Rindermarkt to be strung out along Neuhauser Strasse and had lost much of its charm in the process. Still, there were some nice decorations and a few very good stalls. I finished the day by visiting a friend who lives in walking distance to the centre, before making my way back to my parents’ home.
And then there was one final Christmas market, just a few days before Christmas, in Burgkirchen – a small market only on for a few days and very much designed to bring local people together. They had fire baskets to keep warm, and lots of food and gluehwein. This is where I had my third Cinnamon star, but the one in Burghausen remained the best of them all.
In the run up to Christmas eve I kept busy, and even managed to build a gingerbread house. Christmas eve afternoon I went for another visit to Burghausen and had the castle almost all to myself. From the town below the sounds of a brass band playing Christmas carols drifted up, and as the sun started to set the lights began to twinkle in the distance. A magical start to the festive season!
I hope you’ve all had a wonderful Christmas too, and wishing you all the very best for 2013.