December 23, 2010

Lori the red-nosed tourist

Whether or not you celebrate it, Germany is a wonderful place to spend Christmas. Every city and town in the country is decked out in lights and decorations, and the ambience alone is worth the trip.

We began our Christmastime visit in Wurzburg, where the city's outdoor Christmas market (Christkindlmart or Weihnachtsmarkt) was still operational on Christmas Day. Most cities' Christmas markets begin in late November and end before Christmas. There are exceptions, and you'll want to consult a Christmas market calendar when planning a holiday trip to Germany if an authentic Christmas market experience is on your travel wish list.

Wurzburg, the thousand-year-old capital of Germany's Lower Franconia region, is full of rich, Baroque architecture, a stunning hilltop fortress, and acres and acres of rolling vineyards.

But it wasn't the fine, oak-aged product of the region's wineries that we were sipping in Wurzburg. It was cheap red wine tarted up with spices like clove and cardamom and heated to a steamy temp that makes your insides glow. Indeed, the ubiquitous drink offered at every other stall in Wurzburg's Christmas market is called Gluhwein.

While the kids got cups of hot chocolate, Mike and I, like everyone else over the age of 15 or so, wandered around Wurzburg clutching Gluhwein in ceramic mugs painted with holiday motifs. You got to keep your mug, so we amassed quite a collection of these souvenirs of Wurzburg.
Christmas in Germany. It's not just the cold that gives your nose that Rudolph effect.