Nov & Dec 2010: German Christmas Markets – Trip Report

Photos are at Travel Photos – Nov & Dec 2010: Germany.


For this trip, we didn’t do a great deal of planning. Given our previous experience of living in Germany, we had a pretty good idea of where we wanted to go and what we wanted to see. The hardest part was finding places to stay since we needed a triple and wanted an apartment in Munich. We ended up finding the apartment on For restaurants, we used mostly TripAdvisor and Rick Steves. We did manage to luck out and get an excellent deal for train tickets via Sparpreis tickets. Frankfurt to Nürnberg was €39 and Nürnberg to Munich was €29, in both cases in total for all of us.

As I did for Istanbul, I made Google maps of Frankfurt, Nürnberg, and Munich for the trip, printing at Google My-Maps Print Converter, which can do numbered markers automatically.

Day 1 – Getting there and Frankfurt

We flew on Thanksgiving day on Continental out of Newark. The flight itself took off on time as was maybe 50% full. The flight was fine, though we didn’t sleep. While I don’t normally sleep on a plane, we were shocked that Kyle didn’t either. Other than this, Kyle was quite well behaved on the plane.

Arrival in Frankfurt was uneventful. They had they’re first snow Thursday night. We did manage to neglect to get Kyle’s gate checked stroller as we got off the plane. (We boarded a bus and it was raining/snowing at the time.) They ended up delivering it (slightly damp) to baggage claim, so the crisis of a lost stroller was avoided. Immigration and baggage claim was uneventful. One bag was on the carousel when we made it there and the other popped up within a few minutes.

Other than having to wait for a bit for the S-Bahn into town (we just missed the previous one), we had no problems getting to the hotel. (Of course, we know our way around reasonably well as Marburg is an hour northeast of here.) Our hotel (the Best Western Scala) was a few minutes walk from one end of the main shopping street and from one of the main S-Bahn stations, so was very convenient. The hotel itself was nice and felt fairly new.

After moving some stuff around, we headed back out. Our first stop was McD’s to get Kyle lunch. He managed to eat a french fry and a half before falling asleep with the second half in his hand. While Kyle slept, Suzanne and I headed down the Ziel and over to the Römerplatz, site of the Christmas Market. Being back in the atmosphere was great. It wasn’t so busy, despite it being the first day it was open, as it was only mid-afternoon at this point. We toured the whole market, stopping for a Glühwein and a bratwurst. We then headed back towards the Ziel, stopping in a couple of department stores to (a) pick up a few grocery items and (b) (at one) to “preview” the toy department with a sleeping Kyle.

Back at the hotel, we switched a few things and headed back out to meet our friend Katrin (from our time in Marburg). Kyle woke up just before we arrived, though he was still a bit grumpy. We had a nice conversation over coffee and then wandered around the market for a bit. The lightly falling snow really added to the festive mood. Kyle took a ride on one of the carousels, of course insisting on the one with the bright orange hook-and-ladder firetruck.

After saying our goodbyes to Katrin, we headed out to Joanna and Job’s. We had a wonderful visit with them including Joanna’s delicious steak and pepper (?) stew. (She made this for me when I visited on a previous visit.) About 7:30 we were all starting to feel the effects of a night without sleep, so we packed up and headed back to the hotel (about 30 minutes) after making plans to meet at the main train station in the morning and head out to Heidelberg for the day (about 90 minutes from Frankfurt). All in all, it was a pretty good trip over and first day.

Day 2 – A Day in Heidelberg

After a good night sleep, we all awoke much refreshed. We were a bit rushed, but managed to make it to the Hauptbahnhof in plenty of time for our 9:45 meeting with Joanna and Job. After grabbing some breakfast (McD’s for Kyle and Suzanne and a bakery for me), we bought our “Happy weekend ticket”. We hopped aboard the waiting train bound for Heidelberg. This was one of, if not the oldest, train we’ve been on during all of our travels in Germany. I was afraid it would be packed, but it wasn’t so busy.

After the 90 minute train ride, we hopped a packed bus to travel to the altstadt. I had heard the market extended from one of the old town to the other. This was only sort of true. While there were markets in several squares, there were well spaced and the total size wasn’t that great. We did have a nice walk through the city, ate some good market food, collected our Heidelberg Weinachtsmarkt mug, and did a bit of shopping on the side. Kyle also very much wanted to see a castle. While there were couple on the train ride in, he wasn’t very impressed with them, but was awed by the one over Heidelberg. All in all, it was probably worth the ride each way, but I definitely wouldn’t go out of my way.

Once back in Frankfurt, we made plans to visit with Joanna tomorrow evening for dinner before they went back home. We headed back toward our hotel to a restaurant that was supposed to be around the corner and had cheap, decent, Italian. It wasn’t there, but we did find the other location. It wasn’t where I had it on my map but was at the address I had listed. The restaurant (Zimt + Koriander) was pretty good and we were well treated. Three drinks (one beer, one soda, and one juice) and two pastas and a pizza came to €26.90. Finished with dinner, we headed back to the hotel so Kyle could have a bath and Suzanne could have a shower. Overall, we had a very nice day.

Day 3 – A Visit with the Sotriffers

The alarm went off early at 7:30 as we had to catch a 9:12 train to Gernsheim to visit with Christoph Sotriffer, my office mate in Marburg, and his family. We made it to the station in plenty of time to get breakfast from a bakery, even getting a donut for Kyle. Christoph met us at the station with Mathilde, who is seven months younger than Kyle, and Jonathon, who is two and a half.

We had a very nice visit. Kyle enjoyed playing with Mathilde and with Jonathon’s wooden trains. Edith made a delicious brunch. It was great to see them again (and to meet Jonathon and Teresa, who is eight months old). Kyle was unhappy that we had to leave (as we didn’t have such cool toys), but we made a brisk walk back to the station to catch the return train. (We didn’t make it with tons of time. Missing it would have been a pain since, as on the way down, there is a train only every two hours.)

Back in Frankfurt we took the streetcar to the Römerplatz as Kyle had been insisting on riding one. We spent a couple of hours walking around the market again. It was much busier today, which we expected, but was still enjoyable. We picked up another Glühwein and some sausage for us and a candy cane and popcorn for Kyle. We finished by walking up to Hauptwache and checked out the decorated windows at Galleria Kaufhof. The windows at Macy’s in NYC are much nicer. A quick ride on the S-Bahn and bus and we were back at Joanna’s for a final dinner and visit. Kyle really didn’t want to leave, and, in truth, neither did we, but we had to get back to the hotel to pack up for our trip in the morning to Nürnberg (Nuremberg). It was a wonderful weekend in Frankfurt as we got to see several friends from our time in Marburg. The market in Frankfurt is also quite nice. I doubt we would have visited Frankfurt if it hadn’t been for our friends, but we did enjoy it.

Day 4 – Off to Nürnberg

Neither Suzanne nor I slept well Sunday night, so the alarm even at 8:30 seemed early. We left the hotel on time and headed back to the Konstablerwache S-Bahn stop for a final time. At the Hauptbahnhof, we grabbed breakfast (another donut for Kyle) and waited for our train. It arrived on time. We were very happy to have made reservations as it was quite busy. Kyle even got to watch the engineer for a bit as we are in the first car and there is only a glass partition between the control room and the passenger compartment.

We arrived in Nürnberg without problem and right one time, and walked to the hotel through the significant snowfall. It wasn’t as close as I thought and between dragging the one suitcase (which kept getting hung up on the snow) and pushing the stroller, it wasn’t all that pleasant. The hotel (B&B Hotel Nürnberg-City) is decent enough. I wouldn’t call it charming, but it was quite reasonable and was only recently built (opened in late September). Suzanne fed him lunch while I went out and got something for us. Back at the hotel, we finally managed to get Kyle to fall asleep. We both followed soon after.

Back up around 3:30, we bundled ourselves up for our trip to the market. While this hotel isn’t as close as when we were here in 2002 (then we were maybe 5 minutes from the main square), it wasn’t a bad walk, maybe 15 minutes or so. It was still snowing quite heavily. The market is as nice as we remember. We walked around, had some glühwein, got Kyle a chocolate covered waffle, and enjoyed ourselves. Nürnberg has a small children’s market in addition to the main one. There are several food stalls, some rides, and a few other places, including, Kyle’s highlight, a place to play (and buy of course) Playmobil.

By this time, Kyle was getting cold and hungry, so we headed out to find dinner. Unfortunately, Kyle is not keen on German food. After checking a couple of places on either side of the Altstadt, we popped in a place that had spätzle and looked decent. The food was good, but Kyle didn’t like the spätzle as it was pan fried. (I ended up eating it and it was quite tasty, even plain.) Luckily, he decided he liked my Wienerschnitzel cut into “nuggets”. After a quick stop by Aldi for a few things, we headed back to the hotel. All in all a good day and Kyle was good, even walking most of the way to dinner.

Day 5 – A Cold Day in Nürnberg

We ended up sleeping in this morning, not getting going until 9:30 or so (just in time to catch breakfast, which ends at 10:00). After getting a decent breakfast, we headed out to the Deutsche Bahn (German railroad) museum. Suzanne and I went here in 2002 and thought Kyle would really like it. We weren’t disappointed. He wasn’t too keen on the artifacts, but loved the trains on display and the hands-on section designed for kids. He didn’t want to leave, but it was getting toward 1:00.

After a brief stop at the hotel (which was literally behind and across the street) to put on warmer clothes, we headed out to the altstadt. Unfortunately, today was quite cold. Before really visiting the market, we walked up to the castle and explored the courtyard. Then we headed back down to grab some lunch at the market and visit it bit. Kyle was getting cold by this time, so we headed to the kid’s market so he could visit the Playmobil hut, where they had several Playmobil sets setup in a small and, importantly, heated building. Kyle had some “issues” sharing, so we headed back out to the walk through the entire market, which we hadn’t yet done. Kyle was doing better by this time, but getting cold, so it was back to Playmobil for another 30 minutes or so. By now, it was getting late, so we headed away from the market, stopping at the department store so Kyle could spend some of the money Mary Lou sent and so we could pick up a few groceries. Back at the hotel, I asked for a recommendation for somewhere close by which would be good for kids. They didn’t really have one, so we headed out to a place I had found on TripAdvisor that was back in the Altstadt, though only about 10 minutes from the hotel. Padelle D’Italia turned out to be very good and quite reasonable (€35 for two drinks, two main meals, one “kids” meal, and one soup). We got a plate of plain spaghetti for Kyle and he actually ate the whole thing. It’s the most he’s eaten since we arrived. He also behaved very well. After grabbing a quick crepe, we headed back to the hotel as Kyle had to have a shower before bed tonight. All in all a very good, though cold, day.

Day 6 – Bamberg

The alarm went off early this morning as we wanted to catch a 9:44 train to Bamberg. Kyle was a bit fussy as we had to wake him up. After a rushed breakfast and walk to the train station, we made it in plenty of time. After a 45 minute ride, we arrived in Bamberg. We decided to walk down to the Christmas market instead of taking the bus. It wasn’t far, but it was cold. The market itself was fairly small. They’re supposed to have several, but only one was running. Kyle got to ride the fire truck on the carousel and I had some warm mead. After the market, we did some shopping and walked through the part of the city south of the river/canal. We were getting cold by this point and were looking for lunch. We had passed a place on the way down that had a promising kids menu, including pasta, but it turned out they were closed for lunch except on Saturday and Sunday. After a brief detour into the department store, we finally found a small pizzeria that was able to make some plain pasta. The pizza was actually pretty decent. Kyle ate virtually all of his lunch, which was good. We detoured back to the market to get a Bamberg Glühwein mug and headed back to the station for the 2:30 train back to Nürnberg. Bamberg seemed like it would be a very nice city to visit, but the cold made it less than it would have been.

Back in Nürnberg, Suzanne and Kyle were very cold, so we took advantage of our transit day ticket to take the subway the one stop back to the hotel. (The exit is right next to our hotel.) They decided to stay in as it was snowing quite hard. I went back out to the market, taking the subway as close as I could. The snow was really coming down. It made the market quite nice, but Kyle would have been quite cold and uncomfortable. I took a bunch of photos, but it was hard as the camera was getting damp from the snow. Once it was getting dark, I put the camera away and enjoyed the market along with a Nürnberger wurst and a glühwein. I headed back to the hotel, stopping at the train station for dinner. (Okay, I admit it, I got some McDonald’s for Kyle.) After eating dinner in our room, we hung out for the rest of the evening, catching up on photos, the blog, and doing our packing for the trip to Munich tomorrow morning.

Day 7 – Off to Munich

The alarm went off early again at 8:00. After a quick breakfast, during which Kyle had nothing aside from drinking a cup of hot cocoa, we did our final packing and dragged our luggage through the snow to the train station. (Yes, at points I had to literally drag the suitcase as the snow was piling up and preventing it from rolling.) Once there, many trains were delayed due to the “heavy” snow. (The area did get probably 6+ inches and it was much earlier than normal.) Our train ended up being about 20 minutes late out of Nürnberg and 40 minutes late into Munich. However, we were better off than the earlier train to Munich that was 90 minutes late or the train to Munich that was canceled. It turns out that the reservations I had made earlier were for the day before. I ended up not being a big deal as the train was not the least bit crowded. We even got a four-seat place around a table.

Coming into Munich was fine, though I felt bad for people who had connections when they announced we were too late to hold them, including the train to Budapest. After trying one of the tram/strassenbahn stops, we found the one we needed. The tram came quickly and it was a short ride to our stop. We were very happy with our apartment (Muenchner Stadtwohnung at FeWo24 ? seems to be no longer available as of Jan 2014). It was clean, good sized, just down the street from a good-sized (especially by German standards) supermarket, and right next door to a bakery. The view is so-so for us, but Kyle loved it as we were very near a construction site.

After relaxing a bit and having lunch, we headed out to visit the Christmas market. The tram right across from us drops us at Karlsplatz, which is the very beginning of the main pedestrian shopping street. Suzanne and I were here on our first European trip in 2000, but only for a day and half or so and didn’t really see much. (We kept meaning to return during our time in Marburg, but never quite made it.) We walked down here for a bit, arriving at Marienplatz and the main market in front of the old city hall. It’s quite nice and fair sized. We walked through it, grabbing a glühwein and a snack for Kyle while doing so. After hitting the main bookstore, which had a very nice view over the market from their elevator, and the department store, we decided to start thinking about dinner early. It was only 5:20 or so, but Kyle was complaining he was hungry. For dinner, we headed up to the Augustiner am Platzl brauhaus, which is kitty-corner to the Hofbrauhaus. The food was decent, though Kyle didn’t like his wiener sausage. (We weren’t surprised, but figured we’d give them a try. He at least ate some of the fries.) I had the schweinehaxe which was pretty good. The service wasn’t great, but the waitress did have another huge table. After dinner, we headed back to the apartment, stopping for a couple of items at the supermarket on the way.

Day 8 – Munich Day #1

It was a late morning. We didn’t have anything time critical, so we simply got up when we awoke. This turned out to be around 9:00. It was probably a good thing to let Kyle sleep until he wanted to get up as he was fairly well behaved today. Once we got going, we hopped the tram and the S-Bahn to the Deutsches Museum. This is a very large science and technology museum. Our first stop was the recreations of a few types of mines. Kyle really enjoyed this as one of the new DVDs we got for the trip was a Mighty Machines about a salt mine. After the mines, we headed to visit the ship section. Kyle really wanted to see the submarine (U-1 ? the first German U-boat). Next we headed to the kids section. Kyle loved playing on the real fire truck. He also loved the water play area until he stepped off the edge and ended up ankle deep in water. This wouldn’t have been a big deal in summer, but given the temperature outside was hovering around 30, it wasn’t good. Amazingly, the area has a clothes dryer in the baby changing room as well as extra clothes. After some drying time for his socks and pants and some time under the bathroom hand dryer for his shoe, we managed to salvage the day. (It helped that Suzanne had packed a pair of tights to be worn as long underwear when we went back outside.)

Once we were finished in the kids section, we headed to their cafe for lunch, which wasn’t bad. Next, we headed to the pharmacy/health section. This was brand new in 2000 when Suzanne and I were there before, but was still pretty good. Kyle really loved being able to walk inside a cell. For our trip, Kyle insisted on bringing along his “science” kit, which consists of a magnifying glass, a ruler, a notebook, and a pencil. He used it all inside the cell. After the pharmacy exhibit we did a few more sections, but Kyle was getting tired. (He walked for our whole visit, five hours or so.) Another 20 or so minutes in the play area and it was time to go.

After leaving the museum, we headed to the Praterinsel Christmas market, which is on the island just north of Museuminsel, where the Deutsches Museum is located. Getting there involved a nice walk though a snow filled park. The market itself was very small, maybe five or so stalls and another five or so stands inside a building. After leaving here we ended up heading to the market at the Residenz. This turned out to be in a very nice setting, being in the palace courtyard. They also had a series of stalls depicting various fairy tales/Santa scenes with animated figures ala Disney. The only problem with this market is that was very busy as it was evening. Next we headed down past the Rathaus to the second major department store so Suzanne could look for warmer socks and Kyle could take a turn through the toy department. We then headed off to dinner, deciding to check out Steinheil 16 near the apartment, figuring if it wasn’t good, we could stop by the supermarket. It turned out to work well, though luckily we got the the last free table. Kyle ate the noodles we had brought, but both Suzanne and I had had excellent, and huge, Wienerschnitzels. (Total bill for three drinks and two meals was €30.) Then it was back home as we had to finish our laundry and were hoping to get Kyle to bed at a reasonable hour.

Day 9 – A Busy Day in Munich

Another late morning as we didn’t get going until 10:45 or so. Our first stop was the medieval market in Odeonsplatz. The market itself wasn’t that big, but it was very nice. Everything is supposed to feel like the middle ages including the workers there being dressed in costume. They also have a really full schedule of events. We watched the magician and then watched the “comedy juggling” group. Even with our limited German, we still very much enjoyed them, even Kyle. By the end of the second show, the knight in armor had arrived. Kyle was impressed, but a little scared. We purchased a couple of items and then grabbed a snack consisting of meat on a skewer with dough wrapped around between the meat and then grilled.

We were getting a bit cold by this time, so we headed toward Marienplatz and wandered though the department store for a bit. It was very busy. After getting warmed up, we headed to the big toy store on Karlsplatz. Suzanne managed to find something that we had been looking for all week and Kyle picked up another few cars. Kyle was getting antsy by this time, so we hopped the tram back toward our apartment, stopping for a few things at the supermarket as it will be closed tomorrow.

After spending a bit of time hanging out at the apartment relaxing, we headed out to dinner. We wanted to check out an Italian place in the Rick Steves near Isartor, but never did. Instead, we ended up at the Weisses Brauhaus, home of Schneider Weisse. It was very busy, but we were lucky to find a table after a few minutes. The food was excellent as was the beer. They had at least five different hefeweizens on tap. My schweienehaxe was much better than Augustiner am Platzl and Suzanne’s saurbraten was equally good. (The total bill for two entrees, one “kids” meal, two beers, two other drinks, and a soup was €42.) We took another walk through the main market and down the main shopping street, catching our tram home at Karlsplatz.


Day 10 – Separate Mornings and a visit to the Tollwood Festival

One of the things I wanted to do was to make the short trip to the suburb of Dachau and visit the concentration camp memorial. Suzanne and I had visited during our trip in 2000. She didn’t have a strong desire to return and Kyle is much too young. (While I did see some younger kids there, the museum is not recommended for kids under 12.) She felt it was okay for me to head off on my own, which I did. The trip was very sobering, as I expected. In 2000, we visited on a warm, sunny day in May, so visiting on a cold, overcast day in December made it more powerful. They have redone the museum since we were there and things are very well presented. Everything is captioned in both German and English. I don’t know that I’d call it a highlight of the trip in the traditional sense, but it was definitely worth doing. (Note, I have also visited Buchanwald, outside of Weimer, in late November 2003. While the museum at Dachau is much better, I feel that Buchanwald was even more powerful.)

Suzanne and Kyle slept in, eventually getting going around 10:00. They headed off to the Deutsches Museum transport center, near the Oktoberfest grounds. Kyle really loved a few of the exhibits, especially the computer game about driving an ambulance. After they were done, we met back at the apartment for a late lunch and a nap.

After our rest, Kyle did not want to get up, but it was getting toward time for dinner. We headed out to the Hacker-Pschorr Brauhaus near the Theresienweise park (Oktoberfest grounds). Dinner was quite good and the place wasn’t too busy. There were a number of other families with kids, so we didn’t feel out of place. They even had chicken nuggets for Kyle. (Two entrees, one kids meal, one beer, and two other drinks was €45.) After dinner, we headed to the Tollwood Festival at the Theresienweise park itself. This is something of an “alternative” Christmas market. It was interesting, and they had an amazing array of food choices. Of course we had just eaten, but we did pick up some fresh roasted almonds. After walking around for a while, we hopped the U-Bahn and Strassenbahn back to our apartment for the evening.

Day 11 – A last, wet, day in Germany

When we awoke this morning, the temperature had risen to above freezing. However, along with the warmer temps came a steady rain. We eventually got going around midmorning, having to wait for hot water for a shower as the water heater had gotten turned off last night instead of set on “Night”. After a quick stop to deposit the rent money for the apartment, we hopped the tram to Karlsplatz for stops at Karstadt and Galeria Kaufhof to do some gift shopping. After finishing here, we headed down the main pedestrian street toward Marienplatz. Pushing the stroller was a bit easier as most of the snow was gone, but I think I would have traded the rain and temps in the upper 30s for snow and temps in the 20s as we had been having. We stopped by to visit the inside of the Dom (cathedral), which was nice. We continued our walk, through Marienplatz, and around the Viktualienmarkt (food market). Somehow, we missed this on our trip in 2000. It was pretty nice, and we took advantage of our visit to pick up a donut for Kyle and a couple of pretzels for us as a snack. Back toward Marienplatz, I grabbed a last glühwein while Suzanne and Kyle ran into the bookstore for a gift for one of Kyle’s friends. We next stopped by the other Galeria Kaufhof branch where I finally managed to find a wallet to replace my current one which is falling apart. An S-Bahn, tram ride, and a stop by the supermarket (for lunch and more gifts), and we ended up back at the apartment.

After a rest, we headed out to dinner. Given the weather and the amount of stuff we had to get done tonight before leaving in the morning, we decided to try the Italian place (Natales) a few minutes walk from the apartment. Kyle was able to get plain ziti, which he enjoyed very much, eating the entire plateful. Suzanne and I had pizzas, both of which were pretty good. (Kyle’s meal, a small salad, two pizzas, one beer, and two other drinks was €35.) After one last quick stop at the supermarket for a few items we forgot earlier, it was back to the apartment to start getting things together for tomorrow. While I helped Kyle with his bath, Suzanne packed up our stuff. Unfortunately, we did end up with a third bag to check. We’re just hoping our larger suitcase is not overweight.

It was great to be back in Germany after three full years. (For that trip, we spent only three days here before heading to Italy.) The Christmas markets were as wonderful as we remember, especially with the snow. It would have been better if it wasn’t quite so cold, but I decided I’d rather have the cold and snow than the rain we had all day the last day. Traveling with Kyle wasn’t the easiest, especially given his picky eating. It was much easier once we were in the apartment since we could make plain pasta every morning. We’ll definitely return to Germany at some point, but it will likely be at least a few years. (It will also likely be when the weather will be warmer.)

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