Ok so I realise it’s been a while since I last posted (if ‘a while’= 3 months…), but I want to get the ball rolling again so I can start posting some new stuff I’ve had in mind! So, finally, here is the update from my pre-Xmas bank holiday weekend in Germany.
(I took far too many pictures, as usual, so have chucked them into a couple of slideshows. Scroll down if you fancy flicking through them!)
I had never been to Germany before so decided to make the most of the long bank holiday weekend (5 days- does that even count as a weekend?!) to go and see some of the famous Christmas markets and to get into the festive spirit! I wanted to pack as much as possible into the time I had so, after a lot of research, I settled on Munich, Nuremberg and Stuttgart for my mini tour of southern Germany. Firstly, I must say that the decision was made a lot easier once I got to know the transport links available in Germany; the rail network is a breath of fresh air after enduring months of Spanish public transport! (Again, I know.)
The weekend also brought another ‘first’; I decided to hostel it for the trip, which I’d never done before. I think for a lot of people that have never done hostels before, the image of grimy rooms with dodgy lockers and cold showers comes to mind. However, if you check out HostelWorld there are actually some really nice hostels out there, at very decent prices. You can select ‘female only’ dorms if, like me, you are more comfortable sharing in single-sex rooms, and many include good lockers, towels, bedding and comfy beds with individual power sockets and reading lights, etc. as well as cute communal areas and bars. So, if you do your research and check the reviews before you book, I really would recommend it, as my experience was only good.
I flew into Munich where my first hostel was a Wombats, a chain group with hostels in other locations around the world. I’d recommend them for the free drinks at the on-site bar and the all you can eat breakfast if nothing else!
I spent my first day in Munich hunting down Christmas markets and exploring the city. It’s been a long time since I studied German at school and I really struggled to remember much at all, so communicating was a challenge at first… which for a languages student is quite a strange feeling. I’m used to having at least a basic grasp of the languages I use when I travel (despite English being spoken in so many countries, I never like to rely on it and always want to make the effort to speak the native language). But it soon started to come back to me and I managed for the most part! Another one to add to my ‘to-learn’ list perhaps…
The German markets were as beautiful as you’d expect, and it’s safe to say I bought far too many Christmas decs and consumed far too much Glühwein and Lebkuchen… but when in Germany. Later in the day I walked up to the English Gardens and then back round to the main square to see the evening performance of carols from the church in Marienplatz, which really couldn’t have felt much more festive.
The next day I made a day trip to Nuremberg by train- the only negative about the trains is that you have to buy your train tickets online in advance or they can end up doubling by the time you get to the station, which I found out the hard way! When I arrived the tourism office was right opposite the train station when I arrived so I picked up a map like a true tourist.
Nuremberg was beautiful and had a much older and quainter feel to it than the other two I visited, and the main square and it’s church were really spectacular. The city also had an international market, with stands from all over the world, as well as their own traditional date men and foil angels.I would definitely recommend checking out the Handwekerhof (craftsmen courtyard), which has loads of cute little shops where crafters sell their handmade decorations; I couldn’t resist buying myself a fancy glass bauble…
I also managed to squeeze in a visit to the castle, where the view of the city was amazing, and an appearance on the church balcony to see the lit-up market below. There was even a jazzy band doing German covers of all the festive pop classics to top it all off. Best part about Nuremberg though was finding a stall that did vegan Bratwurst; a winner in my eyes.
For my last day I headed to Stuttgart, where I had another hostel set up for the night. Another unique and vibrant city, where the Christmas market stretched further than I cared to walk after a weekend trekking round in heeled boots (poor decision). The Schlossplatz (main square) and the gardens around the opera house are a must-see, as well as the cool, modern library (just check the opening hours as I was dismayed to find, after hobbling up the hill, that it’s closed on Sundays). Once it was dark I also decided to visit the Johanneskirche, another church a little further from the main square. This turned out to be not such a great idea as I ended up being followed round the creepy gothic church, dark lake included, by a crazy man shouting at me in German. Not an experience I’d recommend.
By the end of the weekend I’d just about had enough of Christmas markets. They were lovely but I’d spent far too much money on stollen and seen about as many Christmas decorations as I needed to after scouring the markets in three different cities. My advice to anyone doing a similar trip would be bring flats, a dictionary and plenty of euros.
Until next time Germany, when I’ll hopefully be able to remember more than just the word for ‘semi-detached house’ from my year 8 German classes…