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First things first. I know it’s not Friday and apologies for not posting this yesterday. But I did begin writing the post yesterday, so figured it still qualified for “5 for Friday”. I was too distracted by playing with 2 sweet little girls and the Boxing Day sales to complete the post on time. But you know what they say – better late than never, so here it is.
Whilst the larger German cities have plenty to offer in terms of sights and history, it is the smaller towns that have really captured my heart with their charm and beauty. In general, the Christmas markets are also a bit less crowded in the smaller towns, which in my opinion makes it a more enjoyable experience for shopping, eating and simply soaking in the atmosphere without getting jostled about. Here are some images from my 5 favourite towns from my recent trip.
It was an easy decision to include Heidelberg in the itinerary that I created for my friends and I. About 10 years ago, I had been charmed by the hauntingly beautiful ruins of Heidelberg Castle.
Not to mention the views from the castle balcony.
I had always regretted not making the zigzag climb up the Schlangenweg (Snake Path) to lookout points on the opposite side of the river, but the abundant snow and icy conditions on the occasion of my previous visit had resulted in a much less adventurous trip as we were afraid and simply too cold to tackle overly arduous and slippery walking trails. There was much time spent indoors sipping mugs of hot chocolate instead!
This time around, the absence of a shroud of soft white snow did somewhat diminish the romanticism of the castle complex, but also gave me the opportunity to finally cross the Alte Brucke (Old Bridge).
The climb is fairly steep, but well worth the effort, as you will soon be rewarded with glorious views like this one. Aahhh…
2. Baden Baden
This was another return visit. One of the highlights of my first German Christmas markets trip was the experience of soaking in the warm waters of an outdoor public bath while soft powdery flakes of snow landed gently on our heads and faces. It was truly magical!
Caracalla Therme in Baden Baden
There was no snow this time around, but the soak was just as relaxing and enjoyable, and again, the conditions were better suited to a bit more exploration of the town itself. Although the Neues Schloss (New Palace) was undergoing renovations and closed to public access when we visited, I still highly recommend the climb up the steps to the castle site, where you will be rewarded with amazing views over the town. You can always soothe your aching muscles afterwards anyway, in 1 or both of the nearby public baths.
Our day trip from Stuttgart to Tubingen was easily, for me, the highlight of this trip. Tubingen itself is adorable in its own right, with its rows of colourful buildings facing the Neckar River.
And its cobblestone streets lined by cute boutiques. Add to that its proximity to my favourite castle to date, just half an hour journey from Hohenzellern Castle.
And the fact that we were blessed with snow, making me feel like I had been transported to Narnia.
And to top things off, we had perfectly timed our visit for ChocolArt, the annual Chocolate Festival at Tubingen. Yes, really, a CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL. Complete with fancy lighting.
And of course, mounds and mounds of chocolate to sample and purchase.
Generally held in the 1st week of December each year, ChocolArt is a fantastic side trip to add to your Christmas market itinerary. In 2015, ChocolArt will run from 1-6 December. You’re welcome.
I had specifically included Augsburg into our itinerary so that we could witness the famous Angel Chorus, held at 6pm at the Rathaus every Friday-Sunday evening during the Christmas market season.
Whilst this did not disappoint, everybody else and their cat was in Augsburg for the same reason, and I am not fond of large crowds. It was the visit to St Anna Kirche the next day that was especially memorable for me. I went bright and early, and for the most part, had it all to myself to savour.
Unlike many other churches, St Anna is bright and airy with a beautiful and calming pastel hue, which I adored.
To be honest, Bremen was never on my radar. The first draft of my German Christmas market itinerary had Hamburg as a stop instead, but I simply couldn’t resist the opportunity to catch up with an old friend. And boy, am I glad this friend of mine resides in beautiful Bremen with its UNESCO World Heritage listed Town Hall and Roland Statue.
We were so enamoured by the Marktplatz in which Gothic, Renaissance and modern architectural styles are so seamlessly combined resulting in charming and extremely pleasing to the eye surroundings, that we forgot to eat lunch until about 4pm!
But it wasn’t until we discovered the narrow laneway flanked by the unusual tall and narrow brickwork facades that make up Böttcherstrasse that I vowed to return one day in the warmer months so I can take better photos with bluer skies. Hopefully.
In the end, though, it was the Schnoor that got me. Hook, line and sinker. I love a good ol’ crooked alleyway with quaint shopfronts, unique shop signs and cobblestones, and even more so when the shops are stocked with all sorts of cute and quirky knick knacks. The Schnoor certainly did not disappoint on all points. I snapped away happily. Next time, I might even fit in some shopping.
Over to you, what other small German towns have you fallen in love with that I should visit next time?
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