Two years ago, my daughter’s best friend’s mom (got that?) took her daughter to Germany during Thanksgiving break for a mother/daughter tour of the German Christmas markets. What a terrific idea for you and your tween! (Why didn’t I think of that?) The German Christmas markets are magical; picture a charming little medieval village, with renaissance-style buildings, Romanesque towers, and a gothic church in its historic town square, strung with colored Christmas lights and dusted with fresh snow. Handmade holiday crafts like nutcrackers and nativities are for sale by the costumed townsfolk and a mug of Glühwein (hot mulled wine) warms your hands. Sounds dreamy to me.
Although Strasbourg, Copenhagen, Vienna, Prague, and many other European cities have Christmas markets, they are prolific in Germany. Larger cities like Munich, Frankfurt, and Cologne have them and so do the small romantic villages like Dinkelsbühl and Bernkastel-Kues. Dresden has the oldest Christmas market, dating back to 1434, and boasts the world’s biggest nutcracker.
I have personal affection for a beautiful, very special Christmas market in Germany that’s kind of off the radar of most Internet sites. It takes place in Sommerhausen, a picturesque wine village on the banks of the Main River, outside of Würzburg, with a rich artist community. The Sommerhausen Christmas market begins this weekend, on Saturday, November 27, and runs every weekend thereafter until December 19, 2010. The cozy wine taverns and local winegrowers offer tastings of Sommerhausen’s famous Franconian wine, and cafés invite visitors to sample various Bavarian dishes or international cooking. Many of the town’s private art galleries exhibit notable canvas, collage, glass, and ceramic art. But what makes Sommerhausen’s Christmas mart unique and personal, is that the residents set up boutiques in their courtyards, domed cellars, and even inside their homes. Guests are invited to browse and purchase their fresh-baked Weihnachtsstollen, homemade wines, cellar-made schnapps, wood-carved toys, and quality crafted gifts. The village atmosphere is embracing and enchanting, and the Christmas experience is unforgettable.