Monday, December 24, 2007

A medieval Christmas market in Siegburg, Germany

During the cold wintry holiday season, there is one country in Europe tourists flock to: Germany.

This fairy tale land, home to the world renowned linguistic and story tellers, the Grimm brothers, the rowdy Oktoberfest, its giant-serving sausages, and the autobahns without speed limit, is known for its magical and traditional Christmas markets. They are everywhere in Deutschland. Nuremberg is the most popular of them all and is said to draw yearly more than 2 million eager tourists.

That said, it was very tempting to go to Cologne and Dusseldorf, the cities comparable to Nuremberg in size and revelry and nearer to Holland too but I wanted something smaller and less touristy... something different.
The enchanting medieval Christmas market in Siegburg is said to be the first, and the most authentic of all period markets in Germany.

Siegburg, a small cosy town between Cologne and Bonn (about 27 KM south of Cologne) was just the right choice.

Before the trip I read about Siegburg being the first and biggest medieval Christmas market in Germany, and probably is the most genuine among all remaining today. Now that made me curious, and enough to drive a few hundred kilometers for a day!

Siegburg’s Christmas market is truly a very unique market and an enchanting experience. A one of a kind; far away from the image of popular Christmas markets travel agencies advertise and tourists congregate. It is an old fashioned and historic market that relives the times of the dark medieval period.

Reviving antiquated craftsmanship with metal; a real blacksmith with his real ancient tools. Next foto is a baker selling freshly baked bread from their open-air stone oven.

I personally love the warm, historic, and extraordinary romantic setting. The whole place is torch-lit and bonfires are scattered in the market grounds. Pungent odors greeted my nose. Shop stands are made of primitive materials and sellers dress up in remarkable medieval garb selling 100% handmade wares. Entertainers prance around in public devouring fires and a group of minstrels stand on the wooden stage performing live music with their ancient instruments. Enthralling, it brought me back in time!

Sampling some of the food offered in the fair, I chose this tasty-looking grilled twisted meat on a stick while Dutchman settled for pita bread with some meaty stuff in it. The handmade Gluhwein was delightful. It just had the right aroma and taste into it. And with the temperatures dropping to 0C and lower, it was indeed a very comforting drink. The bonfire in front of us made the setting perfect too.

I quite like this blurry foto of the woman in the taverne. She sold me a glass of gluhwein. Next foto is a couple selling roasted chestnuts.

My favorite shop was the exotic tea shop. Next to it is a comfortable seating place that resembled like a knight’s hut. Inside are leather padded low stools grouped together and people can sit in there while they enjoy their warm cup of aromatic tea. It appears to be the coziest spot in the market.

My pictures can be found here: Siegburg Medievel Market

Siegburg tourism PDF in English: Siegburg Mittelaltermarkt

On the way back to the Netherlands, we got lost (again) and found ourselves driving into the Centrum of Cologne. The magnificent lighted Dom Cathedral rose before us, the Hohenzollern Bridge, the Great St. Martin Church and the rows of pretty pastel buildings in the fish market quarter of the Old Town - I totally forgot how breathtaking Cologne is in the evening! With the lights, the city is so beautiful from a distance, just like a postcard. Catching a glimpse of Cologne at night was definitely an extra souvenir for this Siegburg trip.

At any rate, in summary - though Siegburg was a bit far, and I have a grouchy Dutchman sitting beside me in the car who firmly swore never ever again to come with me to any (far-flung and overkill -- his words) Christmas market, the visit was still very much worth it ;-)

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