December 16, 2015

A Very Bavarian Christmas: Round 2

Make sure you get a load of Round 1 before you start this second round!

Welcome to A Very Bavarian Christmas! We are thoroughly enjoying our first Christmas season in Germany, and trying to soak it all in as much as we can. This "Round 2" of Christmas markets includes the magnificent city of Regensburg, our little town of Vilsbiburg, and the many markets of impressive Nuremberg. Lots of "burgs" out this way!


I'm rating each market area on a scale of 1 to 4 for location, size, spirit, and overall impression.

1: Poor
2: Okay
3: Good
4: Awesome

At the end of this post, I will have the entire list of Christmas markets and their ratings for a complete ranking of the best Bavaria has to offer!

Regensburg


Location: 4
Excellent; within five minutes of the train station, we were in the old town center and making our way between pastel buildings to the first market in Neupfarrplatz. All the market areas are a maximum of fifteen minutes from the station, but it's very easy to just make a giant loop and then nothing feels longer than ten minutes away.


Size: 4
Large, finally! I loved the market at Neupfarrplatz for its maze-like feel, the Romantic Market at Thurn and Taxis palace wound around the castle, and even though the Lucrezia and Haidplatz markets were small on their own, altogether it made for a giant market of everything.

The "Regensburger" is my new favorite!

Spirit: 4
Regensburg was all aglow. Really. This city knows how to rock the Christmas market scene! During the early afternoon there were less people, but as soon as work finished around three o'clock, the crowds starting filling in the gaps. I will say that it's a bit bogus for Thurn and Taxis to charge €6,50 to just get into the market, but I will also say that we happened to find a more creative way to get inside for free. It may have involved athleticism and a fence....


Overall Impression: 4
My wonderful Swiss friend and teammate, Julia, and I had an absolutely incredible time wandering around Regensburg like French tourists. We met up with our German teammate, Magda, and just let the magic of Christmas take us away. It may have had a little bit to do with the glühwein, but we will remember the beauty of this day for a really long time.


Average Rating: 4

Vilsbiburg


Location: 4
Five minute walk from train station or ten minute walk from my home; set right in the main street where all the action happens.


Size: 2
Small; it's really only on the one street, plus a small courtyard off to the side (but you have to hunt this area down).


Spirit: 4
Friendly and familiar. Vilsbiburg's Christmas market is only one day in order to draw the best crowd. There was a tent with guitarists singing around a campfire, a live band playing Christmas carols, and Saint Nikolaus came to say hello. In addition, my Rote Raben club had its very own stand with soup, glühwein, and cookies, so all of my volleyball people came out in droves!


Overall Impression: 4
This was the first time I've gotten to legitimately be part of the local Christmas market and it was really special. We had sunshine all afternoon, we talked with teammates and made new friends, sang around a fire together, and even met another random person from California!


Average Rating: 3.5

Nuremberg Partnerstädte (Sister Cities)


Location: 4
Just around the corner from the main Hauptmarkt area, in a more manageable square, and about a ten minute walk from the train station.

Size: 4
While I would have been okay with this market being ten times the size and representing every country in the world, it was the right size for what it offers, with about twenty to twenty-five cities in attendance.

Atlanta, Georgia!

Spirit: 4
Every stand was promoting their individual culture and it was SO COOL. It was like everything I ever wished a school geography fair could have been like, complete with local foods and languages.

Venice, Italy!

Overall Impression: 4
We (Karen, the American I met on the train, and I) walked through this market area at least three times. American candy. Russian nesting dolls. Italian food. French speakers. Spanish culture. Turkish scarves. Sri Lanka. Cuba. Czech Republic. Romania. These are just the places I can remember, and when I return to Nuremberg next December, I will be spending even more time in this space!

Average Rating: 4

Nuremberg Hauptmarkt


Location: 4
Ten minute walk from the train station. It's huge, you can't miss it, and there are even huge lit up signs to lead the way.


Size: 4
FINALLY a Christmas market akin to the giant size I was expecting. Maybe some people prefer their Christkindlmarkt experience to be more intimate, but that's only good for when you know people! In big cities, I want to feel lost in the gifts, scents, and music, and I got lost here!


Spirit: 4
During the weekdays, the Christkind ("Christ child," but really just a teenage girl) makes an appearance, and all the children just "ooh" and "aah." There was also a high-spirited (high-wined) group of Portuguese twenty-somethings all dressed in Santa outfits, armed with guitars, alcohol, and singing Christmas carols. Some people were annoyed; Karen the American and I thought it was awesome.

The Christkind.

Overall Impression: 4
All of my Christmas dreams came true. Only snow could have made it better...but I don't think I actually want to walk around in snow, it would just look pretty.


Average Rating: 4

Nuremberg Kindermarkt


Location: 4
Same general place as the other two markets. Which just makes the Nuremberg experience absolutely perfect.


Size: 4
Great for taking the kids on a loop of markets designed for them. Around the same size as the Partnerstädte market, plus a carrousel, miniature Ferris wheel, and more food options for picky eaters.


Spirit: 4
It's the children's market. Of course, the spirit was totally 100% Christmas. What made it even better were the moving figurines above each and every stand. Santa, reindeer, angels, Hansel and Gretel, manger scenes, you name it!

Overall Impression: 4
Great interactive setting with nearly every stall offering an actual activity for the kids (and parents!) to get their hands on. Lots of music and bright moments in this market, and I may just have to take the hot air balloon on the second level of the carrousel next time!


Average Rating: 4

Final Rankings 2015

9. Munich Marienplatz (2.25)
8. Passau (2.75)
7. Vilshofen (3.5
6. Munich Residenz (3.5)
5. Vilsbiburg (3.5)
4. Nuremberg Kindermarkt (4)
3. Regensburg (4)
2. Nuremberg Hauptmarkt (4)
1. Nuremberg Partnerstädte (4)


I learned something very valuable during these Christmas market expeditions. I really do enjoy solo travel, however, a Christmas market is actually so much better when with friends. Next December, if we find ourselves in Bavaria again, Regensburg and Nuremberg are at the top of my list. Let's go together!


Frohe Weihnachten!

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