I’m a Christmas fiend. Anything that can cheer me up purely by being tinsel-y and merry is my kind of thing. The decision to ignite Christmas cheer, which is admittedly diminishing as I advance towards my twenties, presented itself in the form of a winter break to the Christmas Markets of Germany – and Nuremberg DEFINITELY delivered.
Rewind a month or two ago; Niall and I are looking for the cheapest flights to Europe in mid-December. Nuremberg wins, at a modest £44 return flight. Despite knowing little about the city apart from what I’d learnt in Nazi-related History lessons at school, I went with an open mind and and excitement to explore.
Landing in Nuremberg, step one was to get to our airbnb flat, and €3 later, we were sat on an empty underground train on the U2 line. Getting out of the station and finding ourselves by a dark abandoned riverside which looked like the perfect place to dump our bodies, I quickly used my phone data (abstinence lasted until a whole 45minutes after landing) and got us to a little flat in the centre-East of Nuremberg’s altstadt (old town). The airbnb was always going to be a bit of a worry. Being the organised people that we are, we left booking accommodation to two weeks before leaving and everything relatively affordable had gone. So, we opted for a “private room” in someone’s apartment. This turned out to be an ABSOLUTE BLESSING. Our host (Temitope, the Fuse ODG-lovin’, chicken-cookin’ Nigerian legend himself) literally greeted us with a pair of slippers each and told us we could eat whatever we wanted in the fridge (including eggs, bacon, juice, cheese, veg, even a delicious homemade curry). At this point it was around 9pm though, so we decided to dash out to eat after a long day of travelling. We went to Delphi, a Greek restaurant two minutes from the flat. After asking for a table for two in the very little German I know (Einen Tisch für zwei, bitte) and having the waiter gabble back to me in fullspeed German, I frantically waved my hand in the symbol of “I’m actually shit at German, I just remembered a sentence or two from my GCSEs.” Stupid me, in an attempt to redeem myself, proceeded to tell the waiter that I was Greek, which led to yet another awkwardly terrible conversation in a language that I know painfully little of. All this before the bloody starter, as well. We ended up having a lovely meal, though, of kritharaki and pork souvlaki, washed down with delicious rosewater flavoured ouzo (the last time we were given free ouzo was in Corfu, where we surreptitiously fed it to the potted plant next to our table – this time it was actually drinkable).
Seeing as we’d forgotten to bring a plug adapter, our phones had ran out of battery at this point and we couldn’t set an alarm. Consequently, after an “oh, shit” moment when we realised it was 11am and we were still in bed, we rushed to get ready for a day of Nazi history. Nuremberg’s transport was NOT on our side. The first thing to note is that the transport network in Nuremberg is called “VAG.” On the trains and buses they have interactive screens with “VAG quizzes.” It’s wonderful.
After wandering around the hauptbahnhof for a bit trying to find the mythical S2 line, we found an English-speaking couple (long-haired Australian dude whose name I can’t remember and his Californian friend Jenna) who were also headed for the Nazi Party Rally Grounds and convinced us that the S3 line would get us there. Oh, no. We ended up in ‘Feucht’ (yeah, me neither) and to top things off, then got the wrong train AGAIN back to where we started. We finally got the U1 to Frankenstraße, and then a bus (which we got off at the wrong stop, of course). By this point it was 3pm and we knew these people REALLY well. “I have a court case against me back home, my au pair family accused me of stealing a ring” Jenna says, clutching me in the girls toilets. After eventually finding the rally grounds, its unfinished state yet overwhelmingly huge exterior was surprising to me: bigger than the coliseum, yet with a distinct aura of crumbling decay; its peacefulness directly contradicted the purpose for which it was built.
A quick train ride across town to Barenschanze, we went to see the Nuremberg Trial Courthouse. After begrudgingly paying the €5 entry fee, we were transported into an incredible exhibition showing Courtroom 600 in all its foreboding glory and a detailed and fascinating exhibition on the floor above.
When the evening arrived and darkness descended, however, there was only one thing I wanted to see. The reason for coming to Germany on December in the first place: the Christmas markets. And oh, did Nuremberg deliver. Dating back to the 1500s, these markets are as traditional as you can get, with some stalls being in family generations for hundreds of years. Covering the entirety of the hauptmarkt in front of the beautiful Frauenkirche, stalls ranged from selling tradition fare of nürnberger bratwurst, lebkucken and glühwein to more modern crafts.
Glühwein is THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING IN THE WORLD. It is a bit like mulled wine and it’s warm and sweet and delicious. I eventually managed to part from the markets and we went to dinner at an Italian place called Il Rossini, where we ate Spaghetti con Vongole and the biggest pizza known to man (we still made room afterwards though for some chocolately marshmallow cakes from the market).
After being on trains for most of yesterday, we decided to tackle our last full day on foot to explore the altstadt and mitte parts of central Nuremberg. Firstly, we had to dip into the christmas markets again though, to buy bratwursts stuffed into mustardy buns and fried potato cakes and chocolate covered grapes from tinsel-covered stalls.
We were awed by the interiors of the Frauenkirche and St Sebaldus church, huge and powerful in their entireties; and walking down the beautiful cobbled streets with chilly noses, taking in the traditional, squashed-in German houses in little side-streets, felt truly Christmassy. The artist Albrecht Durer lived in Nuremberg, so we checked out his house and then walked up and around the beautiful Nuremberg Imperial castle. Some things we wanted to see were annoyingly shut (The World War Two art bunker, the Germanisches Nationalmuseum), but I guess it’s partly our fault for deciding to make our full days on a Sunday and Monday (clever). That evening, after drinking a glühwein whilst watching a brass band and choir in front of the Frauenkirche in the Christmas market, we decided to try more traditional fare and went to the restaurant ‘Bratwurst Röslein’ where we ordered a souffle (which, fantastically, translates to ‘flauf flauf’ in German) and duck, apple red cabbage and the biggest potato dumping known to man.
The evening later involved a LOT of free glühwein provided by our new best mate Temitope back at the airbnb, where he danced to Fuse ODG music videos and put on Louis Theroux documentaries. What a man.
After eating Temitope’s stir fry for breakfast and buying last-minute presents at the market (and more chocolate grapes) we began the long trek back to Leeds.
Nuremberg was full of many glorious surprises. It really did just ooze Christmas loveliness; its traditional and community atmosphere was so apparent (we only heard two English voices during the entirety of our trip) and the Christmas markets were such a refreshing, beautiful change from the tack of fluorescent fairground rides of Winter Wonderland. Authentic, beautiful, and traditional, it was the perfect Wintery getaway.