Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas in Bayreuth

Christmas markets are a pretty big deal around these parts. They are especially popular in Germany. On numerous occasions I have made it over to Nurnberg to visit one of the oldest Christmas Markets in Europe. I'm not going to act all overly educated and pretend I know exactly how old it is or anything, but it's been around for a long time and is seriously huge. It's also a wee bit far away. So this year, Tammy and I decided to try a market we'd never been to that was also a little closer and still in the cheap zone. (Note: I lived over here for several years and the prices of things never really went up much, but after a year of being gone suddenly everything is more expensive. From food, to train tickets, and even the local ML bus. Inflation is not my favorite. Now let me ask you, should a ticket for a train with a heater that looks like this:
really increase? I think not.) Anyhow, we headed out on Sunday to check out the market in Bayreuth, a town just slightly farther away than Marktredwitz. We had a street map with a vague direction to go, but no real idea where to find what we were looking for. Thankfully, being the expert European travelers that we are, we managed. On the way we passed sights like this:
We passed through an ancient archway and spotted the drink booths, which let us know we were definitely headed the right direction. And then we were there.
I always love checking out the little booths and seeing what the popular ornaments are for the year. Being in Germany, and having prices in Euros, it was a bit out of my comfy range, but it's fun just to look. There are also the architectural gems that make it even more interesting.
We also discovered that they don't get a lot of American tourists around these parts. When we were looking for a hot drink, some men working in a booth tried to woo us with their wares. When we explained that we didn't speak much German, but English instead, they were very curious to learn where we were from and what brought us to their little town. When we half way explained, the older man who spoke some English decided that we should have a free sample of their special Christmas brew. It was a unique concoction that mixed red wine, rum, and citrus juice and I believe some cinnamon, all warm and toasty in a cup. I'll admit, I was rather glad it was a free sample, and there was no further pressure to buy, which was nice. It also did really warm me up all the way through, which was very useful on such a cold wintery day. Tammy needed her traditional market sausage, and I decided on a baguette with garlic butter, tomatoes, and melted mozzarella cheese. Tasty little snacks to help us along our way back to the station. The market was rather smaller, and much less crowded, than we had anticipated, so it only took us a couple hours to feel like we'd done the town. We jumped the next train back to Marktredwitz and when we arrived there we learned we had a while until the next train back to Cheb. Not wanting to waste an opportunity, we walked around through the streets of M. It was actually quite snowy there, but we were still able to enjoy the market they had there, as well as visiting a cafe. (Note: in Germany everything is generally closed on Sundays, especially in smaller towns. Despite Christmas being only a week away, even the shopping malls are closed.) The cafe we found open was one my friend Nicole and I visited several years ago on another day waiting for a train. It's a bit of a stuffy place in a hotel. The set up is odd and if you order a pastry you have to pay extra to sit inside and eat it. The usual set that takes a coffee there on a Sunday afternoon is rather cautious of strangers. The elderly ladies either ignored us or looked at us as though we had clearly stumbled into the wrong place. Ah well, at least the cappuccino was tasty.
It's only about a five minute walk back up to the station, and we thought we were doing just fine, but when we arrived we watched the train pulling out. The very train we were supposed to take. If we'd realized we should hustle it would have been no problem. Instead, we had another 45 minutes to spend in Marktredwitz. So how did we spend that time, you ask? Well, we went and had our photo taken with Santa. Isn't that what all the 30 something women you know do on a Sunday afternoon? Seemed reasonable enough to us. There is joy in being able to just enjoy life sometimes. And believe, the Santa and photographer greatly enjoyed our amusement. The picture is supposed to be e-mailed to Tammy, so I don't have it just yet, but when it comes I'll try to post it too. We did finally make it safely back to Cheb, where all things remained as they should be. We had pizza at Jakubska, and spent the night relaxing in her Skalka flat. Come Monday morning, she still had to go to work. The school system here isn't quite as set on always giving a two week holiday, so I think she works until the 23rd and only has off until the 3rd. Not so cool. My walk back to the train station was quite lovely. I decided to go down by the river and enjoy the place I've walked so many times. I wasn't disappointed.
And who knew there would be a tribute to me right there on the graffiti wall?
It was like it was my special day or something :)

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