Topline Tourism – Castles, Christmas Markets and Concentration Camps (Part One)

We took a family vacation the week before Christmas. A driving vacation – one like we used to take when we were kids. Journeys where we would load up the family vehicle (Galaxy 500 or Pacer as the case may be), and head to points West. Both my and Becca’s families took these trips. I think in the course of my childhood, I probably drove through 30+ states of the lower 48.

I never thought of vacationing by automobile as a uniquely American thing to do, but judging by the look on people’s faces here when I tell stories of our recent trip, it’s definitely not a very European thing to do. Perhaps because it is so cheap to fly elsewhere, or so easy to take the train. In doing so though I think you miss the opportunity for the unplanned, the spontaneous – the flexibility for whim (or weather) to take you to a place not planned. Thus, we wanted to drive. And so drive we did. 3500km worth of driving.  We left Saturday night (12/17) after Owen’s futbol game.  Our goal was to first drive to the furthest point on our trip and then gradually work our way back to Barcelona.

The first night’s drive was really just designed to give us a bit of a head start on the next day’s journey.  We drove 4 hours to Nimes, France. Nimes is famous for a lot of things. The Roman ampitheatre, Pont du Gard, and my favorite – a very durable textile – serge de nimes. Which most of us shorthand to denims – or blue jeans – first made famous in America by Levi Strauss.

After a quick overnight, and no sightseeing, we got on the road and made a 9-10 hour trek to Nuremberg, Germany which was the farthest point of our trip. On the latter part of this drive we had our first experience with the German autobahn.  We quickly learned the etiquette of the autobahn, which is for all intents and purposes to stay the hell out of the way.  You basically have 3 lanes.  The far right lane is the fast lane.  The middle lane is the really, really fast lane.  And the far left lane is the “Holy Crap! Did you see how fast that car was going?” lane. With Owen cheering me on the in the back seat, we hit a top speed of a 160KM/hour, and we were still spending most of our time in the far right lane. We did begin to run into bits of snow and ice on this part of the trip, which slowed everyone down. Some not quick enough, as one particular storm – call it an “Iceburst” – it was like a cloudburst, but instead of dropping rain, it dropped hail (or ice pellets). It coated the road in minutes (seconds maybe) with about an inch or two of ice pellets, and on the other side of the autobahn there were two bad accidents. One car slid off the road and flipped, and then as folks were braking, another accident occurred about 1/2 mile back with a 3 car accident and spin out.

We made it safely to Nuremberg around 7pm and quickly made our way to the old city and its famous Christmas Market. We walked around and marvelled at the beautiful lights and Christmas booths selling every sort of Christmas accessory possible. There were ornaments, foods, wooden nutcrackers, candle holders, creches, etc. All beautifully crafted and presented.

We tried the ”Glühwein,” which I’m sure on a cold enough winter’s night, could be quite addicting.  It’s worth adding that for us, recently arrived from Barcelona where it had been a sunny 60 degrees, that the near freezing temperature of Nuremberg was enough to make us addicts at first sip. We also tried multiple types of hard candies, ”brezels” (or pretzels), Nuremberg sausage sandwiches, chocolate covered ananas (pineapple), chocolate covered cayenne peppers, chocolate covered ginger snaps, and then set about looking for a chocolate covered antacid!

We woke the next morning and traversed the markets again and saw a bit more of the old town in daylight.  There are some beautiful old buildings, which if I understood it correctly, were all rebuilt after World War II, when 90% of the old town was destroyed by Allied bombing. I think many of these landmarks were rebuilt using the stones from the original buildings. After Nuremberg, we moved onto Munich, and part two of our trip.

Apparently no one told this German sausage purveyor (little Nuremberg sausages you see in the foreground - my favorites) that Movember was over. He can shave now. Anyone who lets Becca snap a photo is a good sport though, so he's on our team for next year.

Nuremberg Germany - Gluhwein Booth at the Christmas Market

Gluhwein Booth at Nuremberg Christmas Market. Seemingly addictive, as swarms of people were standing around soaking it up. It looked sort of like a college keg party. Gluhwein is a warm, mulled wine. Tastes like Sangria would if you heated it up. Not that I've ever had any Sangria - that's only for tourists!


Chocolate Covered Cayenne Pepper

This is one of those cases, where you should listen when the person asks you if you're sure you want to order it? But I ordered it anyway. I do love a little heat in my food, and if you cover it in chocolate, what could really be better? To be fair, I don't love hot peppers the way that Matt Sanchez or Kate Gossman do, but I definitely like venturing out to the far end of the Scoville scale every once in a while. Suffice it to say, this cayenne pepper was hot, and it got hotter with every bite. I finished it... well, maybe just the chocolate coating... but I did muscle through most of it.

Perhaps these were just for display, as the guy sort of looked at me like I was crazy when I ordered one.

Just your standard Christmas Market cookie booth - a bit of Nuremberg skyline in the background.

La Familia Worple trying to find more Gluhwein - any hints on where we might look? Looks like Owen might need a bathroom - actually I'm only publishing this so that he'll stop making faces when Becca wants to take a picture!

Happy faces everywhere (hyperbole for sure) as we buy Brezels for a morning snack. Not quite like Auntie Annes, but nobody was complaining.

This giant Christmas Pyramid, which I also call a giant candle thingy, is an oversized version of a typical German Christmas decoration. These decorations use the heat from candles to spin a propellor above which then causes a carrousel depicting various Christmas scenes on each level to spin around. This oversized version housed a bar in the base that served Gluhwein. Enough Gluhwein and you also start spinning, or so we were told.


Here I am posing with my cool souvenir mug. We've several of these as it took me a while to figure out they were refillable.

What could be more German than seeing Kris Kringle and his helper. Bear with me as I get all Cliff Claven on you. The name Kris Kringle is derived from the german Krist Kindl - or Christ Child! Santa Claus comes from the Dutch SinterClaas, which is the Dutch spelling and pronunciation of Saint Nicholas.

Apparently one of the most photographed buidings in Nuremberg. So what did we do? We took a photo.

Nuremberg Cathedral (not sure that is the official descriptor) as a backdrop for the Christmas Market.

Details from the Christmas Market... Santa Ornaments

Details from the Christmas Market - Handcrafted Ornaments

Details from the Christmas Market - this is one detail I would volunteer for - Cookies!


Details from the Christmas Market - Not even sure where to begin in describing it, but I like it!

Okay that’s it for Nuremberg!  Next post will be about our time in Munich. Cheers!

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