Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas festivals, Gluhwein, and good friends

After spending Thanksgiving day eating a wonderful meal with our TDS work family, we got little r home and snuggled down to prepare ourselves for a big weekend of Christmas market exploring.  We had somehow made plans with different groups of friends to go to the Weihnachtsmarkt Bamberg three days in a row.  Each day provided us with a completely different set of memories.

One thing we were not particularly prepared for was little r getting in his two-year molars.  He has been an uncomfortable and out of control mess providing a little added spice to our outings.  On Friday we had some good friends from the TDS family pass through our town and explore the Weignachtsmarkt with us before heading home.  We opted not to drive and instead took the bus into town with our friends, their two month old angel, and our crazy teething monster.  It was super cold despite it not having snowed yet, and we probably weren't as prepared as we should have been to keep warm.  It didn't take us long to find a Gluhwein stand so we could quickly start thawing.

Gluhwein stand at the Bamberg Weihnachtsmarkt where everyone is huddling around a warm cup of heaven.
Gluhwein is heavenly.  I suppose it's somewhat like drinking a hot tottie on a freezing cold day except that it tastes a million times better.  It is usually prepared with red wine (although it can be made with white wine as well), heated and spiced with cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, cloves, citrus, and sugar.  As much as I love red wine, Gluhwein has quickly become one of my favorite traditional treats here in Germany.  We tried Gluhwein from a few different stands throughout the afternoon and we were amazed at how different the drink can be depending on how it's made.  Little r didn't have anything warm to drink to escape the cold, and he was uncomfortable and ready to head home, so that's exactly what we did.  We stopped at our favorite local brewery for dinner to share a little of our town's awesome German food and beer at the Sonne Brewerei, and little r had his "apple beer" (applejuice in a small beer mug) and was all smiles.  It was a fun evening even if little r added a some extra spice to the experience.

Saturday we had plans to meet with a group of friends at a brewery downtown to take in some warm German food before heading out to the Weihnachtsmarkt.   We were a little nervous because little r refused to nap and we didn't want a repeat of the night before.  Turns out we had nothing to be afraid of. He had as much fun as we did hanging out with our friends.

After a scrumptious traditional German meal at Klosterbrau in Bamberg, we did a little window shopping.

and we marveled at how beautiful Bamberg was at night with all the lights...

and then we walked through a sea of Christmas lights and decorations as we found our way to the Weihnachtsmarkt...

After walking around the market enjoying the sites and laughing with friends, we found ourselves on a cozy corner street standing at a bonfire sipping Gluhwein and listening to German Christmas music.  The children were running around chasing lights in a mysterious glee and we were snuggling up to our loved ones taking it all in.

I think we were all sad that the evening had to end.  Our little bear didn't even last for the ten minute drive home...
And finally, on Sunday, we had plans to head Bamberg for a small Christmas market with our German neighbors where they were also meeting up with some other friends.  Knowing that we should probably not push our luck and take little r out into the elements a third night in a row, Big R stayed home so I could enjoy a baby-free German adventure.

My German is improving ever so slowly, and I was looking forward to spending this time with my German friends in Bamberg.  I asked them if they would speak mostly German, especially to each other and with their other friends.  My listening skills needed the practice and I promised I would try my best to talk in German as much as possible (hinting that I would probably get better after a cup or two of Gluhwein!).  The small market was called Adventsmarkt to celebrate the start of Advent.  Unlike the Weihnachtsmarkt, it was for this weekend only.  Adventsmarkt was set up around St. Elizabeth Church where the famous Sandkerwa festival was held every summer. This festival was very small and had more of an artist's flare in a tiny little corner of Bamberg.
St. Elizabeth is a small, unassuming church in the medieval part of Bamberg.

Me with my wonderful German friends.

Me with my a group of new friends out to enjoy the Adventsmarkt.

Although it was a small market, it was teeming with people.

Artisan sharing his craft with onlookers.
The options being minimal for food, we found ourselves walking through the streets of Bamberg as my German friend showed me all the best places to eat, play, and shop.  It was great!  Armed with all the best sites to this romantic German town, getting a regular date night in play is now a must.

Our stroll ended at the Weihnachtsmarkt (of course), so that we could enjoy some bratwurst and Gluhwein.  The tummy growls ended and our fingers started to thaw, and we all stood together at a Weihnachtsmarkt stand to eat and drink over stories.
I listened closely and followed more of the conversation than I expected I would.  It was interesting to hear all the different dialects, and I was amazed at how difficult it was to speak in a way they could understand.  My friend was impressed by my confidence in ordering and speaking to strangers.  Hey, when it comes to food and drink, I am ON IT!  We snuck away from the group to indulge in a crepe filled with kindershokolat (UNBELIEVABLE!), and then said our good-byes to her friends and walked through the market to do some more people watching and find some more of that heavenly hot drink.  Both of my friends work for the University downtown, so they showed me some places off the beaten path and shared stories and history.  I loved it.  I had only wished that Big R had been sharing it with me.

Today was the beginning of another week of work.  Big R has a couple weeks of work hell before him as he prepares for a courts martial, and I am recovering from a very full weekend and taming the little teething monster.  We had a great time this weekend with all our friends at the Bamberg Weihnachtsmarkt, and I am so looking forward to seeing more of German during this amazing time of year.

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