On this post I will feature highlights from my travels to the smaller cities in mid-Deutschland. Some may consider my trek through Germany a “Christmas Tour”, and I did attend the Christkindlmarkt / Weinachtsmarkt in each town. This was a good way to experience the differences of each region. For instance Nuremberg’s market was the most homogeneous (food-wise and as far as booths went), while Heidelberg’s market included interesting food stands, like an Asian wok and a vendor with soup in bread bowls!
For all pictures, please visit my Mid-German Cities album on Google photos (pictures coming, hahahah ), or friend me on Facebook! You can also find information on German public health, sustainability/environment, and food culture in the Germany post.
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Population: 520,800 people (2013)
Most popular tourist attractions (that I went to):
- St Thomas Church (Thomaskirche) – resting place of J.S.Bach, who was the director of music at the church from 1723-1750. Beautiful place to hear the Boys’ Choir.
- St Nikolas Church (Nikolaikirche) – Built in 1165 and named after St Nikolas, the patron saint of travelers and merchants. Bach was also the director of music here for the same years he served at St Thomas Church. It is a beautiful place to listen to organ music.
- Schumann’s house – I just walked outside, more interested in Mendelssohn…
- Mendelssohn’s house – He only live there for a little bit, but he composer and conductor had a lot to do with music history. This house was the first “concert hall” in the area, if not most of Germany, and it was a treat to visit. Much history to be learned and a fun room where you can conduct the orchestra, symphony, choir, or some combination of those. Best of all, it’s free!
- Russian Church – Honestly, I don’t know anything about this church except for that it was on the tourist highlights. I went to see it and found it beautiful. It was closed for services when I was there.
Christmas Market notes: The whole city basically becomes a Christmas market. I actually got lost and walked in circles for a while because I thought I knew where I was going and that I didn’t need google maps. Wrong. Here, there were many unique stands selling goods from actual local vendors and a mix or bigger vendors. There was a scarf vendor with handmade scarves of different materials, colors and patterns. They all had a button closer and kind of looked like large bandanas. I found them very striking, but they were $50 and I wasn’t ready to spend that much money on one gift (for myself). There was little variety in the food choices, the traditional bratwurst to steak sandwiches and a warm soft roll filled with cheese and bacon. I bought chocolate bars and a pair of earrings here from a local merchant; the earrings were small but looked sturdy. One broke when I was taking them off after the first time I wore them. $7 down the drain. The Gluhwine vendors use different mugs, so you have to take your mug back to the specific tent that came from for your $3 refund, otherwise you keep the mug.
My timeline –
Friday + Saturday: If you read about how I spent Wednesday and Thursday in Berlin, it’s no surprise to hear that I was sick these two days and stayed in bed or in the hostel lobby except for the one time I wandered out to find medication, soup, and water. I’m just happy it didn’t turn out to be strep throat. I was entertained by reading (having finished Without You, There is No Us, I moved on to Provence: 1970), and by a couple who was fighting off and on both in our room and in the lobby!
Sunday – Feeling better after lots of rest and lots of liquids, I ventured out with my camera to the typical spots. I walked through the downtown area (which really just feels like a big shopping plaza… much like the other downtown areas in small German cities) through the not-yet-open Christmas market and over to St Thomas Church. There’s a statue of Bach in front of the church and his body rests inside. From there, passed through one of the connecting Christmas markets and walked by Schumann’s house, Mendelssohn’s house, through an adjacent cemetery and then the large, beautiful park to the Russian Church. Then I went back and enjoyed the Christmas market. I stopped to have a pastry filled with cheese and bacon along with a mug of Gluhwine. That’s it, folks!
Population: 495,000 (2013)
Most popular tourist attractions:
- The Christmas Market (Weinachstmarkt)
- Carriage ride
- Lantern Festival
- Mini-sausage sandwiches (A “legend”, but I found them underwhelming)
- Prune men
- Sister Cities Market
- Imperial Palace
- Frauenkirche (pictured above) – This Glockenspiel on this church has been going since 1502! Everyday at noon it sets off, displaying a scene of respect and homage to the Emperor
- The “Beautiful Tower” – There is a gold ring on the fence around the tower and the tradition here is to turn the ring three full times and while making a wish
Christmas Market notes: Fare is notably limited, most tents serving three little grilled sausages in a roll. That’s it. I have no idea why this is so special. I thought they were pretty bland, maybe including sauerkraut and mustard as standard toppings would make them better. Otherwise it’s $3 for about 2oz of meat and a white flour roll. There are at least a dozen of sausage stands at this market. One stand was serving steak sandwiches, but it was the only one offering something besides sausages. Here the Gluhwine does have some variety: there were vendors offering blueberry Gluhwine, which was very good; hot beer, which I didn’t try; and the Venice stand in the Sister Cities Market was serving 100% Merlot Gluhwine. The Sister Cities Market was my favorite part of this Christmas market. Nuremberg’s Sister City in America is Atlanta, GA. There was a veteran expat there working the booth; he told me he fell in love with the area during his tenure there with the Army and had decided to stay. This booth featured Twinkies of different varieties (which the vendor obtained a special license for, since they are illegal in Germany), and other American candy bars.
My timeline –
Monday – After checking in at the 5 Reasons Hostel around 3pm, I had a quick doner kebap and then a hot shower with a cold beer, and worked on my blogging abilities. Went to bed after working on the Berlin blog and having more frustrations with photos, Mac Book, and Word Press. The Australian girl sitting close to me shared my frustrations, and it was nice to have someone to commiserate with.
Tuesday – Went to the Christmas market. It was freezing cold outside, there was frost everywhere and the sun was hidden behind a sky full of grey clouds. My phone “ran out of storage” and my camera died after wiping all the photos from the memory card. Thank goodness I had uploaded all the previous photos already and just lost what I had taken that day. I decided to drink three mugs of Gluhwine and stopped in store after store just to warm up. I also walked up to the Imperial Palace and took some foggy pictures of the city from there. At the end of the afternoon, I stopped at an Irish bar for a pint of Guinness. The bartender protected me from a creepy regular, then gave me a little friend to join me on my travels. Paddy is good company. I stayed for another Guinness and the fish and chips. Although the fish was good, the batter fell off quite easily and the fries were large and not well seasoned; nothing to write home about. The homemade tartar sauce was great though! Creamy and just a hint of sour, with fresh dill.
Wednesday – I recreated my Tuesday experience, taking all those pictures over again and stopping in stores for various amounts of time to keep warm. I had another sausage on white bread for lunch. I took a carriage ride and went on a “mini-train” tour ($7.50). It wasn’t a train at all, but a little truck. The tour lasted 40 minutes and was largely in German with small scripts in English. I wouldn’t recommend the tour if you don’t speak German. I showered and listened to the Tim Ferriss podcast with Mark Bittman, then treated myself to a wonderful dinner at Albrecht-Drurer Stube. Of course, my phone died as I entered the building (though the battery said 35%). This was the only dinner worth mentioning in my “Mid-Germany Towns” venture. Here I had an out-of-this-world pumpkin soup served in a cute little crock and garnished with pumpkin seeds, pumpkin oil, and small croutons. It was perfectly creamy and rich, the portion just right for a starter and a steal at $4. For the main dish: pork medallions with white mushroom sauce and Spaetzle. There were three slices of pork, which was perfectly cooked, still juicy enough that the meat didn’t rely on the mushroom sauce. The serving of Spaetzle was also generous, though not overdone with cheese so the saltiness was a perfect compliment to the juicy meat. The only disappointment: a German “Schwarzriesling”… Very bland, very blah, very… No.
Thursday – After a run and a visit to the nearby gym, it was time to actually purchase the things I scoped out the days before! Had a final sausage sandwich before going back to shower and relax. I also watched the “Lantern Procession” to the Imperial Castle. Maybe it was all the fat I’d been eating in Germany, but I was not hungry all day. At dinner time, 8:30pm, I went to find a grocery store to find something that would be of use later in the evening if I finally got hungry. Well, all the stores close at 8pm, apparently. I walked around, trying to work up some sort of appetite, but it didn’t happen. I stopped for a glass of wine and my book (still Provence: 1970). The bar staff and manager loved me (who doesn’t love a single American girl in Germany drinking wine at an Italian restaurant?!), so they had some drinks with me. At 11:30pm, I went back to the hostel and had a nice night’s sleep.
Population: ~ 150, 300 (2013)
Most popular tourist attractions: The Castle, and the Old Bridge
Christmas Market notes: Again, most of the “city” feels like an outdoor mall. The market is notably different in that there are many cultural cuisines represented, for how small the town is. Asian wok was the one I remembered most, but there were more. The variety of food options from the vendors was greater than what I had seen in Berlin, Leipzig and Nuremberg. Definitely a market worth checking out. I have to note that Heidelberg is where I was aware of a higher percentage of Americans in Germany. Maybe because there is a lot of Army personnel stationed in the area and they had families visiting. What it seems to me, at least.
My timeline –
Friday- I was starving after I checked into the hostel and went across the street to “Moe’s American Roadhouse”. I was enthralled to listen to American Country music and enjoy a pretty delicious “100% Irish beef” burger with okay fries. I then rested and showered and went to explore “downtown”. Walked down the main strip towards the main square, where you can see the castle sitting proudly above one of the many small Christmas markets (pictured above). I tried to go to a restaurant where I could drink beer out of the horn of a sheep (or something) but they were busy so I walked towards the main strip towards the downtown transit station and stopped into a random place where the menu looked decent. (I’m going to look at my credit card statement to fill this one in, apparently.) It was very hokey, and the food was okay, and the wine was good. Overall, a wash.
Saturday – Went to get breakfast at a coffee shop before heading up to the castle. Stopped for multiple coffees and a photo shoot at the “Old Bridge” before starting the journey up to the castle. Man, the things people complain about in various review forums, you would have thought you needed hiking shoes and a sherpa to get up to this castle. I promise you: It was not that bad. A 10 minute walk up a sort of steep hill and you’re there. My advice: enjoy the castle garden and view before you take the tour inside (which is definitely worth the $8.50). I was walking through the garden towards the castle when I saw a dog next to me. There was a fat man holding a leash not too far off. Oh, okay. I turned to see what kind of dog, because it looked fit with a fluffy tail and everyone knows I love Shiba Inu’s… This “dog” ran up towards me until it got 1ft away and we made eye contact. I saw a big plume then almost jumped after seeing wild green eyes and pointy ears and a cute (but scary) snout look up at me. It was not a dog, it was a fox. A “silver” fox, as I learned through Google. But really black and white. Big tail, pointy ears, little scoundrel legs and feet. He was cute, but I felt bad for him. It was obvious he was still wild and the man had caught him somehow, now trying to train him.
Anyway. If you go to the Heidelberg Castle, take the tour. It’s not expensive and totally worth it. Did you know it’s in ruins because the French filled it with gunpowder and blew it up? Then, decades later, a noble Frenchman would come to the castle’s rescue. Going on… I then stopped for a beer at a beer hall filled with Americans mostly in the form of families with screaming children, but the couple sitting next to me turned out to be neighbors from Washington, DC! They had a train to catch so we didn’t talk too long.
Then I wandered the streets and looked for dinner. I stopped at L’Epicerie and bought some chocolate bars to send home and some hot chocolates to enjoy myself. If you are in Heidelberg, please do yourself a favor and check out this shop! It is amazing. I ended up for dinner at a place called “Pop”, and had the Frank Sinatra pasta special… Spaghetti noodles tossed with tomato sauce, shrimp and steak tips. It was good, a little weird, but no pictures of that.
If I have learned anything from starting a blog, it is that I was definitely born in the wrong time period. I plan on visiting the Apple store with a list of questions as well as taking a “How To Blog” course once I’m back in DC. haha… ha