blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

To brighten the dark, winter days

Nebel hängt wie Rauch ums Haus, 
Drängt die Welt nach innen. 
Ohne Not geht niemand aus, 
Alles fällt in Sinnen. 
Leiser wird die Hand, der Mund, 
Stiller die Gebärde. 
Heimlich, wie auf Meeresgrund 
Träumen Mensch und Erde. 

Misty grey view from the train near Ulm
Christian Morgenstern entitled that poem of his Novembertag, but it could equally well describe the first week of December in Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria this year. We were in thick, wet cloud from our landing to our take-off, never saw the sun once. Echtes November, said a lady sitting opposite me as we rode through the woods on the S-Bahn train from Sindelfingen to Stuttgart Stadtmitte on December 2nd. The following day Chris and I had the same ride in sleet. Then across the countryside, via Ulm and Augsburg, we sat on a train for two more hours, gazing dreamily at the greyness over the hills and valleys around the headwaters of the Danube.

In spite of that, both Stuttgart and München were ablaze with colour and light. Why? Because of their Christmas markets.


Having been here twice before I didn't need to refer to maps, this year. The market stalls were in familiar places too.  I knew where to go for the chocolate dipped fruit on skewers, and where the talking / singing moose's head would be. They refer to the moose as a norwegischer Elch, in Stuttgart. I bought some little decorations carved from southern German trees for Christmas presents. The childrens' skating rink was in operation, as before. DAS FINNISCHE WEIHNACHTSDORF was still there, beside Stuttgart's Altes Schloss, with strips of salmon being smoked on an open fire, and a very long-bearded Finnish Santa in person too, greeting the visiting children ... and me.

Because my deutschsprachige Konversationsgruppe at home in Ottawa had asked me to think of them while drinking Glühwein, I bought myself a mug of that drink and did so. After the Glühwein, for a sit-down and some spiritual refreshment, I went into the big church at the centre of the market and of Stuttgart, the Stiftskirche, to listen to a lunchtime organ recital. Orgelmusik zum Weihnachtsmarkt is played there every day till December 24th, good value at €2.50: on December 2nd, a female organist (Lara Schaffner) played a Bach prelude, a Pastorale by a composer I'd never heard of called Gerard Bunk, and some variations by Mendelssohn.

I found some lunch at the top of Karstadt, one of the big department stores, and carried on shopping. On my way back to the Sindelfingen train, I passed a lively group of five buskers singing in parts, maybe a Romani family, I'm not sure. They were certainly good musicians, attracting an appreciative crowd.


On December 4th while Chris was at his meetings in the northern suburbs, I had less than two hours to spare in Munich before my train was due to depart. Chris and I had been to explore and find (a gourmet vegetarian) supper downtown the night before, a thoroughly atmospheric scene, but I did want to see the city by daylight as well. It exudes prosperity, offering a wide variety of cultural experiences from opera or ballet to a modern German version of The Importance of Being Ernest, here entitled Bunbury.

Mini Frauenkirche above a market stall
I had a brisk and purposeful walk down the pedestrianised Kaufingerstraße,
turning left to visit the Frauenkirche, Munich's cathedral (one of its giant towers covered in wraps), doing a quick circuit of the Marienhof––more market stalls there!––and so back to Marienplatz where the 5 storey bookshop Hugendubel is. I didn't find what I was looking for there (the Heimat DVD) but did find it later that day in Stuttgart's branch of Hugendubel. Then back past the Munich skating rink, across (or under) Karlsplatz to the Hauptbahnhof; I'd left my suitcase in one of the Schließfächer there. My train to Stuttgart left at 11:30. I climbed on near the front.

Besides the millions of Christmas tree decorations, woolly scarves, Dirndls, Lederhosen and Bavarian felt hats complete with a feather in them are all for sale in the Christkindlmarkt, as are Pretzels, sausages, cheeses, Punsch, Bier and Glühwein, roast almonds, spicey heart-shaped Lebkuchen, chocolates, and roasted chestnuts. I saw a class of young children standing round a Punsch stall in a circle waiting for their glasses of hot Kinderpunsch to cool down.

I have more pictures and descriptions of Stuttgart and Munich in the albums on my Facebook page.

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