German Christmas Market
Saint Blasien in the Black Forest
By: Frances Folsom - Dec 14, 2015
Germany is known for its Weilnachtsmarkt’s (Christmas Markets) held from the end of November until a few days before Christmas. You find them in big cities such as Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt and Stuttgart where markets have several hundred vendors and in towns and villages where they have smaller Weilnachtsmarkt’s. You can’t avoid them while in Germany as they are even in airports and train stations.
One of my favorites is in the 750-year-old town of Saint Blasien nestled in the valley of the Alb River. Walking along the Umgheumgstrasse here I was drawn to the Weilnachtsmarkt in front of the Dom Saint Blasien by the wafting aromas of sizzling sausages, roasting chestnuts, fresh baked pretzels, hot chocolate, gluhwein (hot spiced wine) and evergreens. The air in front of the church was filled with the haunting strains of a soloist singing Amazine Grace in German. With a cup of gluhwein and some Lebkuchen (honey bread) in hand I joined a hearty group gathered around a table joking and having a good time while listening to a choir singing Christmas Carols.
To me Saint Blasien’s market, with its forty small wooden chalets, felt more intimate than the big ones I had been to in Stuttgart, Ludwigsburg and Esslingen. Here I had the opportunity to talk to the crafters and vendors getting descriptions and an up close look at how they created their jewelry, intricately carved paper, wooden and straw designs, hand knitted socks, scarfs, and of course the gluhwein and foods. .
This Weilnachtsmarkt draws crowds of up to 30,000 on weekends in December. They come from other parts of Germany and, with their borders less than two hours away the town is a major destination for visitors from Zurich, and Strasbourg, France.
Surrounded by the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) Saint Blaisen is a village known for its stunning 9th century Benedictine monastery, distinctive architecture, ancient stone bridges crisscrossing the river, and for its skiing and hiking trails. Along with all this are the many health resorts that dot the region. One of these is the Radon Revital Bad offering Finnish saunas, individualized water treatments arranged by a bath physician and thermal pools.
Towering over the town is the Dom Saint Blasien, standing 62 metres in height with a dome that measures 46 metres in width, making it one of the largest in Europe. This is the second church on this site the first one being the abbey church for the monastery, it burned in 1768. Architect Pierre Michel d’lxnard designed the present day church in the Baroque style in 1781.
Throughout the centuries merchants have sold their goods from stalls on the Domplatz in front of the cathedral. That tradition continues today with St. Blesian’s Weihnachtsmarkt.
For further information go to http://www.tourism-bw.de and http://www.hochschwarzwald.de/
Images courtesy of Stillman Rogers Photography