Winter is one of my favourite seasons to travel. The festivities , the lights, meandering through Christmas markets aimlessly, wrapped up in warm coats and hats, with smell of melting chocolate and hot cocoa wafting around, fills my heart with warmth and longing. The perfect cure for this is to embark on a journey and if the journey involves a few train travels, it renders the journey magical. I am sharing some of my favourite markets from this years Interrailing trip.
Augsburg, the third largest city in Bavaria, a city of spires and cobbled streets, and also forms part of the Romantic Road trip of Germany. While we were planning for the trip , we were considering of staying in Augsburg, but we digressed to Munich. Munich seemed a better option for us to travel from Cologne. After visiting the city of Augsburg, I realised I would have preferred to stay in Augsburg. Augsburg Christmas market is one of the oldest markets in Germany and is situated near the Rathaus/townhall. We took a train from Munich early evening to Augsburg. It takes around 40 minutes to reach Augsburg, and from there it is a 15 minutes walk to Rathaus. The Rathaus is known for its huge banquet hall with gilded and frescoed ceiling. , known as Goldener Saal. Unfortunately it was closed for public viewing in the evening and also it was getting ready for the Angel show. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 6 pm, the townhall is converted in to a big Advent calendar. 24 angels appear on the windows of the darkened townhall, the beautiful façade of the building around the angels is illuminated, some of the angels play music and a chorus of children singing can be heard. The Angel performance and the Christmas Market at Rathaus is worth a visit. There are many other markets in Augsburg, but I found this market effusing a quaint charm and a beautiful vibe. We found a little corner to see the Angel performance and later on ambled around the market, looking at the stalls and shops. I particularly loved the Christmas Tree , with its golden star ornaments ,festooned all over the tree. The tree sparkled with the golden stars gently swaying in the breeze, making it shimmer even more gloriously.
Garmisch Partenkirschen ‘s market is a winter joy, with a beautiful backdrop of snow covered Alps, possessing a quiet and ruminative allure. It is not garish or loud and is not crowded. I always find something dreamy and cosy about a small town Christmas market. GaPa s Christmas market is beautiful, warm and welcoming. Garmisch Partenkirschen is a ski town in Bavaria, bordering with Austria, and is also close to Zugspitze, Germany ‘s tallest mountain peak. GaPa can be reached by train from Munich or Innsbruck. The train journey from Munich to Innsbruck via GaPa is considered a very scenic rail journey, although it is a longer route. We travelled to GaPa from Innsbruck , and I believe it is one of the picturesque railway journeys, I have experienced so far. The train meandering through the snow covered train tracks, passing through snow covered fields and mountains, snow dusted rooftops of houses decorated and gleaming with Christmas decorations render the route a magical touch. The market at GaPa is not very big, but it has plenty to offer from a ice rink, to hand made goodies, music bands spreading festive joy, chocolates and all the usual shenanigans of a Christmas market but with a certain added charm and gaiety. I bought some chocolate cups from the local Chocolate shop at Ludwigstrasse. The chocolate cups available at the shop were for serving their own dessert, but they willingly sold a few out of their collection it to me. I was very delighted with their shop. I was looking for wipes for my glasses and I walked in to a local pharmacy cum optician, where the lady at the counter suggested the wipes cause damage to the lenses and she gave me a bottle of spray to clean the glasses free of charge. I was informed the bottle is usually refilled free for the regular customers who order glasses at their shop, since I was a tourist, if returned to GaPa again and gave her the empty bottle she would refill it with the solution again free of charge. I was so impressed and touched by the kind gesture at both the shops. Such kind gestures, however small, make travelling worthwhile, and these little moments have now become an integral part of my indelible travel memories.
Sankt Gilgen’s Advent Market was one the highlights of this trip. Sankt Gilgen is a picturesque village by the Lake Wolfgangsee, in the Salzburg district of Austria. The village is also known for its connection with Mozart, with his mother being born there it acquired the name of Mozart village. Although Mozart himself has never visited the village. We hired a car from Salzburg and ventured on the Romantic road of Austria to Hallstatt. Hallstatt was a very disappointing experience, with village suffering from an extreme case of mass tourism and overcrowding. I will say no more about Hallstatt. We drove towards St Wolfgang from Hallstatt to a village called Strobl another village on the shores Lake Wolfgangsee. Strobl s Advent market has a beautifully created life size nativity scene. There are boat rides from Strobl to St Gilgen’s giving the opportunity to see the tastefully and traditionally decorated villages from the Lake Wolfgang. The boat from Strobl goes to St Wolfgang, and then to St Gilgen’s. The unique and characteristic symbol of the three village can be seen on the shores of the village. Strobl’s Christmas star ,St. Wolfgang’s lantern of peace. and St Gilgen’s. red candle. On the shores of St Gilgen’s stand the 11 meters tall St Gilgen s red advent candle, welcoming the visitors with a shining glow. The streets and houses in the village are decorated with the many red candles, the warm glow from the candle leading to the historic centre of the village. The traditionally decorated stalls and lights of the Advent Market are a wonderful sight. Sankt Gilgens Advent market with its shining red candles, baroque style painted stalls, and a relaxed atmosphere is perfect for a peaceful festive feeling.
There were other cities and markets we visited on this Winter-railing trip. These three markets stood out in my memory when I sat down to write about the trip. Each had its own unique charm along with the regular Christmas fair, radiating a peaceful festive cheer with a timeless travel memory on my return home.
Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home. -Edith Sitwell
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