Julie loves Christmas. In our very first apartment she had to clear out about 1/2 the living room for a christmas tree and this Christmas Village her mother made. When we bought our first house, my second task was to build some kind of table so that she could set up the Village, and it had to have a train running through it. Over the years she kept adding to the Christmas Decorations. When we put the addition on our house in Wisconsin. I had to add a room in the basement JUST for decorations. It only took a year, and somehow that room wasn’t big enough. In fact, I would bet that 10 – 15% of the boxes we left in storage are Christmas Decorations. Our first trip to Zürich she was talking about the Christmas Markets, and how this something we just had to see.
Well the Zürich market was good, but not great. She found some things online that talked about how great the Stuttgart Christmas market is. So this last weekend we boarded a train and headed off to Stuttgart.
Before we left, we learned we also need to consider air travel as well as trains. Sure the trains are good (until you hear my story about coming back!), but the trip to Stuttgart was pretty expensive, and was a 3+ hour train ride. We could have flown for about 1/2 the cost, and it would have taken about the same amount of time when you factor in the time sitting in and going to and from the airports. Oh well, next big trip I will remember to check air fare, before booking the train!
We arrived in Stuttgart about 8:00 PM. The Hotel was only about a kilometer from the station so we decided to walk. This wound up being another mistake. There was some kind of night bike ride going on. Literally thousands of bikes they acted like they owned the city. At one point we even saw them accost a driver. The driver had the right of way, but one of the cyclists decided he was more important, so when the driver almost hit him, and honked his horn, the cyclist decided to escalate the situation. He stopped right in front of the car, and wouldn’t move. He then started yelling at the driver, and immediately another 15 – 20 cyclists surround the car. The driver gets out and starts swearing at the cyclists. Honestly, if we had been in the US, I think someone would have pulled a gun. It was pretty intense for a couple of minutes. We couldn’t get directly to the hotel because of the bike traffic, so what should have been a 10 minute or so walk, turned into 40 minutes. 🙂 I wish I had been smart enough to take some pictures or video of the bikes, but I was so annoyed, I just wanted to get the heck away!
Saturday morning we wake up, have a wonderful breakfast in the hotel, and decide what we want to do. I’m not much of a car guy. Sure I can appreciate a nice Lamborghini, Bugatti, or Rolls Royce, but I really like my F150, and as long as my car gets me where I want to go, I really don’t care. However, I knew that if we didn’t go do something else I would wind up shopping all day, either in the stores, or the Market. So I told Julie I really wanted to go the Mercedes Benz Museum. What a great call! The Mercedes Museum is fantastic. It isn’t just cars. Basically it is World History from the time of the first Auto to present day. Of course with a whole bunch of really cool cars and trucks thrown in the mix! If you ever get the chance to visit Stuttgart, I highly recommend the museum. Even Julie liked it. She made the comment about 1/2 way through, “You know. I only did this because you wanted to. I am really glad we did. This has been a great morning.”
Here are two interesting little factoids we learned. In 1906 the company was revolutionary. They cut the work week down to 9.5 hours per day 6 days per week! You all know the little green tree air freshener for a car. Apparently a Mercedes truck is part of the lore of the Magic Tree. A canadian pig farmer had a load of hogs he was taking to market. For some reason he had a passenger that day that was an expert in aromatic substances. The passenger took two years before developing the process of embedding pine fragrance into cardboard! The only downside to the museum is that when you are finished you end the tour by going through a Dealership of unique Mercedes. It was really hard to not flag down a sales person. I learned I really liked all the Mercedes, except the decade of the 1980’s those were some ugly cars!
After the Museum, we decided to go back towards the Christmas Market. The Glüwein was calling me. We had the Uber driver take us to MarketHalle. Fascinating place. For the most part, if you eat it, drink it, wear it, or smell it you can buy it in MarketHalle. I thought shopping was big in Zürich, and some of the other big cities, but Stuttgart was kind of amazing to me. I think about 1/3 of the city is set aside for retail. We walked around for a few hours. Julie stopping every once in a while, and eventually meandered back to the hotel for quick nap to recharge for evening.
The evening was back to the Christmas Market again. Thank goodness for the Glüwein because Julie was in a shopping mood. I think she stopped at every 3rd booth in the market, and 1/3 of the stores on Königstrasse. We spent most of the night simply wandering around, looking at the merchandise, and taking pictures. It is a pretty magical place. I even got in the spirit.
For some reason we didn’t bring a rolling pin to Switzerland. Even more amazing is that I have searched for weeks, and can’t find one for sale. However, the market in Stuttgart came through for me. Found a stand that was selling nothing but wooden kitchen merchandise. Bowls, spoons, forks, cutting boards, etc… Here I was finally able to buy the rolling pin I have been searching for!
Coming home Sunday was another adventure. We get to the train station. (the most ugly in Europe by the way) and find out our train is delayed. That doesn’t sound to bad. We get to a town named Karlsruhe and switch trains. Right before we pull into Karlsruhe , an announcement is made that our next train is canceled we need to find another train home. We go the ticket office, and make our arrangements. It shouldn’t be that bad. The train we are going to take now has a few more stops, but it goes to the same place, we should be OK.
So we get back up to the train platform. A train pulls up going to the same city we were supposed to go to. I tried to convince Julie to just get on. The tickets are messed up now, so even if they check, we just say this is the train we were told to take, we have a valid ticket we should be fine. She didn’t want to risk it though, because it is a HUGE fine if you get caught without a proper ticket. So we wait another 20 minutes for our train. We board. About 20 minutes later another announcement is coming on that this train is ending it’s route, and we need to get on another train going to Basel. So along with with everyone else, we jump off, run to the next gate, and crowd onto a train with 1/3 as many cars. We literally had to sit on our luggage, most people didn’t have that luxury the train was so packed they had to stand. This new train, is a “local” route versus a regional route. This means that it stops at every single station on the track. Most stops nobody got on or off the train! After about an hour, I notice that this train ends at a stop still in Germany. This has me worried a little, because I have no clue how to get from one train station to the other outside of waiting for another train.
So we get off the train in Basel, Germany (actually a suburb of Basel) and try and figure out how to get to the Swiss train station. It turns out the Tram takes about 25 minutes, and a train is coming in 20 so we decide to wait for the train. Which winds up being a mistake because it is running 20 minutes late! So anyway, we finally get to Switzerland, and get on a train that will take us to Zürich. This train was fabulous because it was completely empty in our coach! The conductor just laughed when he looked at our tickets. “I’m sorry you had such a bad day.” We left Stuttgart at 2:00 and we finally made it back home about 9:30. We should have been home about 5:00. I guess it could have been worse!
We have decided to go through the list of the top 15 Christmas Markets in Europe. We figure we have two years to hit all of them! That will take a little planning but it should be fun weekends the next two Novembers and Decembers!