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I am an over grown child when it comes to Christmas. Perhaps it’s because I was born two days after Christmas or maybe it is because it is by far the BEST season of the year! Either way I love getting into the Christmas spirit and this year I did just that by visiting Dresden’s Christmas Markets. We had planned to visit last year but like many people, the festive season is extremely busy and there just wasn’t enough time to make the trip so I was even more determined to make it this year! Dresden’s Christmas Market is the oldest in Germany and one of the most visited too with hundreds of stalls selling crafted gifts, traditional wooden toys, Christmas decorations but to name a few…I honestly couldn’t wait to go!
Living in Prague has a ton of advantages and one of them is being just a short train ride away from Germany and some of the best Christmas Markets in Europe. Living in the centre of the city I am surrounded by Prague’s Christmas Markets but this year I wanted a little more adventure..
So on a dull Saturday afternoon we boarded our train bound for Dresden and in just under 3 hours we arrived in the city center. Since we had arranged to stay with our friends in the RV we existed the rather busy train station and began our navigation to the tram stop we had been told to get to.
Dresden is an extremely accessible city from what I saw, with a fantastic tram and bus system that takes you all over the city with stops at almost all the big city attractions. Our tram tickets cost a couple of euros and luckily for us the tram maps and information is pretty easy to read and understand so we managed to find and board the correct tram and find our friends without getting lost!
After settling in to our overnight accommodation that was perfectly positioned by the river bank with great views of the city, we set off to explore the markets and more importantly seek out the Glühwein!
Walking along the river bank it wasn’t long before I could hear the sound of singing carolers, smell the sweetness of the Glühwein and see the twinkling lights of distant Christmas trees and sparkling stars…I was walking into a Winter Wonderland (minus the snow 🙁 )
As one of the more popular Christmas Markets in Germany it was extremely busy and it looked a little snug around the smaller avenues of stalls. Nevertheless we patiently wandered towards to crowd and began our Christmas Market experience. What I loved as I slowly walked past each stall was the diversity of products and the amazing craftsmanship of some of the lace decorations and table cloths and the details of the wooden carved toys….what skills!
Even though there was no snow to be seen, I loved the overwhelming feeling of happiness and good cheer that surrounded me. Hundreds of people and such diverse nationalities huddled together celebrating the joys of Christmas. People walked with smiles on their faces, children played and sang along to the Christmas songs and adults were merry on the cheap Glühwein that could be found on stalls every 20 paces…this was just what I needed to get me into the swing of the festive season.
I could of spent hours walking around the squares of Dresden gawping at the diverse range of Christmas stalls and inhaling the smokey, spiced essence but I was shocked when the stalls began to close. Glancing at my watch I notice its only 9pm? I must of had a very confused look on my face as the couple next to us explained that the law states they have to close at 9pm….what a shame as I was just getting to the merry stage!
By the time we had finished our second (or was it the third) mug of Glühwein the entire square was almost deserted. The crowds of people had disappeared almost in an instant and only a few of us remained, walking around what was then a ghost town of a market…and by that point we realized we had completely forgotten to eat (no wonder we were getting merry!)
So after a strange Italian dining experience with menus that were badly translated (Hawaiian pizza with curry??!) and Italian waiters who were infact Albanian..?!? we began our stroll back down the river to retire for the night. The early closure meant we didn’t see half of what we had anticipated so we planned to return early the next morning.
Our early morning start wasn’t so early after all and we managed to leave the RV around 11 still hopeful that somewhere would still be serving breakfast. Luckily we stumbled across a rather authentic looking restaurant and after sheepishly asking whether breakfast was still being served (it was) we sat down and indulged in..yes..an English breakfast in Germany…what else?! Well the others did…since I have a sweet tooth I went for pancakes!
With warm food in our bellies we set off to wander around the stalls we had missed. By far the best thing about the stalls (aside from the merchandise) was that each one was uniquely decorated with beautiful Christmas themed roofs.
It was no where near as busy during the day and no where near as magical. Christmas Markets are definitely more thrilling at night and they seem much more alive with cheer too (perhaps everyone is too hungover in the mornings?). We wandered for a couple of hours before we decided to head back along the river for our journey home. Our trip to Dresden finally got me in the Christmasy mood that I had struggled with before. Being an expat away from your loved ones is difficult so it was the pick me up I needed. I can safely say I am now in full blown Christmas spirit and can’t wait to join my family for more festive fun soon!