We edged toward the end of our road trip visit to friends and Christmas markets in the southern German regions of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria. Our stomachs were full from days of Christmas market comfort foods, “fest” foods like spätzle, bratwurst, schupfnudeln and maultaschen.
We'd performed our research to determine which Christmas market served up the best experience, glühwein and all. But — if such a thing exists — had we reached Christmas market saturation point?
Then on our way to Munich I looked down at my trusty old road atlas of Europe that I purchased in Finland fifteen years before. Sure, I had Google maps running on our iPhone, but I'm still a sucker for physical maps and atlases. I looked at the paper and I paused on two stars. Now this road atlas is pretty special. It not only shows the way, but it also suggests places that are either “worth a journey” (two stars) or “worth a detour” (one star). Augsburg, the city just coming up on the autobahn from Stuttgart to Munich, earned two stars.
“This must be the place,” we figured as we vested our faith in the map and turned off the highway.
Once we arrived on the Augsburg old town square we realized that, in fact, we had not yet reached Christmas market saturation.
Twilight fell on the square and its rich, colorful bits of Baroque and hints of Bavaria. The atmosphere was neighborly, as if locals had rolled out of their offices to take stock of almonds turning, chestnuts roasting. Kids waited anxiously at their parents' side as “Joy to the World” hummed over the airwaves. The scene was one of seasonal elegance as 5PM approached at the town hall where the unveiling of yet another window in the town's shared advent calendar would leave the air pleasantly filled with the ooh and aah innocent joy of small things.
Friends moved closer over mugs of steaming glühwein; the conversation volume grew as late afternoon turned to evening. Handshakes were exchanged. “Servus,” they said in a Bavarian greeting for all time.
This was a town together at Christmas. This was Augsburg.
If you open the panorama up to full screen, perhaps you'll get a glimpse of why the Augsburg Christmas market turned out to be one of our surprise favorites.
If you've visited Christmas markets in Germany, which ones were your favorites?