tom911 goes to the Christmas Markets in Germany (US,AB,rail)

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  1. tom911
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    Spent Friday night at the Holiday Inn Express just north of SFO. I used a free night from my IHG credit card renewal, saving me $219. Rates are unusually high around the airport this weekend and some hotels there, as well as in San Francisco, are sold out. I pay $49 a year to keep this credit card and the free night is always worth more than that. Hotel staff told me there was some event in San Francisco this weekend with many commuting in from the airport area.

    SATURDAY

    Caught the 0605 hotel shuttle. Breakfast doesn’t start until 0630 so I missed that, though I was able to grab a banana. As expected, my passport did not properly scan at a US Airways kiosk, so had to get in line for about 15 minutes to have an agent input the information. I did carry-on only for this trip.

    Caught the 0820 US Airways flight to Philadelphia, an Airbus A321. I had a window seat in the second row of coach. This is only the second time I’ve flown US since the AA-US merger as there’s still an issue with getting AA elite benefits when I’m on US flights (primarily upgrades) as the computer systems are not fully integrated. Not a problem this trip as I’m on an off-peak 40,000 mile award ticket and will be enjoying the trip in coach with no upgrades in play. Unlike AA where I can get a breakfast sandwich due to my elite status, US only offers a choice of snacks (potato chips, snack mix) which I passed on. Did sleep some and watched one movie on my tablet.

    Arrived in Philadelphia to rain. Had a two hour layover and spent about 30 mins of that time in the AA lounge (formerly a US lounge), and another 15 mins at a food court to get something to eat (visited an Asian stall with orange chicken, bourbon chicken and fried rice for $8 - just what I needed).

    Boarding started 45 mins out for 1837 departure and we left the gate just a few minutes late (good for me as I have two hours after arrival to catch prepaid rail to Nuremberg via Munich--would have paid triple the fare for a similar walk-up routing if I missed that). Aircraft is an Airbus A330-200. Dinner was pasta or chicken. Chicken was two strips of a chicken that you might put atop a salad- pretty uninspiring. Came with a lettuce salad, mashed potatoes and green beans, a roll, a piece of processed cheese, and a packaged brownie. I only ate the hot food and brownie. Had red wine poured from a box (I think this is a first for me).

    SUNDAY

    Arrived 15 minutes early and used the free wi-fi the airport provides. Caught the 1044 S8 train into the main train station in Munich, Munich Hauptbahnhof, with 20 minutes to change platforms to the Nuremberg train. It’s a 40 min trip in, and a rather out-of-the way routing as I have to go south to Munich in order to go north to Nuremberg. There were some other options involving buses to other train stations to avoid going down to Munich, but I’d rather stay on rail and not deal with any issues with street traffic, particularly if the weather is bad. It ends up being just over 2 hours by train from the airport to Nuremberg with arrival at 1257. This priced at just about $29 (23.5 euros) with $6/4.5 euros for the seat reservation fee on the high speed ICE train on the second segment.

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    I’m booked again at Motel One, a chain with properties all over Germany and Austria that’s become a favorite, and is just a 10 minute walk from the train station. My rate is 69 euros a night ($85) and an extra 7.5 euro ($9.50) charge for a continental breakfast. I deliberately planned not to spend the weekend here as hotels charge a Christmas Market surcharge, if you can even find a hotel (this property was sold out when I first started looking at weekend dates).

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    There is a large Italian group at my hotel so hearing a lot of Italian spoken when I’m coming and going.

    I’m joined for the ground portion of this trip by RestlessinRNO who flew into Frankfurt on UA and came down to Nuremberg by train just before me. He was waiting in front of the hotel to greet me when I arrived.
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  2. tom911
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    Headed out around 1330 for a walkabout. Got a photo of the train station on the way in.

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    Nuremberg has 14 different Christmas markets, mostly around the Aldstadt (old city) area. There are booths lining Konigstrasse and then you come into the Aldstadt. On my first trip in, I spent time in St. Lawrence Church and lit a candle and toured the church, but returned to my hotel before heading into the Aldstadt, arriving back around 1515 for a needed nap after little sleep on my two flights.
    http://tourismus.nuernberg.de/en/sig...enzkirche.html

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  3. tom911
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    [​IMG]

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  4. tom911
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    Some stalls near the church:

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    View down into the Aldstadt:

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    Met RestlessinRNO in the lobby at 1830 and we headed off to dinner at a restaurant with traditional German food in the basement of a building on Konigstrasse. Pork shoulder, potato dumpling and a beer for me (photo is misleading- there is a lot of pork here). Most dinner items on the menu are around 10 euros ($12.30----euro has dropped to $1.23 which is very good for U.S. travelers).

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  5. tom911
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    After dinner we did head into the Aldstadt and toured some of the Christmas markets. Plenty of stall for everything from cookies and pastries to candles, ornaments and hot wine.

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  6. tom911
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    [​IMG]

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    Lots of nicely decorated windows, too:

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    They started closing down at 2100, earlier than I expected because it is Sunday here, and I was back at the hotel before 2200. Skies have been clear here with highs in the 30s (was 3C/37F when we landed in Munich at 0830).

    One last photo:

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    Rest of the photos are here:
    http://tom911.smugmug.com/Travel-Eur...mberg-Germany/
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  7. newbluesea
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    I visited the Nuremburg Christmas market about six years ago and really enjoyed it. Stayed at the Le Meridian which is just across the street from the train station so walking across to the pedestrian street into the old was city pretty easy especially after drinking (too much of) that Gluehwien:)

    A really fantastic photo view is to take one from Nuremburg castle looking down on the old city.

    We drove over to Wurzburg whose market was just as nice.
     
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  8. tom911
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    MONDAY

    Hotel breakfast was quite crowded but we found seats at a counter facing the street. Loaded up on cheese, sliced meats, rolls, yogurt and juice and was set for the day. Entered out into cloud-covered Nuremberg at 1030, starting with a crafts-related Christmas market at the foot of Konigstrasse. They had a number of manger scenes behind glass.

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    On the way into the city we passed a vendor selling cookies. The designer Christmas tins they are packaged in are very popular here. Also some more local crafts.

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  9. tom911
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    [​IMG]

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    Further into the city to the Christmas market near the Rathaus (town hall), and popped into the Church of Our Lady.

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  10. tom911
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    [​IMG]

    Came out just in time for the noon bells to chime and the figures in the church tower to perform (they played drums and horns and rang the bells). Other figures came out of the tower and then circulated back in.

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  11. tom911
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    Across the square carriage rides were available with two different carriages for 4 euros ($5). Also got some photos in the city center as we passed these same carriages later on.

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    Up the hill towards the castle and a visit to St. Sebald.

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  12. tom911
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    [​IMG]

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    More hill time as we headed to the Imperial Castle and got some city photos from there.

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  13. tom911
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    [​IMG]

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    Back down the hill and time for some sausages in the Christmas Market- three of them on a roll were 3 euros ($3.75).

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    Another carriage siting:

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  14. tom911
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    Returned to the hotel with a 1.5 euro ($1.90) two-glass bottle of red wine from a local shop just before 4pm for a break. Along the way I had a photo opportunity with an accordion playing Santa with a cute dog that could not be missed (over 50 years ago I attended accordion lessons - that did not last long). He was making a fortune and clearly found a profitable endeavor here.

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    f0zzyNUE joined us at the hotel and escorted us to an uncrowded restaurant just about a 10 minute walk away. I had met him before at a prior OzFest so was nice to catch up. Plenty of travel talk as the three of us fly with different alliances. I had some roast pork in a dark beer sauce, and of course potato dumpling with that, and I ordered a side salad to go with the cole slaw that came with the meal. A beer was mandatory. My bill was 21 euros ($26).

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    And the final photo for this segment:

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    Photos for this segment start here:
    http://tom911.smugmug.com/Travel-Eur...many/i-hhHHvrN
     
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  15. tom911
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    3hr 50 min ICE train ride from Nuremberg to Leipzig starting at 1106 this morning. The wi-fi on my car was not operational, so delayed in getting the next segment up until tonight, after the Christmas Markets closed here for the day. Had some snow at higher elevations on the way here, but suspect that is all I will see this trip.

    TUESDAY

    Leisurely breakfast this morning as some of the tour groups in the hotel have seemed to move on. RestlessinRNO has moved on to the Holiday Inn Express just two buildings up on an award stay, while I’ve stayed behind at Motel One. I met him at his hotel for our trek over to the Deutschebahn (German Railways) Museum at 1000. Along the way we walked past the Opera House and briefly walked into the lobby, but nothing grand there to view.

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    Entry to the museum was 5 euros ($6.25) and it was well worth it. This is one of three rail museums in Germany. It covers the history of rail in Germany from the 1800s, including the darker periods in the 30s and 40’s and the role of rail in the deportation of Jews and mobilization of troops. They have charts showing how rolling stock and amount of rail increased substantially during those years.

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  16. tom911
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    Munich train station in the 30s:

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    Cologne rail bridge with Cologne cathedral in the background:

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    The museum houses several locomotives and royal carriages, including one used by King Ludwig II.

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    While visiting, we dodged French school children who were also touring and getting exercise by running from exhibit to exhibit, occasionally jumping out in front of you to see how quickly you could react.

    The museum has a lot of memorabilia in terms of travel posters and advertising, black and white photography showing trackway and bridges being constructed, as well as display models of trains both old and new.

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  17. tom911
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    [​IMG]

    Once we left the rail area, we went up another flight to the Museum of Communication, which houses old telephone equipment and switchboards, an enigma machine (have seen one of these in London before at the Imperial War Museum), and then onto cell phones and a display on postal vehicles.

    Enigma machine:

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    an old switchboard, very similar to what I first worked with at the PD:

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  18. tom911
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    We spent about three hours there, then a 5 min walk to the train station for lunch at a sandwich shop. Back to the hotel at 2 for an hour break, then back out into the Aldstadt to walk around the Christmas Market some more and visit some shops. We were fortunate to be at St. Sebald’s again as the organ was being tested out (remember those huge pipes that easily fill the entire church with sound) and listened for a while.

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    Also watched a children’s orchestra perform in front of the Church of Our Lady in a platform set up there, right across from the larger Christmas Market.

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    Seemed much colder today but the daytime temperature was 34F/1C. Felt like it was below freezing to me as I could see my breath as I walked. At 2300 it had dropped to 32F/0C.

    Dinner tonight was at Vapiano’s, a chain I’ve visited before in both Munich and Frankfurt. I had a Diet Coke and a very good spaghetti carbonara that is prepared right in front of you for 10 euros ($12.40). Very reasonable prices here. Very tempted by the cheesecake but I was very full. Back to the hotel after that. Looks like the euro is gaining some ground as we’ve gone from $1.23 to $1.24 today.

    Last of the Nuremberg city photos are here:
    http://tom911.smugmug.com/Travel-Eur...many/i-nnzkTbm

    Deutschebahn Railway Museum photos are here:
    http://tom911.smugmug.com/Travel-Eur...-Railway-Muse/
     
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  19. tom911
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    Dealing with slow upload speeds, so running behind a little to deal with that.
    -----------------

    WEDNESDAY

    Boarded the 1106 service from Nurembeg to Leipzig, arriving in Leipzig at 1455. I had a first class seat for 39 euros ($48) plus the 4.5 euro ($5.60) seat reservation fee. Probably could have got away with not paying the seat reservation fee as the train was empty. We could have had several rows each in the adjoining second class cabin, but I have been on packed trains before and prefer not to take my chances for the small surcharge.

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    Walked from the Leipzig station to our hotel, Motel One, located right across the street from St. Nicholas Church and one section of the Christmas Market, about the best place you can be in Leipzig. Paying the same here as I did in Nuremberg (69 euros/$86 plus 7.5 euros/$9.30 for breakfast). This hotel charges a 50 euro event surcharge on weekends during the Christmas Market, so happy to plan arrival here on a weekday.

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    Hotel lobby and breakfast areas:

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  20. tom911
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    [​IMG]

    Headed right over to St. Thomas Church, just 5 minutes away, where Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is buried. He was cantor and director of music here for 28 years. There was an organ practice underway and we stayed about 30 mins for that and photos.

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  21. tom911
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    [​IMG]

    Also visited St. Nicholas Church across from our hotel which has a very different interior compared to St. Thomas.

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    Stopped at a department store cafe for a pastry break, then some touring of the Christmas Markets near the hotel. Dinner was at Alex’s (Thai yellow curry with chicken for me). Back out to the Christmas Markets which closed at 2100.

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  22. tom911
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  23. tom911
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  24. tom911
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    THURSDAY

    I headed over to the grand Leipzig rail station to check out the shops and architecture. This is my favorite train station in Europe, and also the largest in Europe. They also had some nice Christmas decorations out. It did sustain damage in World War II but was restored in the 1950s. It contains a mall inside with 200 shops and is open on Sunday because it is in a transport hub (other stores in the city would be closed on Sunday).

    west entrance:

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    east entrance:

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    tram stop out front:

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    inside the train station:

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  25. tom911
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    shops in the train station:

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