Thursday, 17 November 2016

Travel: Christmas Market, Wiesbaden, Germany - Sated Senses, Steam and Sustenance

The spectacular living Poinsettia Tree in the Kurhaus, Wiesbaden

I'm not a big Christmas fanatic...

In fact I have a slight Scrooge-like attitude to all the spending and nonsense that's associated with the so-called festive period. This is probably due to spending too long in retail, purchasing and then selling all the shiny Christmas tat that people feel obliged to cover every surface of their house in at that time of year.

But if I'm being honest then I must admit that there are parts I enjoy too, such as seeing how much kids enjoy Christmas, the chance to unashamedly cook goose, wear loud jumpers and play with lasers, LEDs, fibre optics and other ways of lighting up the house and causing my hair to stand on end.

The other big Christmassy thing I do is visiting European Christmas markets, and it's something I really look forward to every year. It's probably because of my deep seated wanderlust, combined with all of the new sights and sounds of course but it's also because a good market waylays your other senses too. The taste of new food, the smell of various roasting meats, or spiced aromas of Christmas tipples ... and the feeling of being wrapped up snuggly in folds of cotton and wool, mingling with my own layer of bacon-laden fat.

But I tend to shy away from the more traditional Christmas market destinations in Germany such as Cologne, Berlin, Stuttgart and Munich and instead try to seek out places off the beaten track, as I hope that these will be slightly less commercial(!), cheaper and most importantly more interesting than the larger ones. I prefer markets that are more local than touristy, which I know is tinged with irony given I am a tourist..

This means that I've seen Düsseldorf, Augsburg, Hamburg - which was a big one admittedly - amongst others, and now Wiesbaden - pronounced 'veece-bah-den'. I visited Vienna too but it was too large for a short trip and although I enjoyed it immensely, I regretted too much the things I had missed ... but vowed to get back there again.

Wiesbaden wouldn't be first on many people's list of Christmas market destinations but that was one of the appealing things of course. It also helped that it is easily and quickly accessible from Frankfurt airport, as a key part of these trips is finding somewhere with early flights in and late flights out to make the most of my precious few days. It's not full of the traditional wood framed house one expects from certain parts of Germany and instead is a pleasant and striking mish-mash of neo-gothic, baroque and other classically flouncy styles.

Okay, I won't bore you with too much detail but here are a few photo highlights from the trip with a few notes...

Marktkirche - An imposing and dramatic brownstone edifice in the centre of the city.

A beautiful art nouveau mural on Bahnhofstraße close to our hotel. It's great to see this type of accessible art sneak into Irish cities too like Limerick and Waterford.

A fantastic food market with a great range of unusual and colourful produce. I'd love it on my doorstep!

Nice brunch in the trendy  Du & Ich - Focaccia with a bottle of Hamburg's finest Astra Urtyp with its mild but bitterly acrid taste.

A Giant cuckoo clock outside a shop whose staff followed us around as if we were shoplifters! Needless to say we bought nothing in the place but I had fun picking stuff up and walking around with it before putting it back on a different shelf, much to the annoyance of said staff.

The remains of some Roman - and not-so-Roman - ruins tucked up a side street, interesting viewing tower too.

One of the many gorgeous buildings dotted around  the city.

We took a break in Der Andechser in the Ratskeller under the Neues Rathaus. I enjoyed a very nice Andechser Dunkel with an ubiquitous pretzel -  my dunkel tasted of bitter malt and ginger, with an acidic-metallic quality and a dash of cola perhaps. The very cool bottling machine sits in the entrance hall, ignored by all but me it seems!

Neues Rathaus and Marktkirche looking elegant on a winter day, viewed from Warmer Damm.

Church doors with the now familiar brownstone of this area of germany.

The fantastic thermal spring on Kochbrunnen Platz. This also explains why we spotted steam escaping from manhole covers around the city, and the rotten egg smell that lingers in this spot!

Bäckerbrunnen - A nice old fashioned bar where I had a very drinkable Diebels Altbier with its very mild ginger and digestive biscuit flavour. 

Extremely well merchandised christmas shops with an obvious slant towards European tastes.

Sternschnuppenmarkt -  The Twinkling Star Christmas Market was packed every evening and full of the usual foods, novelties and decorations. It sprawls in a good way along a number of streets but is easy to get around and well laid out.

Beer and a burger in the excellent Nassau Burger & Beef Company - They stock both German micro beers and a few foreign imports. Its a rustic spot with loads of wood and very friendly staff. I had a Wiesbadener Pale Ale that was mild for the style but extremely tasty with hints of cardamom and ginger biscuit too. I followed this with a Hanscraft & Co. Nizza Wheat Pale Ale  that had a lovely balance of clove and citrus with a bacon-like aftertaste. I paired it with a bacon jam burger cooked medium with the most fantastic fries. The burger itself was nicely pink but a little bit over seasoned, even for me. I finished up on Hanscraft & Co. Backbone Splitter - one of my favourite beers of the trip, bitter as hell with a big kick of spicy grapefruit hops. 

Dunkel in Weihenstephaner on Taunusstraße - It tasted of sweet barley sugar and clove, with brown soda bread. I was also given the Possmann Frau Rauscher Speierling cider by someone who hated it. It was extremely bitter after the beer but really refreshing, reminding me of a Belgian Oude Gueuze!

Maisel & Friends in Spital Bar (Now Closed) - We shared these three Maisel & Friends bottles - The Bavarian Ale was all mandarin oranges, clove and funky cheese with a chewy-sweet finish. The Chocolate Bock tasted of of cocoaed Bovril with maybe a hint of smoked bacon -  rich and chewy too with tons of body. The Pale Ale had a whiff of old cheese with some lemongrass and perhaps custard cream biscuits. All three were excellent, as the suited the mood and company. We also bought a couple of those cool glasses to bring home!

My final morning breakfast of bacon and eggs - naturally - in La Maison du Pain.

The fantastic walk way under Gustav-Stresemann-Ring near Wiesbaden Hauptbahnhof - This reminded me so much of the Chagall stained glass windows in Mainz that I posted about here.

So that's a quick photo reel of some of my highlights of Wiesbaden. It's certainly an excellent city to visit for its Christmas market and makes a change from the timbered old-style german towns we normally frequent. It's easy to get to and you'll have plenty to do, we missed out on a couple of places such as Baron von Richthofen's grave and the Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Elizabeth to mention just two! Don't forget Mainz and Frankfurt are close too...

You'll find more information on the city here.

Auf Wiedersehen!


No comments: