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December 3, 2017

Peek into the magical world of Nuremberg Christmas Market in Bavaria

Nuremberg Christmas Market (Christkindlesmarkt) is one of the most famous in the world. Every year thousands of visitors throng its crowded streets, craning over each other to get a glimpse of the Christkind, admiring the Christmas decorations, shopping for presents, quaffing mulled wine and enjoying this festive atmosphere.

Nuremberg Christmas Market baubles - photo Zoe Dawes

Christmas Baubles

Nuremberg Christmas Market – Chriskindlesmarkt

Christkindlesmarkt could be translated word for word as “Christ Child Market”. The Nuremberg Christkind or Christ Child, a young woman dressed in white and gold, with curly blond hair, a tall golden crown and angel-wing-like long golden sleeves, is an important part of the market. Initially impersonated by an actress, since 1969 the Christkind has been elected every second year among local girls between 16 and 19 years of age. A large number of competitors enter via the Internet, finally a jury chooses the next Christkind out of several finalists who have to be at least 1,60m tall and free from giddiness as the Christkind has to make her speech from the church balcony, secured with a rope, possibly in inclement winter weather.’    Wikipedia

Christkind and angels at Nuremberg Christmas Market Bavaria Germany - photo Zoe Dawes

Christkind and angels

Earlier this year I was invited to attend the Germany Travel Mart in Nuremberg (Nürnberg), Bavaria, along with a number of other journalists and bloggers from around the world. Not only did we have a chance to explore this historic city, but Germany Travel arranged for us to get a flavour of the Christmas Market; in the atrium of the magnificent Town Hall they recreated a ‘mini-me’ version with many of the original stalls. It was magical.

Nuremberg Christmas Market in Town Hall - photo Zoe Dawes

Mini-me Nuremberg Christmas Market

The first thing we did was get some mulled wine, warming, spicy and we got to keep the mug too. I was particularly intrigued by the lady making Christkinds and angels out of stiffened, coloured card. She explained that the tradition of the Christkind, or Christchild, is found throughout Europe, dating back hundreds of years. Seen as the gift-giver in many Protestant and Catholic countries, the Christkind has also been associated with Saint Nicholas, delivering his presents to children at this festive season.

Making Christkind and angel decorations Nuremberg Christmas Market - Bavaria Germany - photo Zoe Dawes

Making Christkind and angel decorations

We watched the Schmidt bakers making Lebkuchen, the traditional soft gingerbread that is eaten at Christmas, and now available all year round. The Nuremberg type of “Lebkuchen” is also known as “Elisenlebkuchen” and must contain no less than 25 percent nuts and less than 10 percent wheat flour. The finest artisian lebkuchen bakeries in Nuremberg boast close to 40% nut content. [Wikipedia] On other stalls were bigger, iced hearts, made from a harder type of Lebkuchen, which last longer. I bought a couple to hang on our Christmas Tree, carefully wrapped to survive the flight. (They did!)

Nuremberg Christmas Market stall - Lebkuchen- photo Zoe Dawes

Lebkuchen Baker’s Oven

In one corner of the square a brightly-lit carousel twirled round. Perched very elegantly on a white horse, clearly enjoying herself, was the Christkind. She smiled happily to us, whilst behind her giggled two angels, all of them thoroughly obviously very happy to have the opportunity to be seen at this time of year. Needless to say, Christmas is their busiest time but during the year, the Christkind visits schools, hospitals etc around the city.

Christkind on carousel at Nuremberg Christmas Market Bavaria Germany - image Zoe Dawes

The Christkind and angels on carousel

I love the wooden decorations you find at German Christmas Markets. They’re usually intricately made, with exquisite details, ranging from tiny stars to complete Nativity Scenes. Another specialty is the walnut carvings, featuring minute figures and scenes within the shell of the nut. One of the stalls had beautifully painted ceramic buildings, many of them well-known in Nuremberg. Needless to say, the home of the city’s most famous artist, Albrecht Durer House was on display.

Albrecht Durer House Nuremberg Christmas Market Bavaria Germany - photo Zoe Dawes

Albrecht Durer House

The smell of grilled meat hovered over the market stalls and I was drawn to the stand selling the renowned Nürnberger bratwurst . What these little sausages lack in size, they more than make up for in taste. Weighing no more than 25 grams and to be no longer than 9cm, they are made from the best quality minced pork (NOT sausage meat) and spiced up with pepper, marjoram and mace. A trio were popped into a crusty bun and I wandered off to savour a tasty end my brief visit to Nuremberg Christmas Market.

Nuremberg Rostbratwurst Sausages Christmas market - photo Zoe Dawes

Nuremberg Rostbratwurst

Quirky Travel Fact: when not in use, the market stalls are stored at the Nazi Party Rally Ground on the outskirts of the city. During my trip I did the Video Tour of this infamous site, which gives an invaluable historical insight to this traumatic period of Nuremberg’s past. Watch out for my Top Tips for visiting Nuremberg in a future article.

Mulled wine at Nuremberg Christmas Market Bavaria Germany - Zoe Dawes

Cheers from Nuremberg

.Many thanks to Germany Travel for inviting me. I travelled to Germany with Lufthansa and stayed at the Nuremberg Holiday Inn Express. For more information about Nuremberg Christmas Market and Germany, visit Germany.travel.

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Nuremberg Christmas Market Germany - Pinterest image Zoe Dawes

December 15, 2015

Get into the festive spirit at Liverpool Christmas Market

Phoenix Christmas snowman

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas … With only a few days to go, there are festive decorations in every city, town and village throughout the country. Christmas cards keep landing on the mat; last night I spent a few happy hours writing cards to old friends and sticking stamps on envelopes. (Yes, I know e-cards are more environmentally friendly but I like the personal touch of a ‘real’ card, though I do send some e-cards to friends far away or if they send them to me.) A recent visit to Liverpool Christmas Market got us properly into the festive spirit.

Festive knitted figures - image zoedawes

John and I had gone to see our son, who started at Liverpool John Moores University in September. He seemed to be throwing himself into student life with serious dedication, managing to fit in lectures around hangovers and the gym, We had lunch at Almost Famous American-style burger joint, which serves great burgers, hot dogs, chicken wings and other cholesterol-raising delights in quirky surroundings.

Almost Famous buger bar mural Liverpool - photo zoedawes

Almost Famous mural

It’s over-priced IMO, charging extra for fries, serve what look like fairly insipid cocktails and they make a feature of cheap cutlery and kitchen roll. It was packed and Alex loved it, which is all that mattered.

Liverpool One Christmas - image John Bradley

Liverpool One Christmas – image John Bradley

Then it was shopping time. I’d visions of us wandering round Liverpool One, the flagship Shopping Mall, gazing in envy at the designer clothes and trying on potential Christmas Day frocks. But that was not to be; we spent most of the time in and out of charity shops and ‘Vintage’ outlets where Alex rifled through racks of clothes looking for bargain brand-names. He’s become very consumerist in a studenty kind of way!

Liverpool Christmas Market - image itsliverpool.com

Liverpool Christmas Market – image itsliverpool.com

Liverpool Christmas Market

Eventually John and I left him and had a look round Liverpool Christmas Market. It’s mainly along  Lord Street, Church Street, Paradise Street with some stalls centred around Williamson Square. There were the usual stalls selling Christmas decorations including quaint knitted figures, crystal baubles and every imaginable wooden item on which personal messages or names could be inscribed.

Christmas decorations - zoedawes

Christmas decorations

It was a very blustery, wet afternoon (precursor to devastating Storm Desmond as it turned out) and there weren’t too many people braving the weather. Those that were, made the most of the gluhwein, bratworst, gingerbread and other tasty treats on sale. Must admit, I am not a big fan of German sausage but they seemed very popular.

Bratwurst stall Liverpool Christmas Market - zoedawes

Bratwurst stall Liverpool

One of the more unusual things this Christmas is the Liverpool Snowflake Trail, where, according to Visit Liverpool, Jack Frost is transforming Liverpool city centre into a wintry wonderland of festive fun for young and old. Explore the city along his Snowflake Trail, and see Liverpool transformed by sparkling winterscapes, with familiar streets becoming swirling snowstorms of sound and light. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for the giant painted snowflakes scattered around and about! 

Liverpool Snowflake Trail

Snowflake Trail

There’s a map of the Trail and you can’t miss these colourful snowflakes, especially the enormous one in Williamson Square.

Liverpool SnowflakeTrail Map

Liverpool SnowflakeTrail Map

 

Festive Beer Hut Liverpool

Liverpool Beer Hut

 

Another quirky sight is the large cone decorated with pink and purple hearts. It’s actually a Beer Hut; inside there is a bar and all around are cosy little nooks which seat about six people. Not sure about the colour scheme but it’s definitely eye-catching! Not far away, there’s also an open-air Ice Rink which attracts wannabe Torvill and Deans through til January.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Liverpool without music and there were street performers on every corner. One guy, who looked remarkably like John Lennon, was playing a guitar and singing Beatles hits, but the one getting the most attention was a guy who turned himself into a ‘Human Transformer’ and danced around to hiphop. From almost every shop came the sound of Christmas songs and the whole atmosphere was festive and fun, in spite of the weather.

Liverpool Christmas Market - Rudolph's Rest - photo zoedawes

Rudolph’s Rest

I bought a couple of festive novelties, John debated having some Mulled Wine but gave it a miss as we had to meet Alex and get home. (If you’re going to make it yourself, then I can highly recommend Blue Moose Kitchen Mulled Wine Sachets. Add one to some decent wine – it knocks spots off the bottled versions!)

Mulled wine stall Liverpool Christmas Market - zoedawes

Mulled wine stall

It was lovely to spend some time wandering round Liverpool Christmas Market; hope you get to visit one over the festive season. If you like Christmas Markets then you’ll also enjoy The festive sparkle of Manchester Christmas Market 🙂

November 1, 2015

Shopping with a dash of history in charming Chester

Chester shops

On a shop-til-you-drop day out in Chester with a friend we combined an exploration of the streets, lanes and byways with an in-depth trawl through its department stores, boutiques and quirky independent shops.

Chester Roman soldier

This Roman soldier seemed oblivious to the light rain dripping down his steel helmet as he chatted to two people holding aloft signs encouraging passers-by to try the ‘All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet’ at the nearby restaurant on one of the main shopping streets in the walled city of Chester.  It summed up the universal appeal of one of England’s most attractive towns – ancient history, intriguing architecture, excellent shops and a multitude of great venues to eat and drink.

According to the handy ‘Walkabout Easy Map and Guide to Chester’ we picked up in the Tourist Information Centre next to the splendid Victorian Town Hall, “Nearly 2000 years ago, the Romans marched onto a sandstone ridge, built Deva (or Dewa),  largest fortress in Britain prepared to do battle with the wild, fierce Britons of Wales and the North.  Two millenniums later, the drama and passions of Chester’s history have left their mark in some of the most spectacular buildings in Britain.”

Diorama of the Roman Legionary fortress Deva Victrix in Grosvenor Museum, Chester. - image Łukasz Nurczyński

Diorama of the Roman Legionary fortress Deva Victrix – Grosvenor Museum – image Łukasz Nurczyński

We didn’t have time to visit the Roman ruins outside the city but the Dewa Roman Experience, on Pierpoint Lane took us back to that feisty era with the sights, sounds and smells of Roman Chester with a look round a Roman galley and the excavated remains of a fortress in the heart of the city.

Figures on the Rows Chester - zoedawes

Figures on the Rows Chester

One of the most appealing aspects of this town is The Rows, covered walkways above street level, dating back to the 13th century.  The names of these Rows often reflect the original trades of the rich merchants who built their townhouses here ie Ironmongers, Shoemakers or more prosaically Northgate Row.  Nowadays they are a treasure trove of shops, cafes and bars and great for escaping the occasional rain shower.

Eastgate Chester - zoedawes

Our leaflet informed us a Town Crier dressed in 18th century finery proclaims the news daily at 12 noon in the summer months.  We didn’t see him but we were entertained by the numerous street performers playing funky music, standing still as statues til a coin was dropped in front of them, doing magic tricks and singing songs, some even in tune.  We spent ages wandering in and out of the shops, especially relishing the scented charms of the perfume counters in Browns Of Chester Department Store. Nearby is ‘The Olde Boot’ a 17th century pub with original seating and good food.

Olde Boot Inn Chester - photo zoedawes

Olde Boot Inn Chester

After a rather exhausting trawl through the myriad shops in the Grosvenor Shopping Centre it was time for lunch.  We decided to go next door and treat ourselves to a light bite in 5-star luxury in La Brasserie at the illustrious Grosvenor Hotel.  I can highly recommend their smoked salmon sandwiches!

The rain cleared in the afternoon so to walk off our meal we had an airy stroll around the City Walls. “The best ornament of the city is, that the streets are very broad, the walls in good repair, and it is a very pleasant walk around the city upon the walls, and within the battlements, from whence you may see the county around.”  Daniel Defoe wrote this in 1724 and the walls are still much the same today.  After walking part of the way round we dove back into the city streets for another quick shop then it was time for one last sight to see: Chester Cathedral.  Built on the site of an Anglo-Saxon church, it became the city’s cathedral in 1541.  There’s a guided tour every afternoon but if you’re in a rush, do take time just to enjoy its splendid majesty for a little while.

Chester Cathedral Cheshire - photo zoedawes

On our way back to the car park, swinging our fancy shopping bags like Carrie and Samantha along a Manhatten sidewalk, we passed under the ornate Eastgate Clock, installed to commemorate Queen Victoria’s 1897 Diamond Jubilee. Its delicate red, blue, gold and black filigree decoration seems to sum up Chester – a colourful journey through time and history.

Eastgate and clock Chester zoedawes

More about Cheshire: Knutsford and Elizabeth Gaskell.

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See the Eastgate Clock - Things to do in Chester Cheshire  zoedawes - image by  zoe dawes

January 9, 2014

Top vintage shops in Berlin

Vintage shops in Berlin

Hipsters are flocking to Berlin in droves these days so it’s no wonder second-hand and vintage shops seem to be popping up everywhere. From the worn furniture in the trendy Weserstrasse bars to the grungy outfits proudly paraded through the streets of Kreuzberg, the German capital has certainly embraced a lightly used aesthetic. The best way to fit in, while on holiday is to dress the part, so check out some of the top vintage shops in Berlin.

Berlin

Rag & Bone Man

Located on a quiet street just off of the busy Karl-Marx-Strasse, Rag & Bone Man is a lovely example of the newest in Berlin hipster trends – the coffee shop cum second-hand store. Spend the afternoon carefully looking through their newest offerings while enjoying a delicious sweet treat and a nice coffee.

Garage

Garage - weighing machine

With a unique approach to pricing, Kreuzberg’s Garage is definitely well worth a visit. Rather than charging per garment, this cool shop has elected to allot a cost/kilo. While often a great deal of rummaging may be required, this spot is loaded with cool quirky finds.

Humana

Humana Berlin

A chain of second-hand shops spread sporadically throughout the city, Humana has bins all over the city collecting cast-offs. Expect to do some digging before stumbling upon any treasures but it’s usually worth the effort as items here tend to be a little cheaper than most of the other vintage shops in Berlin. The locations on Frankfurter Allee and Karl-Marx-Strasse are particularly worth visiting.

Made in Berlin

One of the most popular and well-established second-hand shops in Berlin, Mitte’s Made in Berlin boasts an impressive selection of vintage clothing from high-end designer brands to the quirky no-name knitted jumpers.

Shio

Sewing machine

A tiny independent boutique just below Weserstrasse in Neukoelln, Shio is owned by an amazing seamstress who collects beautiful items and carefully tailors them, giving them a somewhat modern edge. Expect to find some gorgeous clothing here and if anything you doesn’t fit you quite right, the owner promises to tailor it to you. What more could you possibly ask from a second-hand boutique?

Sing Blackbird

Located in the heart of the trendy Kreuzkoelln area, Sing Blackbird is another delightful coffee shop/vintage boutique. A bit on the pricier side, it’s always loaded with beautiful vintage designer clothing, jewellery and accessories. Not satisfied simply sticking to sales however, the lovely owners also organise a monthly flea market, film screenings as well as concerts.

Canadian Madeline Sinclair wrote this post for GoEuro and lives in Berlin.  When she isn’t busy writing she is scouring the city for the best deals on vintage clothes.