John and I went back and forth for weeks about what to do for Christmas. First we wanted a last minute deal somewhere warm. At the end, just a month before Christmas, we decided we wanted a road trip around Germany. We have decided for this Christmas season to “chase markets”. Any Christmas Market I can find, we try to get to. Planning this trip went back and forth, based on markets. Sounds crazy, sure, but so much fun. We finalized on these cities: Black Forest area, Munich, Nuremberg, Prague, Dresden, finishing in Berlin for New Year’s Eve festivities. I went through each city, found a list of what we wanted to see and do, and set off to conquer our list.
BLACK FOREST Day 1
Main idea was to get to Triberg for a cuckoo clock. Since the store only opened at 12:00 on weekends, we decided to check out Freiberg first for the Christmas market. After 45 minutes of the worst windy roads we have done in Germany so far, we got to the area of the market. Now to find parking. Found a place, good prices, so we decided to go in. My Land Rover is 1.94m, the height in the parking was 2.0m – perfect! First turn inside we hear this loud noise. Turns out, even if they allow 2.0m inside, they have signs about the foot hanging from the roof. HORRIBLE! It was like this the entire way to finding our actual spot. The parking was Contipark Parkhaus Rempartstrasse. Not recommended for anything besides a small car!! The Freiburg market was nice. Not big, but right in the old part of town. Since our main reason was for the market and to see the Freiburg Cathedral, we didn’t stay much longer than an hour.
Next, Triberg! First thing literally we did was go to Oli’s Schnitzstube. My husband’s boss told us this was THE place to go. We walk in and get greeted by a sweet woman who brings us upstairs to the handmade clocks. There are probably two-hundred clocks on the wall we have to choose from. They even have clocks made from real mushrooms! The lady walks us through the entire sections showing us how to spot a “real” cuckoo clock vs a manufactured ones. She showed us the back of the clock to show exactly what makes the bird “cuckoo”. This was an unforgettable experience. Finally after about 45 minutes, and three fed up kids, we found our clock! Next was waiting for the clock to be packed up (about an hour total). By now we are hungry, and just want to eat. Found a restaurant called Landgasthof zur Lilie, claiming it makes “original recipe Black Forest cake” – definitely had to check that out! This cake was as good as it looked. I am not a big cake eater, but this cake was something. Light, fluffy, amazing!! Definitely a must if you go to Triberg.
We had about an hour before it would start to get dark, so we headed to the Triberger Waterfall. This is the tallest waterfall in all of Germany. There is usually a small fee to get close, but since the city was setting up for the Christmas market to open, you could just walk right in. The decorations being set up were beautiful, and the kids enjoyed walking under a “tunnel of lights”. The waterfall was not big. After seeing Niagara more than once, this was “small”, but still very worth it. It’s not something to miss if you are in the area.
On our way back to our hotel, I found the Hornberger Uhrenspiele, in the city of Hornberg. It is a cuckoo clock in the Guiness Book of World records for being the widest cuckoo clock (37.73ft). Every fifteen minutes the quail sings, and every half hour the cuckoo sings. The kids were amazed by this (as were we). They tried to race from one end of the clock to the other to see who would win the race. This clock is not something you see every day, so it’s very cool to see. But don’t blink as you drive by, you will miss it!
BLACK FOREST Day 2
I’d originally planned two days at the Black Forest area thinking I would need it – after the first day, there was nothing to do. So we ventured out instead. In an attempt to go to as many countries we could during our two weeks, we found a tri-border in Basel, Switzerland. It was a border for Switzerland, France, and Germany. First stop was to venture there. It was only an hour and a half from our hotel, so definitely worth the drive down. We got there, found parking, and walked the kilometer to the actual tri-border point. It was nothing more than a statue showing the three different point, but really, how often can you say you are standing in three places at once. Just being in Switzerland itself is awesome to say! Since we were there, we decided to take to opportunity to “explore” a little. We found a Christmas market in the old part of town. After finding a place to park (free on Sundays – bonus!!) we walked the five minutes to the market. First thing we see is a Gluwhein stand, which is, of course, my favorite part! Got my wine, and explored. All the booths were made up to look like castles and churches. As you keep walking you come across another market, right outside of this huge church called the Basel Minster. At the back of the church is a look-out, where you pretty much see all of Basel. Beautiful sights, and the kids could run a little, which they loved.
Next stop was Colmar, France. I originally found this town in an article about 40 of the top Storybook Towns in Europe. It claimed to be the town that looks like Belle from the Beauty and the Beast lives. Parking was a nightmare (took almost 45 minutes driving around to find a spot) – but again, being Sunday, was free – huge bonus! First thing we see is Subway, not so “old”. But once you start walking around, you see exactly where the Beauty and the Beast reference comes from. Being a Disney buff, seeing a town that looks like where Belle lives from, was kind of a big deal. Crooked houses, colourful window shades hanging open out towards the streets…etc. We walked around the Christmas market, saw the cathedral, and left. Quick visit yes, but all we saw all we wanted.
Last stop of the day, Strasbourg, France. Strasbourg is called the Christmas Capital of Europe. It is the place of the first Christmas Market in 1570. It was voted the best market in Europe of 2015 for the 2nd year in a row. Up until this point, Strasbourg market is the best market we’ve been to. There are 12 markets spread out around the Strasbourg Cathedral. The Cathedral was one of the most spectacular I have ever seen. The markets were just as spectacular. The lights, the booths, the entire atmosphere was something to experience. We are used to seeing people bringing dogs everywhere. In Europe, it seems dogs can go anywhere people go. Well here, we saw a man walking his goat. A goat!!! Silly man! Boys certainly got a kick out of it! After exploring the markets we found that there was the European Parliament an hour walk away. Of course we decided to do the walk. Passed some cute churches and small parks on the way there. Got there, took our pictures, and walked back, exhausted and really wanting our hotel. First leg of our trip was a success!!!
NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE Day 3
When researching the best castles in Europe, the Neuschwanstein Castle is always one of the tops in every list. So when planning this trip, being so close to it, there was no way we were going to miss it. The Neuschwanstein castle is the castle Walt Disney based the Cinderella castle on. People also claim that this is also the one based on Snow White too. Whichever castle it is, this was as spectacular to see as the pictures you find online. When you drive to it, you have to park at the bottom of the hill and walk the hike up, or take a bus. They also have the option of taking a horse-drawn carriage, but you pay an arm and a leg for that. We went to go buy our tickets to go inside the castle, but at 11:00am, all tickets to go visit inside the castle were sold out. At 11am!!! So when the website says it’s best to buy tickets online, they aren’t kidding! We weren’t going to miss seeing the outside of the castle itself, so we still went to the top. The hike says it is an hour walk, but it certainly wasn’t. Even with three kids who don’t walk the speed of an adult, it only took us 25minutes. If you can do the walk, it’s worth it. Reviews people have written say you need to be in really good shape to do it – not true. There was a lady probably about 80 years old with a cane doing the hike. The sights and the views you see on the way up make for great photos, including a small waterfall.
When you are almost at the top of the mountain, there is a viewpoint where you can take pictures of the castle in full. John went out to the actual lookout with a glass bottom – myself and the kids were not brave enough. Not true. I was not brave enough, and my fear of heights stopped the boys from going out, but they didn’t seem to mind. We took selfies while Daddy took better pictures.
Once we got to the actual castle – amazing. There was nothing more I could do than just take in the sight of it. The other people around didn’t exist at this point – I was in my own little world. Disneyworld when I was younger was something special, but seeing this up close, was just something else. I felt like my 8 year old self again. Experiencing this with my kids was something I will never forget. The enormity of the Neuschwanstein Castle was fascinating. There is another lookout point called Marienbrücke; where you can see the castle from a distance – the best views. The Marienbrücke was closed due to renovation at the time we got there. Maybe if we ever head back. At some point possibly seeing the inside will be nice, but for now, my fix was fulfilled!
Off we continued on our journey – heading to Munich!