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Continuing the blog’s new feature: Throwback Tuesday Post (TBTP)!
Every Tuesday, I re-post a past blog I think is relevant and that you might enjoy seeing again.
This post was originally published on December 1, 2010, and updated on November 20, 2018.
Merry Christmas and Happy Whatever Else You Celebrate!
The Christmas markets have opened and the holidays are in full swing! Around here it isn’t referred to as the Christmas season. Instead, it’s called Advent season. So last Sunday was the first day of Advent (four Sundays before Christmas).
Before I get into that, I have some sad (for me) news. Some of you know that I collect Nativity figurines. It’s a specific set that is handcarved from wood high in the mountains of northern Italy. The brand name is LEPI and I collect the Rupert line. I have bought two or three figurines each year for the past eight years from a small shop here in Bamberg. Herr Ramspeck, the proprietor, is an older gentleman whom I’ve come to absolutely love. He patiently explained to me the qualities of the Nativity set I settled upon eight years ago and each year remembers who I am and what set I collect. He also gives me a discount.
So each year I save up for this extravagance. This year was no different. I had my money and had chosen the figures I wanted. I was savoring and anticipating the visit to Herr Ramspeck and really looking forward to the experience again this year when Hilde called me a couple of weeks ago saying Herr Ramspeck was going out of business! She said to hurry down there because everything was 50% off. Say it ain’t so!
So I withdrew my money from the bank and hopped the bus into town the next day hoping he would have the three soldier figurines I wanted. I was also hoping that he wasn’t actually going out of business and that Hilde’s rumor mill for once was wrong.
Alas, the rumor mill was right! As I approached the shop I saw the Going Out of Business and the 50% Off signs in the window. Crap. The shop was already almost bare. When I went in, Herr Ramspeck came shuffling out from the back and greeted me like an old friend. I asked about his shop closing and he explained that he was retiring and that there was no one to carry on the business. It’s the end of an era, folks. I’m so happy to have had the eight years I got!
I asked about my particular Nativity set and he had to break the news to me that it was all gone. Every last piece that he had in stock had been sold!
However, he offered to order the pieces for me. I readily agreed. He said he could give me 25% off the retail price, which was quite a bit more than I usually got. I figure he either made no money at all on it or lost some. What a guy! So I ordered the three soldiers of the set that attend the three kings.
Last Tuesday I made the trip to retrieve my newest pieces. They are lovely!
Herr Ramspeck gave me the address of a place in Nuremburg where I can get my pieces in the future. I’ll have to go look it up soon. It won’t be the same as my Herr Ramspeck, though! Of course, I’ll keep you informed of that trip when it happens!
Last week was Thanksgiving. Although it’s kinda tough to be away from home for my most favorite holiday, Bamberg was kind enough to open their biggest Christmas market that day, which is on Maxplatz. So I went there to check it out. Here are some from opening day:
Entrance. You can tell it’s cold!
You can buy stars…
A glove for people holding hands!
(non-Ramspeck) crib figurines…
And see some shepherds watching over you from the roof of the wooden stalls…
Get some nice linen holiday tablecloths…
Or buy some clay things that I don’t know what they are…
It suddenly got very, very cold and the drizzly rain was turning to snow so I made my way to my favorite café and had a bowl of delicious pumpkin soup and homemade bread. It reminded me of my friend Barb’s butternut squash soup, something I was missing for Thanksgiving.
Then, of course, I had my coffee. I was reading my Kindle (love that thing) and looked up as two very handsome young men in traditional dress were talking to the manager. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but as soon as the conversation was over, the two made their way to the center of the café. One of them asked for everyone’s attention.
He spoke very fast in German and has his back to me so I didn’t understand all of what he was saying, but it was something about a trek and the tradition of asking for help from “villagers” along the way. I think. Anyway, they took up a collection afterward. I gave him some change and asked if I could take his picture. He seemed used to the idea and struck this pose:
I would really like to know more about what was going on, but I’m glad to have witnessed it, whatever it was!
I had a class to teach at 5:30 so I made my way back home. After that I cooked myself a little turkey and dressing and had a lovely token Thanksgiving dinner of my own. I had so many emails from friends and family that day wishing me a good Thanksgiving – I really had a good day overall!
The next day, while Americans were out trying to take advantage of the Black Friday deals, I did my usual freelance writing and taught a class or two. About 6:00 p.m. I heard that now-familiar marching band. Since they usually practice on Friday evenings next door at the Gasthaus, I didn’t think much of it. However, I heard more activity than usual outside on the street and went to the window. I saw the local firemen redirecting traffic away from the main street while I heard the band tuning up.
So, of course I grabbed my camera and went to investigate. This time it wasn’t a parade, but it was a ceremony officially dedicating Bischberg’s Nativity scene. The wooden hut had appeared a week or so ago and I figured it was Christmas-related.
So the band played – frankly it sounded like dirges, but what do I know about music.
What we would call the band boosters were selling “punch” which, of course, is alcoholic. I, of course, got myself a cup. For a two-Euro deposit you could keep the cup, which I did, because it has the band’s name and logo on it. The punch was very similar to Gluhwein, or hot mulled wine, a traditional holiday beverage. It was sweeter, though. But served piping hot, it really warms you up!
The Burgermeister (mayor) read the Christmas story and an angelic little-kids choir sang a couple of carols and the deed was done. I snapped some shots of the Nativity scene:
Notice that they have translated the scenario into Franconian tradition. Mary is in European dress and is spinning yarn from cotton in a rustic cabin. This scene is where the angel tells her she will be Jesus’ mother. The townspeople will change the scene each week to reflect the Biblical Christmas story.
The next day I went to see the Advent Market near St. Elisabeth’s Church in Bamberg. See how dedicated I am to bringing you this journal?
Here is St. Elisabeth’s Church surrounded by the festivities. Of course there were people enjoying Gluhwein and other goodies!
This market is for handmade goods. Here are some toasty textiles:
Handmade honey mead and other liquor:
A focal point of this fest every year is the blacksmith. He was popular, I think, because of his fire!
This guy was carving animals out of wood for children:
What Christmas market is complete without roasting chestnuts? BTW, the cap of the boy on the right actually says “Billabong” not just “Bong.”
More homemade libations:
How about some mistletoe?
Later I walked back downtown to see the big market on Maxplatz in Bamberg. On the way I saw these crazy kayakers in the river:
This hotel has a restaurant and they do a booming outdoor business in the summer. In the winter they bring out wire fire baskets to draw people around their stall. Here’s a view of it with Santa trying to zipline in!
As dusk fell, the lights made the market stalls look very cozy:
Here is where I got my own Gluhwein. You get a commemorative cup here, too! This was the fun spot of the market.
Here is the market’s Nativity scene. It’s on the Bamberg Nativity Trail, and I’ll have more pictures of that after I visit next weekend. Notice it’s also in Franconian style and will change as the season progresses.
It took me a while to get this picture. Little kids kept running in front of the thing.
In Germany ya gotta have the wurst and cheese!
And the final shot of the day was the baked goodies booth. After that I took my commemorative Gluhwein cup home and made some of my own!
Since these pictures were taken, we’ve had 6 inches of snow that is still on the ground. It’s beautiful! Should be a great backdrop for the photos of the Nativity Trail and Medieval Christmas market I will visit on Saturday. The week after that I’ll see the Artisan Market. Stay tuned!
Photo for No Apparent Reason: