Our Thanksgiving plans changed more times than my 2 year old changes his mind. First we were going to do Morocco. Then we thought about doing Norway, but it is crazy expensive. We looked at Mediterranean cruises, but the timing just didn’t work out. We were almost set on driving to Budapest and hitting Vienna and Slovakia on the way, but that was going to be a full 7 day trip, and we just didn’t think the toddler could handle that (definitely turned out to be an accurate assumption). So we opted to do a Christmassy trip instead and spent 3 full days in Salzburg and one in Nuremberg, which is famous for its amazing Christmas market, and hitting Munich on the way for Thanksgiving dinner at none other than the Hard Rock Café!
Salzburg is a beautiful city. I travelled there with my university chamber choir when I was in college and did the castle and the Sound of Music Tour, so this time our plan was to first hit the salt mines and then Mozarts’s birthplace and residence along with the Christmas market there. The streets of Salzburg are pristine and filled with every kind of shop you can think of . The Salzach River flows through the middle of the city, and this time of year they have the Makartsteg pedestrian bridge all lit up for the holidays! It is a magical place to be.
We found an apartment about a five minute walk o the main part of the city. It was a great location and worked out beautifully for us.
Our first full day we slept in because the salt mine didn’t open until 11:00. There are multiple mines in the area, but Salzbergwerk Berchtesgaden allows two year olds. It was most definitely a highlight of our trip! My 7 year old is crazy about geology, so this was by far his favorite part of our entire vacation.
That smirk RIGHT THERE.
So before heading into the mine you put on a set of overalls. Then you ride a small train 650 meters into the mountain (and it goes pretty fast considering we were not strapped in or anything….just another thing to add to the ‘this would never fly in America’ list….or TWNFIA). Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take any pictures inside of the mine, which is a bummer because there is so much to see!
When we arrived we got off to begin the tour on foot. We had a tour guide, but had hand-held translators. Thing 2 old thought “BUTTONS!” as soon as he saw it, so one of us didn’t get to hear a thing. We learned how technology changed the efficiency of mining (great lessons there) and what tools they used to dig the mines. We got to get on a small boat and ride across a salt lake, which was amazing! Actually, when we arrived to the lake it was so still and so transparent that I thought I was looking at a concave in the mine, when I was actually looking at the reflection of the mine’s ceiling! After we reached the other side of the lake they let us dip our finger in a bowl of the salt water then taste it. Kinda gross to be sticking your finger in a communal bowl of salty water, but you kinda have to taste it. The mystery would kill you. So I did and lived to tell about it. It would rival Sour Patch Kids Extreme any day. WOWZERS.
The mine had two wooden “slides” you could go down. I put slides in quotations because they were basically two wooden poles you slid on that were considerably steep and another thing that would NFIA. The boys loved it. Heck, I loved it too.
My oldest walked away with some loot he bought with his own money from his allowance, a small vial of salt rocks! They had everything you could think of made of salt: candles, jewelry, bath items and even medicinal products.
That night we headed out to the market. It is safe to say that Salzburg is one of my favorite markets to date! The atmosphere was the heart of that warm Christmas feeling you get at your mom’s house. There was a choir singing in the background, which made for a perfect soundtrack to drinking Gluhwein and eating waffles slathered in vanilla cream. The booths were numerous and large; you could actually walk inside many of them and take a look around, unlike the normal booths that you just walk up to. So many handmade items were on display!
We also learned of a new Christmas character I had never heard of that is native to the Bavarian alpine area: Krampus. Apparently this horned, hairy devil-looking dude comes out the same night as St. Nick, but gathers all of the naughty children in his bag and runs off. Takes “You’re going on the naughty list” to an entirely new level…
Pic courtesy of http://www.salzburg.info
There are even days during the market that the have people dressed up as Krampus run through the streets. No thanks. I can see the slow mo horrified reaction of my children now.
They even have him on gingerbread packages. ?
The next day we headed to Mozart’s birthplace and residence. This was more to humor me, as I come from a world of classical music. Once upon a time I was a classically trained vocalist with a scholarship and a major in music. Bach, Mozart, Verdi, Schubert, Brahms, Haydn….it’s what my world centered around. Actually, that is a bold-faced lie. I was also in love with a boy who became a military man and the sun that my little world revolved around. And so I went into education instead because, being a military brat, I knew what the highly transient military life was like. It was a move that cost me a lot of heartache at the time, but in the end has benefitted me in so many ways. I still miss the musical world terribly, but hope to dip my feet back into it at some point down the road.
I had toured Mozart’s birthplace before, but it had been so long and my son is at the age where he can understand and remember the stuff we do. Prior to our visit I tried to teach my oldest a little about Mozart’s life. We watched a documentary and read a little. I figured it might interest him a little since Mozart was so young when he accomplished so much. It interested him as much as you would expect a 7 year old to be, but it helped him make more connections once we got to the homes.
(I will interject here and state for the record that my 2 year old threw up on the Mozart’s place of birth. We were standing in line to get tickets and he coughed and there ya go. I don’t know why it happened. He had a little cough, so I’m guessing there was some mucus going on, but he wasn’t ‘sick’ at all. But now we have a good story to tell his future spouse and you have been thoroughly disgusted.)
Mozart’s residence is not that much farther from his birthplace. He moved to the new home with his family when he was around 17. It’s quite large with a lot to see. I missed most of that, though, because the 2 year would not let me put him down, so I was trying my best to carry him and listen to my translator. Again…BUTTONS!!!
Apparently you are not allowed to take pictures in Mozart’s residence, but I did sneak this one guy in before being reprimanded by a museum chaperone (which, btw, seems like one of the most boring jobs ever.)
He was super short!
We decided to jump on the love lock bandwagon and lock a piece of us on the Makartsteg bridge. The idea of leaving a little bit of our family in each place we visit makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. We’re a tad behind, though. More than a tad, really. But I guess it’s never too late to start a new tradition! We let the oldest pick where the lock went and he locked it in place. It was pretty neat.
Thanksgiving day we left in the morning for Munich because my husband is the most wonderful man ever. He knows how much I miss my family during the holidays, Thanksgiving especially because it just doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving when you are overseas (obviously). He called a few American hotels to see if they offered Thanksgiving meals, which there were two that did, but they were booked up for the time we needed. Then he came across the Hard Rock Café, and they had plenty of time open, so we headed over. And it was good, y’all. Like, really good.
I ate every piece of that goodness. Every single piece. All while listening to Poison and sitting next to other Americans. It was exactly what I was needing. ‘Merica.
We went ahead and hit the Munich market as well, which was wonderful!
We drove from there to Nuremberg which was kind of awful. We hit a lot of traffic in town and the toddler had had enough. He was screaming in stop and go traffic for a good thirty minutes. We finally got to the hotel, but we only had a single hotel room. Toddler in the same room as everyone else at bedtime is not a good combo. The lights outside were hard to blot out, the window had to be open or it got too hot, but that meant we could hear everything outside. He was up wide-awake until 2am. We decided right then that the next day we’d go home after getting to the market. The toddler totally rules the Eishen roost, for sure.
We got up, packed, and hit Nuremberg’s market right when they opened at 10am. It actually turned out to be perfect because we beat the hordes of people and were able to get to the children’s market activities before everyone else.
There is a reason Nuremberg’s market is one of the most famous of all German markets. For one, it is beautiful. Despite its tragic and conflicted history, Nuremberg at Christmas is magical. But it also has a separate interactive market geared toward children. I’m so glad we got there when we did because some of the activities my son got to do took time, and I can’t imagine trying to do them with tons of people around. They had the most beautiful carousel I’ve ever seen, a small ferris wheel, a train and a boat ride. Kids could decorate their own gingerbread cookie and have it baked right there. They had candle dipping, sand painting and even a Playmobil area for the little ones. The kids could also get their pictures with Saint Nikolaus (for a fee, of course!).
We headed to the main market area and walked up and down the isles and isles of booths. So many items! There is everything from Prune Men (traditional to Nuremberg…and kinda strange) to dollhouse furniture.
TONS of gingerbread!
Little man loved his marzipan banana!
Our visit was definitely successful! We walked away with three souvenirs we had been hunting down for a long time: a nutcracker, a Christmas arch and a beer stein! There was so much I wanted to get, but we came with those three items in mind and found all three!
My Christmas Arch!
The hubs’ stein! It’s an antique!
And, of course, our Gluhwein mugs!
We left shortly after to make it home before evening. I’m actually glad it worked out that way; it gave us time to do laundry, get Christmas decorations up, and even make our own Thanksgiving meal. Our trip was amazing and full of unforgettable memories for the boys!