As I got off the train at the Augsburg Hauptbahnhof and stepped onto the dark streets of the city, I realized that I was an idiot.
I had only been to Augsburg once, in the day, with a guide of sorts. Now it was night, cold, misting rain, and I found myself in a European city with the winding streets that have no rhyme or reason to their layout and I needed to find a Christkindlemarkt that was located somewhere within the city . Awesome, Jenny, well planned.
Okay, I thought to myself, this shouldn’t be too bad. The Markt shouldn’t be located somewhere random. It should be in the city center, or by the town hall or something, but now the question was where that was. After a few minutes of wandering aimlessly around the Hauptbahnhof, Mackenzie and I found a shadowy map that we lit with the backlight on my phone. It was easy to read, thankfully, and, according to the map, the main square should be straight down the road in front of us (bahnhofstrasse). We closed my phone and set off.
Despite the cold and the rain, people were out on the streets in Augsburg. Christmas decorations lit the streets, although the ones that were supposed to look like stars ended up looking like giant spiders. Once in a while we came across a collection of the wooden stalls that are found in a Christmas market, but there weren’t enough of them to tell us we had found our destination, and half of them were closed anyways. That last made me nervous. What if we found the market but it was closed? Would we ever get the chance to come back?
As we plunged deeper into the city, there were more lights and more people. A crowd had built up near the Strassenbahn tracks and as we waited for the streetcars to pass, I tried to eavesdrop on the conversation around me, hoping maybe I could figure out if these people were going to the Market.
This is approximately what I heard:
“balidsfnaoidnfaidufadf FACEBOOK! Aaodsfhaodifanfb;f”
That wasn’t very helpful
Once the street car passed we continue down the street until we reached the bottom of a hill where the road split, took a right and circled around to the large town hall. And I breathed a sigh of relief. There it was. The Christkindlemarkt….however all the stalls were shut and the lights were out.
We were going to give up and go back, when Mackenzie and I noticed a strange amount of people on the street. Now let me repeat, it was cold. It had to have been hovering around the freezing mark and it was misting rain. In other words, not a good night to be out. But there were still people hanging out under overhangs drinking hot chocolate and coffee. Then we began to notice shadows lurking among the closed stands. Every now and one would zip inside their stand, or slip under the cloth covering as if to arrange a display. A woman walked by us wearing an apron for holding money.
Mackenzie and I looked at each other. Something was up and we were going to find out what.
We found a spot to stand in front of the lighted shop window of a jewelry store. Then we decided it wasn’t a good idea to loiter in front of a jewelry store and moved to loiter in front of another store, which gave no indication as to what it actually was.
It was a cold wait. At first we thought we might be mistaken, but as more and more people began to loiter with us, we realized that no, something was happening. Then a choir came out onto the balcony of the town hall and began to sing.
It was lovely and unearthly. For about 20 minutes. Then I was too cold to care. We continued to wait as the choir sang, then, an announcement came in German, explaining the history of the Christkindlesmarkt. ‘Ah ha!’ we thought, ‘they’re opening it!’
Haha we were silly. We waited another half hour before the announcement came again. Then another half hour. Then at the very random time of 8:37, all the lights came on—on the Christmas tree, on the giant Christmas pyramid, on the buildings on the stalls—and the market was open.
It was magical. The scent of sugared almonds filled the air. People feasted on wurst, and gluhwein. Mackenzie and I purchased some sort of tender pork patty, spiced delicately and deliciously, and we ate as we browsed through the lighted booths.
I didn’t know when we got off the train that we would stumble on the opening ‘ceremony’ of the market, but it was worth it. No one does Christmas like the Germans. After we made some purchases, we found our way back to the bahnhof—getting some gluhwein on the way and having a lovely conversation with a random group of Germans—and made our way back to Munich.