September 25, 2023
Why Dresden is Europe’s capital of Christmas
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Dresden, Germany (CNN) — Flanked alongside either side of the shimmering Elbe River and cradled in a valley of the identical identify, is Dresden.

Its thriving classical music scene, which beckoned the likes of Richard Wagner, Johann Sebastian Bach and lots of others, mixed with its baroque appeal and world-class museums, have earned it the nickname Elbflorenz, or Florence on the Elbe.

On paper, Dresden is the capital of the German area of Saxony, however by the appears of it, it is actually the capital of Christmas.

By the primary Sunday of Creation, Elbflorenz is in full vacation swing with flickering schwibbogen candles illuminating home windows, festive jingles on a loop and spruce-clad market stalls able to dazzle with the warmest gluhwein, densest Christstollen fruit bread and best crafts cash should buy.
It was Christmas Eve 1434 when Germany’s first Christmas market, Dresdner Striezelmarkt, opened up a handful of stalls for locals to choose up provisions for his or her vacation feasts.

Whereas Striezelmarkt actually has humble beginnings, within the 588 years since, it has advanced right into a hive of vacation cheer with greater than 200 stalls, twinkling carousels and naturally, candlelit tannenbaums throughout.

Most notable nonetheless, is Striezelmarkt’s centerpiece, an enormous — the biggest on the planet, the truth is — weihnachtspyramide or Christmas pyramid. Initially hailing from the Ore Mountains that straddle the Saxony-Bohemia border, weihnachtspyramides are picket towers made up of a sequence of tiers crammed with Christmas figures. Rising heat air from candles on the base is used to make the tiers twirl.

Regardless of its large recognition — round 2.5 million individuals go to yearly — Striezelmarkt nonetheless feels very very similar to a medieval buying and selling submit, save for the occasional iPhone flash and Visa + Mastercard stickers letting vacation goers know that as of late, greater than gold cash are accepted.

Sausages and stick figures

The entrance to the Striezelmarkt.

The doorway to the Striezelmarkt.

Matthias Rietschel/picture-alliance/dpa/AP

Beneath Striezelmarkt’s sweet cane-colored Ferris wheel sits Harich’s Jagerhütt’n, a comfy little joint the place of us from throughout take pleasure in steaming mulled wine that matches nicely with a Dresdner handbrot, a bread snack oozing with smoked ham and native cheese.

Shut by is Sächsische Spezialitäten promoting Saxon specialties. Quarkkeulchen, Saxon-style pancakes made with two-thirds fluffy mashed potatoes and one-part creamy quark cheese topped with a beneficiant sprinkle of cinnamon, are sufficient to make anybody swoon.

Any stroll by Striezelmarkt is incomplete and not using a delectably smoky Thüringer rostbratwurst sausage, a beloved staple of neighboring state Thuringia. It is nearly compulsory to scrub all of it down with a glass of gluhwein from the stall of Schloss Wackerbarth, a Saxon slope-side vineyard nicely well worth the 30-minute tram trip from Dresden to Radebeul.

Pflaumentoffel — little stick figures dressed with wrinkled prunes and felt prime hats on walnut heads — could be discovered throughout. The pleasant deal with with a not so pleasant origin is an edible illustration of Germany’s outdated chimney sweepers — sometimes little boys who made a brutal residing shimming up and down Dresden’s many flues. Legend has it they carry good luck.

In a state hailed for its craftsmanship and folks arts, it is no shock that conventional Saxon items straight from Vogtland, the Ore Mountains and past are actual highlights of Dresden’s many markets.

Wood hand-carved Christmas timber with curlicues for branches and delicate lace ornaments are bought alongside miniature porcelain homes. There are additionally räuchermann, picket collectible figurines typically representing miners or troopers, that double as incense burners.

In Neumarkt, you may discover globs of molten glass being blown into jewel coloured vases and dainty Christmas ornaments.

Music and lights


Dresden’s Semperoper.

Melanie Hamilton

It is not simply the Christmas markets that contribute to town’s festive appeal both. In homage to town’s wealthy musical heritage, Kreuzkirche church places on nightly performances all by the arrival season.

For these in search of Christmas hymns gone brass, Frauenkirche additionally hosts a lineup of Christmas live shows starting from vocal ensembles to saxophone quartets all through the season.
Dresden’s world-famous opera home, Semperoper additionally options arguably essentially the most Christmassy leisure conceivable all through December: “The Nutcracker.”
For a better take a look at all of the Saxon items that’ve stored up that state’s artisan popularity, there’s Museum für Sächsische Volkskunst (Museum for Saxon People Artwork), which highlights the historical past of the area’s folks crafts — particularly the place Christmas is anxious.

Right here, stern-faced picket toy troopers inform the story of native miners who moonlighted as nutcracker craftsmen for a supplemental residing. Elaborately painted wardrobes and forest landscapes carved into single walnut kernels illustrate why the area’s popularity is greater than deserved.

Fancy a star-spangled stroll? The annual Christmas Backyard takes over the Pillnitz Palace grounds mid-November by mid-January with elaborate mild exhibits, infinite strolling trails and the occasional gluhwein hut.

A darkish previous


Dresden’s Frauenkirche stands over town’s skyline.

Melanie Hamilton

Nevertheless charming, town’s tragic previous is palpable. As one of many hardest-hit cities by joint British-American raids in World Battle II, reminders of the harm are in all places.

Few buildings withstood the two,700 tons of incendiary bombs and explosives that demolished town over simply two days in February 1945. The cultural value was excessive, too. Heritage landmarks such because the Semperoper and baroque masterpiece Zwinger Palace had been fully incinerated, and buzzing squares like Theaterplatz decreased to ruins.

At present’s Frauenkirche is speckled with charcoal-hued sandstone, a visible illustration of the one authentic stones that remained following the bombings. A glimpse into the primary nave is spectacular, with its golden altar and pastel heavenly dome, however a stroll by its crypt reveals the faint odor of smoke, mangled help beams and charred tangles of metallic coat-check tickets, all serving as a grim reminder.

4 many years of communism as a part of East Germany additionally meant that Dresden’s facelift was lengthy delayed. As a regional capital, town was a stronghold of Soviet-backed rule. It was solely after the autumn of the Berlin Wall and German reunification that town may start to noticeably rebuild, leaving Dresden in architectural limbo till the mid-Nineteen Nineties when a lot of the repairs began.

Bread and butter

The famous Dresden Christmas market was first held back in 1434.

The well-known Dresden Christmas market was first held again in 1434.

aletheia97/iStockphoto/Getty Photographs

Some culinary choices have stood the check of time much better.

The Schaubäckerei Ullrich, the place the road typically runs out the door, is an area bakery well-known for its conventional Dresdner Christstollen, a extremely favored and extremely protected delicacy native to town.

In contrast to different stollen, a standard fruit bread loved throughout Germany, Dresdner Christstollen is in a league of its personal.

Ralf Ullrich, baker and mastermind behind Schaubäckerei Ullrich, explains that Dresdner Christstollen has a rigorous baking course of ruled by many guidelines and rules to guard its cultural standing.

In contrast to different variations, Dresdner Christstollen is required to have a 50% butter to flour ratio, a tasty irony on condition that the deal with began as a fasting bread again within the early sixteenth century.

It took a particular request to the pope, or as Ullrich calls it, the “fated butter letter,” with a view to add butter to a dish in any other case meant for lenten functions.

Edible historical past

The stollen gets a generous dusting of icing sugar.

The stollen will get a beneficiant dusting of icing sugar.

Melanie Hamilton

He goes on to elucidate that he desires others to study concerning the particular qualities of Dresdner Christstollen, saying, “it is greater than a typical vacation meals. The recipe and strategies in use for Dresdner Christstollen are nearly similar to the unique recipe from 500 years in the past.”

This makes it one of many oldest Germanic meals nonetheless consumed in the present day, which is why Ullrich describes it as not solely a vacation delight, but in addition “edible historical past.”

Throughout a chrome steel countertop at Schaubäckerei Ullrich is an array of bowls holding rum soaked raisins, candied orange peels, nutmeg pods, cinnamon sticks and numerous different substances that come collectively to make pure Christstollen magic.

As soon as the loaves end baking they obtain a beneficiant dusting of powdered sugar earlier than they’re packed and given their signature golden seal.

Upon request, visitors can take part in a Dresdner Christstollen workshop the place if fortunate, Ralf Ullrich himself might expose a secret or two concerning the legendary vacation deal with.

It is easy to see why Dresden is hailed as considered one of Germany’s most stunning cities — breathtaking baroque structure and spectacular parks and fountains are at each flip, whereas domes and spires form the skyline.

Rather more than a reasonably face although, town is a feast for artwork lovers. Simply take the Semperoper opera home, the aptly named Previous Grasp’s Image Gallery, and much-loved movie and music festivals like Movie Nights on the Elbe and Palais Sommer live shows.

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