Sometimes when you least expect it, you stumble upon something wonderful. If you saw my husband’s first guest post earlier this week, you heard how Leipzig, Germany was his addition to our first European Christmas trip in 2012. It wasn’t the Christmas market that attracted him to this town though. Instead, it was a pilgrimage of sorts to see the town where his favorite composer of all time lived for nearly 30 years of his life. And if you adore Bach like he does, the Bach Museum still stands as his favorite museum ever (and let me tell you, we’ve been to A LOT of museums).
But let’s get back to the Christmas market. The mission of the trip was to experience European Christmas markets for the first time, and at first, I honestly thought this stop might interfere with that goal a little. After all, we reduced our time in Berlin to one day and one night to have enough time for Leipzig. But it was so worth it in the end.
We found that although Leipzig is a smaller town, but it didn't mean its festivities were meager. The markets spanned the entire center of town, from Augustplatz to St Thomas Church. It was clear that it attracted people living in the surrounding area to come to Leipzig for the Christmas markets. And although other cities in Germany seem to get the spotlight on their Christmas markets (like Nurnberg and Dresden), Leipzig has a historic market as well, dating back to 1458. So “discovering” the magic of this market felt like being let in on a secret, but this tradition has in fact lasted for centuries.
It follows to say the decorations were wonderfully done. Check out the manger for example. It features a cast of live animals at the scene of Jesus’ birth. (And if you followed my adventures in Iceland, you know how my heart melts at the sight of sweet little sheep!)
Then comes the food. Out of all the various markets I have been to, no market blew me away with its food like Leipzig did (and this still holds true, reflecting back two years and many Christmas markets later). Let me tell you why.
The first thing we tried were Kartoffelpuffer, fried potato pancakes served with applesauce. You can find these throughout Germany, though these were particularly delicious. We weren't the only ones looking forward to some delicious potato action either - 15 minutes of standing in line built up the anticipation, and it was definitely worth the wait.
But the star of the show goes to another speciality. We observed a wood-burning stove and long lines of people flocking to this stand, and that was all we needed to convince us to give it a try. They were serving handbrot, which is bread stuffed with cheese (and mushrooms in this case) and baked in the oven. Sort of like the German version of a calzone, except not greasy. The stand had the term “Heurekaner” on the sign, and it is unclear to me if this is a specific type of handbrot or something else...but there was another option available, which was with a cheese and ham filling.
All I can say was after this discovery, this was lunch and dinner for the rest of the remaining time in Leipzig. And I have yet to stumble upon this dish again while touring markets in Germany...so if you know where else to find this, please let me know! It will forever be the best market food I have ever eaten, so thanks to Michael for dragging me to Bach-ville!
I loved the sheep and still think about the handbrot from time to time, but what stands out to me the most about Leipzig was the “local feel” of the market. It’s where I learned how to count to four in German (four because that’s how many cookies I was ordering) and I got to use the few words of German I knew around town. There wasn’t much English being spoken, and tourist season seems to be in June for the Bach festivals. This little stopover that I thought might take away time from more impressive or reputable markets proved to be one that was extremely memorable to me!
Have you been to a Christmas market that was particularly memorable to you?
PLAN YOUR TRIP:
Leipzig’s Christmas Market
November 25 - December 23 (dates for 2014)
Open daily from 10:00am - 9:00pm
December 22nd and 23rd: from 10:00am - 8:00pm
See more information and program on the brochure.