Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Weihnachtsmärkte Visits

Winter in Switzerland can be a dreary time.  Grayness seems to permeate everything.  Here in Aargau the locals joke that it should really should be called "Our Gray."  Blah.

But something that makes the holiday season really special are the Weihnachtsmärkte or Christmas markets.  Public fire places provide a place to chat with neighbors, drink a mug of Glühwein or Punsch and grill a Cervalet.  Children dip candles for the Advent season and there are wooden huts offering everything from Christmas gifts to Lebkuchen and Fondue.  Pure magic.

Nick with his tasty horse stick.

Each city's market has it's own unique charm.  In Zürich, the Hauptbahnhof is jam packed with revelers snapping a quick picture of the famous Swarovski Tannenbaum.  A fitting decoration to one of Switzerland's wealthiest banking centers. 

Zürich HB Christmas Market
Venturing further down Bahnhofstrasse and on to Werdmühleplatz one can see the beloved Singing Christmas Tree.  Choirs and music clubs from the nearby areas perform throughout the month of December in an elaborate "tree" while the crowd joins in.  We happened to see a local English gospel choir perform as we stopped to take in some of the Christmas cheer.

This year, Nick and I took a trip to Montreux on the shore of Lake Geneva to check out what we had heard was a gorgeous Christmas village.  We were enchanted.  Not just be the enormous and aptly named Christmas village, but also by the jaunty and fabulous Freddie Mercury statue that overlooks the lake.  Queen recorded one of their last records in Montreux

Chateau de Chillon
Byron's graffiti
Hopping on a bus and taking a quick 10 minute ride, we found ourselves at the Chateau de Chillon, a must-see for castle lovers.  This 12th century castle was once the home of the Counts of Savoy and was an important gate between southern and northern Europe from the Bronze Age on.  Authors and artists (Eugene Delacroix and Victor Hugo among others) were enchanted by the stunning castle and Lord Byron even carved his name in one of the pillars of the dungeon.  His poem "The Prisoner of Chillon" is about a Geneva political activist imprisoned by the Duke of Savoy after speaking out against the Savoy rule of the region.

I see London, I see France...
We were extra lucky in that the castle happened to be having its own festive medieval Christmas celebration.  Exploring the castle provided hilarious little surprises around every corner, including this woman with a giant dress in which a storyteller was telling tales to children under her skirt.  Every once in awhile a jester would pop out from under her skirt to beckon more people to hear the
next tale.

We also saw this strange dancing tree...
Medieval French dancing Groot?

We'll definitely be going back next year.  If you haven't been to Montreux, make sure it is on your travel list for 2015.

Hoping that you all have wonderful, safe holidays.  Schöne Festtage!