Browsing Category


Culture, Europe, History, Uncategorized

Visiting the Christmas Markets in Europe

December 23, 2017 • By


Christkindlmarkt, Christkindlesmarkt, Weihnachtsmarkt, Les marchés de Noël


A Winter Wonderland comes to life throughout Europe.  Celebrate the season with friends and family eating and drinking and sharing stories.  Let the magic of Christmas seep into your heart and soul.



Fantasy Aisle, The Medieval city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber

The Medieval city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Rothenburg ob der Tauber – Red Fort on the River Tauber

This small and enchanting town is Europe’s most beautiful medieval spot and one of Germany’s most festive Christmas markets. It’s only a few hours from Frankfurt airport so make it a must see on arrival or departure. There are cobblestone streets, red tiled roofs and Christmas is a presence year round. There is plenty to eat and drink and the shops cater to local artisans with knitted fashions and chocolate being some of the favorites.

Special to Rothenburg is the Schneebälle – A snowball-shaped sweet made of shortbread and covered with sugar, cinnamon, and all kinds of chocolate and nuts.

Fantasy Aisle, Dessert pastry made from shortcrust popular Rothenburg

Dessert pastry made from shortcrust popular in Rothenburg

Where I stayed
Glocke Winery and Hotel
Ploenlein 1
91541 Rothenburg ob der Tauber
(In the heart of the town)

What to see
St. Jakobs Lutheran Church – One of the churches on the pilgrimage route to St. James grave in Santiago de Compostela in Spain. It dates back to 1300s.

Käthe Wohlfahrt – Christmas shop and museum all in one.  They have rare ornaments and wreaths for purchase and the museum provides a wonderful history of tree decorating, ornaments and how Christmas evolved over the years.

Fantasy Aisle, The famous Christmas store in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

The famous Christmas store in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Nuremberg – Nürnberg

The markets date back to 1628 when the tradition of giving children presents started in Germany. There are nearly 200 red and white striped stalls filling the entire old town. This is where I had to tell myself if I can’t beat them, join them in eating grilled sausages, potatoes and sauerkraut. The Christmas concerts in the churches are offered throughout the weekend and in the evening. There are also musicians scattered at the various markets throughout the city.  This is one of Europe’s largest and most attended markets.

Fantasy Aisle, The gold foil armless angel, the signature of Nuremberg

The gold foil armless angel, symbolic of Nuremberg

Special to Nuremberg is the Gold Foil Angel – Legend says a Nuremberg doll maker made it for his sick daughter. The Christkind – Don’t miss a photo opportunity with the symbol of Christmas in Nuremberg. A blond curly haired woman with a golden crown and golden white gown, the winner of this honor can be found wandering around the main square. Authentic Nuremberg Gingerbread – Rows and rows of gingerbread small and large, decorative or to eat can be found at nearly every stall. Under European Union law, gingerbread can only be produced within the city limits of Nuremberg. Drink Glühwein from the largest punch bowl in the world located on the River Pegnitz.

Where I ate
Alstadthof Brewpub –  Specialty beers and beer brandies

What to see
The Imperial Castle in Nuremberg – Great city views and exciting to learn about its importance during the Middle Ages.

The Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds is one of Germany’s most important museums dedicated to the history of Adolf Hitler’s rise and World War II. It’s also the place where the Nazi Party held rallies. Expect to spend a few hours touring the museum and the grounds.

Albrecht Dürer’s House – A Renaissance artist, he was Germany’s most famous graphic artist, painter, and art theoretician, (1471-1528). The home survived fierce bombings from World War II and is beautifully preserved.

Fantasy Aisle, Red and white striped stalls in Nuremberg, Germany

Red and white striped stalls in Nuremberg, Germany


There are six different markets spread across the historic old town with the Heidelberg Castle serving as a significant backdrop. It’s a charming university town full of lights, shopping, and restaurants to enjoy.

Special to Heidelberg is the ice skating rink.

Munich – München

In the heart of Bavaria in Southern Germany, Munich offers Christmas markets with all the trimmings. The oldest Christmas market in Germany, it was called Nikolausdult when farmers would come to town and sell their goods in front of churches around St. Nicholas Day. The name was changed to Christkindlmarkt in the 1800s for the Christ Child born on Christmas Day. Munich has several markets spread throughout the city and the streets are crowded with locals and tourists busying themselves with holiday cheer. The department stores decorated windows tell fairytale stories attracting hordes of people gazing at the life-like characters.

Fantasy Aisle, A cauldron of glühwein in the Renaissance Village Christmas Market in Munich

A cauldron of glühwein in the Renaissance Village Christmas Market in Munich

Special to Munich is the Renaissance themed Mittelaltermarkt where vendors are dressed in costume such as jesters, religious monks and paupers. Glühwein is served from cauldrons.

Where I stayed
NH München Deutscher Kaiser
DB Parkhaus Hauptbahnhof
Arnulfstraße 1
80335 München
(Steps away from the train station and convenient to shopping and local markets)

Fantasy Aisle, Marienplatz Christmas Market in Munich

Marienplatz Christmas Market in Munich

What to see
Medieval designed Mittelaltermarkt

Weihnachtsdorf in Kaiserhof der Residenz offers an intimate environment and traditional elements with a pyramid and musical stage for guests.

Neues Rathaus at Marienplatz – The Christmas market spreads out along all the main streets with the town hall as the focal point. There is plenty of shopping and excitement.

Fantasy Aisle, Düsseldorf markets in the old town

Düsseldorf markets in the old town


Düsseldorf was completely destroyed during World War II but it has been restored to a glorious, thriving, bustling city. There are shopping malls and department stores for everyone and Kö Boulevard caters to the rich and famous. The city maintains a large international population. Following World War II, an influx of Japanese immigrants arrived promoting business opportunities and innovation.

Seven Christmas markets cover the narrow streets in the old town butting against the rushing waters of the Rhine River. Canals and quaint bridges add to the illusions of grandeur and romance. There is a giant ferris wheel on Burgplatz and plenty of activities for kids including a puppet theater on Marktplatz. The ice skating rink occupies several city blocks and serves as the center of activity for visitors. During the day, the markets are quiet except for shoppers passing through and parents calming children but once the sun fades, locals swarm the markets and the party begins.

Fantasy Aisle, Old Town of Düsseldorf along Kö Blvd.

Old Town of Düsseldorf along Kö Blvd.

Special to Düsseldorf is “Engelchenmarkt” or Angel Market on Heinrich-Heine-Platz. Angels decorated in art nouveau adorn stalls in this section and there is a large pavilion for people to gather, listen to music and eat and drink. The handmade nutcrackers on display and stark white crystal ornaments are worth a look.

Fantasy Aisle, Engelchenmarkt" Angel Market on Heinrich-Heine-Platz in Düsseldorf, Germany

Engelchenmarkt” Angel Market on Heinrich-Heine-Platz in Düsseldorf, Germany



Escape the stresses of life and be swept away by the historic landscape of Vienna. The city’s Christkindlmarkts highlight the essence of Christmas by incorporating art and music with traditional elements. All of Austria is on display whether it’s ice skating trails at Rathausplatz or the captivating entertainment and lavishness at Schönbrunn Palace. There are 20 markets across the city making it possible to spend three days in Vienna challenging any diet. Vienna is the place to eat, drink and be merry. There isn’t one dish that won’t drive your taste buds mad. Take a horse carriage ride, explore the present and the past in one of the city’s premier art galleries and make sure to visit the markets by day and night. The illuminated stalls and trees create a sensational yet mysterious glow.

Special to Vienna is the ART Advent Market at Karlsplatz offering all certified organic products. There is a designated area for children to play.

Where I stayed
Hotel Kärntnerhof
1010 Wien, Grashofgasse 4
(Great shopping area and central location)

Where I ate
Zum Basilisken
Café, Restaurant, Bar
Schonlaterngasse 3-5
(Hungarian Goulash – cute atmosphere horrible service)

Beim Czaak
Postgasse 15
(Traditional dishes everyone speaks English. Located in one of the oldest districts in Vienna.

Das Gasthaus
Bäckerstraße 22
(Make a reservation on weekends)

What to see
Schloss Schönbrunn Konzerte – Orangerie Schönbrunn – Enjoy a performance to the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Strauss in a palace setting.

The Austrian National Library  – The baroque state hall is one of the most beautiful historic libraries in the world. Commissioned by Emperor Karl Vi (1685-1740) it was built from 1723 to 1726. There are 200,000 books and four of the most gorgeous standing globes.

Schönbrunn Palace – Take a break from the Christmas market and visit the palace: The Grand Tour or Imperial Palace Tour takes about 30 – 50 minutes. The palace is the former imperial summer residence.

Fantasy Aisle, Imperial capital and home to the ruling Habsburg dynasty in Vienna, Austria

Imperial capital and home to the ruling Habsburg dynasty in Vienna, Austria

Belvedere Palace – Visit the gardens and museum. Home to the Habsburg dynasty.

Vienna Boys’ Choir – Plan in advance of your trip. There are special afternoon and evening concerts.


Salzburg is my favorite Christmas market. It is small and manageable and possesses charm while epitomizing all the traditions of the season. Dating back to the 15th century, the Christkindlmarkt started as a flea market in front of the main church around the time of Advent and today is one of Europe’s most treasured Christkindlmarkts. While the stalls and merchandise on display resemble other Christmas markets, the landscape of the surrounding mountains and Salzach River captures the beauty of the town. Home to Mozart, music is a way of life in Salzburg. Choral and brass music concerts occur nightly in front of the Cathedral catering to both English and German speaking guests.

Fantasy Aisle, Krampus, a half-goat, half-demon, horrific beast who beats people into being nice and not naughty

Krampus, a half-goat, half-demon, horrific beast who beats people into being nice and not naughty

Special to Salzburg is the Krampus Run where groups of Krampus figures run and greet each other by rubbing chains. Krampus is a horned figure-half goat, half demon who punishes naughty children. He is the opposite of Saint Nicholas who rewarded the children with gifts of chocolate and fruit. On December 6 in the old town, Saint Nicholas and Krampus appear at the market with gifts for children.

Where I stayed
Gasthof Goldgasse
Small Luxury Hotels of the World
Goldgasse 10
(Hotel Restaurant is also very good)

Where I ate
Restaurant Goldener Hirsch is a landmark of Salzburg.  A former blacksmith’s shop, the restaurant is now a favorite of celebrities and tourists.  Offers traditional Austrian dishes.
Getreidegasse 37

Fantasy Aisle, Enjoying Glühwein in Salzburg, Vienna

Enjoying Glühwein in Salzburg, Vienna

What to see
Salzburg Cathedral – A baroque style Catholic Church, it towers over the heart of the old town.  The original church was constructed in 774 but destroyed after a fire.  It was built again in 1614.  During World War II, a bomb fell on the dome damaging much of the church. The interior is stunning.  Check out the crypt and museum.

Residenzplatz – One of the world’s oldest advent markets believed to be started in the 14th Century. In the shadows (literally) of the Salzburg Cathedral, the market offers a picturesque ice skating rink and a Christmas history museum, pretzels, Swiss cheese sandwiches, hats, wood carved platters, ornaments and life size Santa decorations.

Salzburger Weihnachtsmuseum – Christmas Museum with a history of customs in German speaking countries.


Strasbourg, France “Capitale de Noël”

Christkindelsmärik – “Market of the Christ Child”

I fell in love with Strasbourg. It’s a special blend of romance, history and architecture-a quintessential Christmas fairytale. It’s a city where snow and rain add value to the setting. As one of Europe’s oldest markets, it claims the title, “Capital of Christmas” and with 11 markets spread throughout the old town there is something for everyone. The Alsace region is influenced by both German and French language and culture. Stalls offer breads and cakes made with spices like ginger and orange and of course cheese and chocolate feature prominently in every dish. The canals and narrow streets encircle the old town providing a respite from reality allowing visitors to step back in time and chase the magic of Christmas.

Fantasy Aisle, The Capital of Christmas in Strasbourg, France

The Capital of Christmas in Strasbourg, France

Special to Strasbourg is the Great Christmas Tree located in the Place Kléber or pick out your own tree at the lots located throughout the market. This year Strasbourg is showcasing Gutenberg, Iceland where a traditional Icelandic Village has been created. Don’t miss the white glühwein. It’s less tart and sweeter than its red partner.

Where I stayed
Hôtel D
15 Rue du Fossé des Treize,
67000 Strasbourg, France
Phone: +33 3 88 15 13 67

Where I ate
Restaurant Au Pont Corbeau
21 Quai Saint-Nicolas
67000 Strasbourg, France
Phone: +33 3 88 35 60 68

Pain D’Épices – Chef Mireille Oster
Located in Petite-France
14, rue des Dentelles
(Delicious local breads and cookies)

Fantasy Aisle, Lill River - Canals of Strasbourg, France

Ill River – Canals of Strasbourg, France

What to see
The Musée alsacien (Alsatian Museum) – Experience what life used to be like in the 18th and 19th centuries in Alsace. The museum contains preserved furniture, clothing, wedding dresses and other home items.

River Cruises on the River Ill

Night Walks – Guided tours of the Christmas markets to learn about the history of the region and the city.








Culture, Destinations, General travel, History, North America, Travel Tips, Uncategorized

Seeing Detroit with Appreciation

October 30, 2017 • By

I’ve heard the words, “Detroit is coming back,” since I was young. My parents are native Michiganders with my mom hailing from Allen Park outside of Detroit and my dad from Flint. I grew up listening to stories of Detroit’s grandeur. My maternal grandparents played as children under the Ambassador Bridge and my mother referenced happy times shopping at the famed Hudson’s department store, attending shows and eating at Detroit’s best restaurants.

Fantasy Aisle, Renaissance Center in Detroit home to GM and the Marriott. The tallest building in Detroi

Renaissance Center in Detroit home to GM and the Marriott. The tallest building in Detroit

Anyone with a Detroit connection talked of great plans for the city’s revitalization one day and the rest laughed and conceded it would never happen and so became the running joke among natives and transplants for decades. People would brag about the enormous potential of the city situated on the Detroit River and rave about the busy international crossing between the United States and Canada, yet Detroit steadily declined with developers and loyalists awaiting its upswing.

Fantasy Aisle, Gateway to Freedom International Memorial to the Underground Railroad at Hart Plaza

Gateway to Freedom International Memorial to the Underground Railroad at Hart Plaza

Many believe Detroit’s economy started to decline in the 1950s with the automobile industry struggling but the turning point occurred in July 1967 when Detroit experienced one of the worst race riots in the country. My dad, a member of the Michigan Air National Guard – Battle Creek, was activated during the riots. Still short a summer class to graduate, the Guard called him to service in Detroit. He admits he didn’t even know how to carry a gun (and didn’t) but went to work with the Michigan State Police. He said, “There were a lot of prejudices going on,” and recounted a story of how the team he worked with chased a man who broke into a store and stole televisions.

When I was a student at Michigan State University in East Lansing, my roommates and I made the hour-and-a-half trip to Windsor, Canada where the drinking age was 19. One time I recall driving and making a wrong turn to reach the Ambassador Bridge. My roommate, familiar with Detroit, became alarmed and instructed me to start speeding and to run through red lights. We were in a “bad area.”

Until recently, my history with Detroit conjured negative connotations and I avoided visiting. I heard whispers of Detroit’s return and remained doubtful. That changed last week when I stayed in Detroit for the first time in 20 years. I won’t say, “It’s back,” but it is on a positive road to recovery evidenced by the countless construction cranes spread across the city. Detroiters and Michiganders alike are excited and proud with good reason.

Fantasy Aisle, RiverWalk along the Detroit River

RiverWalk along the Detroit River

It’s worth a day or two to explore this comeback kid with a plethora of nicknames –Motor City, Motown, Hockeytown, Renaissance City. I woke up at sunrise to a blustery clear day and grabbed my sneakers for some exercise along the RiverWalk, (Detroit International Riverfront), a 51/2 mile path stretching from the Ambassador Bridge to Belle Isle. I walked east for an hour before turning back finding lots of locals and tourists shared the same idea. It’s easy to rent a bike, roller blade or relax on many of the park benches. There are sculptures and art pieces, seasonal restaurants and state parks lining the path and restored landscaping enhances the experience. Detroit is a walkable city even with all those cars.

In need of coffee, I turned my sights on Woodward Avenue, the main thoroughfare of Detroit. The area is flush with businesses relocated from the suburbs. The likes of Starbucks, Shake Shack and Potbelly further affirm my belief that the “new Detroit” would not be recognizable to people who left years ago.

Fantasy Aisle, Central United Methodist Church

Central United Methodist Church

Armed with caffeine, I sat for a bit people watching at the Campus Martius Park. Workers were busy converting the public area from a summer hot spot with volleyball and music to a winter wonderland with ice skating and hot chocolate. I continued along Woodward shocked by the modern buildings and impressed with the detail that has gone into preserving the heart of the city.

I snapped pictures with my family in mind hoping to show them the changing story of Detroit, a resurgent city with growing opportunities. “If you build it, they will come,” ran through my head and I was overwhelmed with happiness for my friends who stayed local and weathered the storm. It’s thrilling to witness the transformation firsthand.

Fantasy Aisle, Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers baseball team

Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers baseball team

All of Detroit’s sports teams play in a few block-radius along Woodward. The Red Wings(hockey) and Pistons(basketball) play at Little Caesars Arena (I appropriately named it the Pizza Palace), with the Tigers(baseball) and Lions(football) across the street at Comerica Park and Ford Field respectively. My dad used to drag my brother and me to Pontiac for the big Thanksgiving Lions game at the Silverdome. It is a brilliant idea to relocate all the sports teams in one place. Now families and friends can spend an entire day eating and drinking while rooting their favorite team onto victory.

On a recent trip to Detroit this summer, Suzette Loving, who left home after college for job opportunities, walked Woodward Avenue from the river to the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum –in awe. She explained going alone by foot was not a good choice a few years ago. I sensed pure joy in her voice when she talked about all the revitalization.

“If I didn’t have a family, house and great job, I could move back,” she said. That is quite a sentiment from someone who lived in San Francisco, Chicago and Denver.

Joining me in Detroit, Suzette passionately pointed out new buildings and speed walked me along Woodward Avenue, then to Greektown and back around the Michigan Opera House and straight into a hip coffee shop, the Roasting Plant –a trendy place not found in downtown until now. I witnessed the hope and possibility through her eyes as she summarized her childhood and early adult years in the places that remain — A bar here and restaurant there. Her endorsement of Detroit is an understatement.

“Seeing people coming together and in some cases taking a risk to invest their business in the city is even more inspiring.  Probably my favorite part, though, is the sense of pride the community has resurrected.  The pride was always there but now it is outwardly visible – people have their chin up and heads held high.  You can feel that,” said Loving.

Fantasy Aisle, Car that drove John F. Kennedy's when he was shot. On view at the Henry Ford Museum

Car that drove John F. Kennedy’s when he was shot. On view at the Henry Ford Museum

While it’s not located in downtown Detroit, a visit to the Ford Rouge Factory and Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn about a 15-minute drive from the city is highly recommended. My maternal grandfather was one of 8,500 students who graduated from the Henry Ford Trade School in the 1930s and I’ve always maintained an affinity for the car industry, which provided a source of income for relatives on both sides of my family. The Museum highlights stories of American innovation, trailblazers and explorers with plenty of educational exhibits for everyone. I particularly enjoyed the Presidential Motorcade and the Civil Rights and suffragist displays.

Fantasy Aisle, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, Founder of Detroit in 1701 for the French

Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, Founder of Detroit in 1701 for the French

My trip to Detroit sparked many emotions in me. As I gazed at the Ambassador Bridge in the distance, or posed with a statue of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac with the GM building in the background, I relived the stories my grandparents used to tell me. I didn’t walk in their exact steps but they were present. I celebrated their history and their sacrifices and triumphs. They would be beaming with anticipation of what is to come for Detroit.

When I told my 95-year-old Great Aunt (my only family member living from her generation) about my experience, I asked her if she missed Detroit, she responded, “I would be very pleased to go back and see.”

Fantasy Aisle, Ambassador Bridge of Detroit River connecting Detroit, USA to Windsor, Canada

Ambassador Bridge of Detroit River connecting Detroit, USA to Windsor, Canada

Activities of Interest

Browse Monet or visit with an Egyptian Mummy at the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum

Watch a game or concert at Little Caesars Arena, Comerica Park, Ford Field

Hang out with friends at one of the many sports bars

Gamble with some fun money or sample a taste of Tzaziki in Greektown

Take in some exercise or fun in the sun on the RiverWalk

Fantasy Aisle, An art deco building in the heart of Detroit, Center for the performing arts

An art deco building in the heart of Detroit, Center for the performing arts

See a production at the Fox Theatre

Eat eat eat and then shop shop shop at Eastern Market

Sing the hits of yesterday at the Motown Museum

Spend a day exploring Belle Isle located in the middle of the Detroit River (off limits for many years)

Set sail on the Detroit Princess Riverboat

Eat and explore the Mexican history in Detroit at Mexicantown (SW Detroit)

Get out of Town
Visit the Ford Rouge Factor for a Tour

Take in history at Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village

Local Restaurant Recommendations
(Note: I ate at Apparatus and Townhouse.  Local and foodie Rhiannah Luedeke provided her favorites)

Apparatus in the Detroit Fountain Hotel – Upscale, trendy dining experience.  Great halibut and strong wine list

Wright & Company -Try the craft cocktails and the Burrata Toast and Seared Bay Scallops

Fantasy Aisle, Best Burger Ever at Townhouse in Detroit, Michigan

Best Burger Ever at Townhouse in Detroit, Michigan

Townhouse – Quite possibly the best Hamburger on the planet.  For small plates, don’t miss the Cauliflower and Truffle Fries

Craft Work – Try the Ratatouille and Fried Chicken.  Fun hipster vibe in a casual atmosphere

Tokai (Formerly Katoi) -Menu changes frequently but notable dishes include the Ox Tail, Spare Ribs and Cauliflower

Vincentes – Located off a hidden alley with artistic graffiti and little bars  Try the Mejillones Al Citrico and Cuban Style Paella.  Stay for the salsa dancing which starts around 10 PM or 11 PM

la Dolche Vita – Hidden gem.  In summer, enjoy a beautiful garden with a string quartet. Who needs Italy?

Huron Room

El Barzone – A mix of Italian and Mexican food. Owner is Mexican and studied fine Italian in NYC before coming to Detroit


Green Dot Stables – Creative sliders

Selden Standard – Beef Tartar won’t disappoint

For more ideas, check out Detroit Eater

Where to Stay?

Detroit Fountain Hotel – a boutique hotel converted from a former firehouse.  Great location

Fantasy Aisle, Detroit Foundation Hotel, a former firehouse now boutique hotel

Detroit Foundation Hotel, a former firehouse now boutique hotel

Westin Book Cadillac Downtown

Greektown Hotel and Casino (dated)

Atheneum Suites Hotel (dated)

For more information…

To read more about Detroit’s Comeback:

Americas Comeback City – The Rebirth of Detroit – Forbes

Taking Back Detroit – National Geographic

On the Detroit Riots:

Detroit (based on the July 1967 riots)

History of Detroit Riots

“Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies” — Edited by Joel Stone
(Wayne State University Press)

“The Detroit Riot of 1967” — Hubert G. Locke
(Wayne State University Press)