Sunday, January 20, 2013

Christmas in Dresden

I really would have liked to have posted these lovely pictures before Christmas, but due to exhaustion and leaving for vacation on December 15, I simply didn't get around to it.  I went out one evening with a friend to hit Dresden's "Christmas Mile", look at the lights and sample some delicious treats--chimney cake and roasted chestnuts, both of which are highly recommendable.  I'm already getting a little nostalgic about Dresden, for 2012 is the last year that I'll have the Christmas Mile within walking distance from my house.  Soon I'm off to bigger and better things, but more on that later.  On to the pictures!

We started on the Neustadt side of the Elbe, and hit the market in close proximity to where we live--the Hauptstraße Christmas Market.  This one is relatively small, and has been restyled this year.  Previously it was a traditional market with wooden huts, but starting this year they're going for a more modern, international flair, and have white tent-like stalls and this super fantastic tree in the middle: 

I'll admit:  at first glance, I found this tree garish and horrifying, but I have to say it grew on me.  I first saw this when I was on my lunch break one Thursday, and during the day with no snow, it's looks a little bit extraterrestrial and quite out of place.  In the evening, however, it simply glows and draws you in.  I took my kids to see it, and their reaction was perfect:  they just stood staring, transfixed.

Our next stop was the old, traditional Striezelmarkt, probably the most famous Christmas market in Dresden.  I've never been a fan of this one, and usually avoid it like the plague:  it's just too crowded, crazy and kitschy for me.  This year I was pleasantly surprised.  They've changed the layout, so it's not just straight rows of hundreds of stalls, but it's a little more randomly laid out.  Another very positive aspect to going out in the evening is that most of the shoppers were gone and just the merry mulled wine drinkers were left, so it wasn't so crowded. 
I particularly liked the fairy tale area, here you can see the wicked witch's house from Hänsel and Gretel.  I also spotted Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Hedgehog and the Hare and several other fairy tale characters.
This decoration is sort of funny and sort of troubling:  this is above a butcher's stall, and it appears that the cheerful pig has stolen Santa's sleigh from Rudolph and is getting the hell out of Dodge. 

 I'm always a sucker for the giant lit-up rotating pyramids!
 After perusing the Striezelmarkt, we continued on to Prager Straße, where I had a very special mission.  One of my students told me that there's a very American-style Christmas tree there, so I had to check it out and see if I could confirm her claims.  This is it, and while I don't think the tree itself is particularly American, I do think figures similar to those around the base (the snowmen and polar bear) most likely could be spotted in yards around the United States.
 Finally we walked to the Neumarkt, near the Frauenkirche.  I love photographing the Frauenkirche because on my first visit to Dresden, it was just scaffolding, and over the years I've observed it and the area around it being rebuilt.  The market on the Neumarkt is more low-key than the others and is decorated mainly with Herrnhuter stars, as you can see above.  I found it very pretty and quiet.
Not too far from the Neumarkt was our last stop, a small market in a narrow alley in the Altstadt.  There were still several merry drinkers underway here, as you can see.  It was a bit shocking and loud after the quiet, lovely Neumarkt, but also a fine way to end the evening!

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