Thursday, December 4, 2014

Esslingen's Christmas Market and Medieval Market

"Seid gegrüßt, edle Damen!"

If you're not a new reader, you know I love the town of Esslingen am Neckar. It's like a second home to me and visiting never gets old. It's a beautiful town no matter the season, but the Christmas and Medieval Market is truly something special. I don't need to go into all the special exhibits, activities, features, programs, booths, and entertainers, because there is a very thorough website explaining everything you could want to know about what there is to see and do there. My Schwiegermutter and I did the English translations of the updated version of the site earlier this year!

When my daughter and I arrived this morning we met my Schwiegermutter and headed straight to the Weihnachtsmarkt with a brief stop at the bank and Karstadt (Esslingen is GREAT for shopping in general!). We meandered through the Christmas Market seeing many familiar stalls and making mental note of where we would return later.

Räucherhäuser - smoking houses
(incense cones go inside and the fragrant smoke comes out the chimney)

handmade soaps

decorations for your home

candle holders

products made from honey
Then we went to the Mittelaltermarkt, which is good splendid fun! The vendors and entertainers are all in costume, and I know it's early in the season, but every one of them seemed to be thoroughly enjoying their roles. They speak a combination of the local Schwäbisch dialect mixed with old German (but switch to oldish English when they hear the American or English accent so common among visitors). Don't neglect to pick up a brochure, which includes not only a map and guide, but also a language chart translating common phrases from Hochdeutsch into Mittelalter-Deutsch. It even gives you phrases you can and should use with the vendors!

Those who interacted with groups of children did so expertly, drawing them in and explaining town life in the Middle Ages, getting them involved in games, and demonstrating various crafts.
He's saying good-bye to a group of children, reminding them
to return their cups to the stand and to be careful that they don't drop and break them!

This man on stilts enchanted children with soap bubble balloons
and general theatrics
Ok, I'm sorry - I know the following picture isn't great, but the scene was so gorgeous I had to include it. This is a very old ferris wheel for small children. They sit in pairs in the little baskets, and for the pairs that don't weigh enough to keep the wheel turning smoothly, the attendants put sacks of sand in the basket with them. I nearly died from the cuteness.

Entering the Hafenmarkt I was accosted by a charming woman selling Pflaumentoffelglühwein (mulled spiced plum-flavored wine?), who lured me to her stand with a free sample, which of course I gladly accepted. It was sweeter than I prefer, but tasty enough, so I paid for a full cup and promptly burned the tip of my tongue. My Schwiegermutter had a cup of her Zimtapfelsaft (warmed cinnamon apple cider), which she enjoyed.

Then we went on through the Mittelaltermarkt to explore the booths.

more Met (pronounced "mate") - it's wine/beer made from honey

This is the public bath. Although we didn't see anyone in it today,
it's real! One can pay to sit in the big barrel of hot water for a
middle ages-style bath.

herbs and spices

I love this old-style pottery

a booth of all things sharp - and he'll even sharpen your knives the old-fashioned way.
There's a little sign that reads "Thieves will have their fingers cut off!"

And because I love dogs...

In the Mittelaltermarkt there are craftsman who demonstrate their talents, show visitors how to do things like shooting arrows and weaving ropes, and of course, prepare delicious food.

the Zundermacher - tinder maker, who has boiled a sponge
and is shaving off pieces to work as flints.

Bogenschiessen lessons

This chap is preparing the Kässpätzle I ordered for lunch.
Kässpätzle = Swabian noodles and cheese

One thing we did for the first time this year is play Mäuseroulette. The woman in charge of the game was sweet, funny, very enthusiastic, and convinced us as we strolled by that we would love this game for only zwei Taler (medieval coins, Euro today)! I readily admit I enjoyed it, and I will play it again when I return. This is a picture of Karamelle the mouse (the caramel-colored blur) running into a house upon which my Edelstein is not. The lady standing next to me won, though.

So I have some advice for those of you who are close enough to Esslingen this year or some year in the future in December:

  1. Go to Esslingen's Christmas Market and Medieval Market.
  2. Be aware that the Medieval Market continues around the Rathaus (city hall) down a side street to the Hafenmarkt!
  3. Participate in everything possible - Mäuseroulette, archery lessons, rope-twisting, the medieval bath... If someone in costume asks if you want to participate in something, don't be a putz! Say yes!! You'll spend some money, but you won't be sorry.
  4. Go with an empty stomach and sample every dish that looks or sounds tempting.
  5. Split the servings with a friend - the Kässpätzle, for instance, is too much for one person. That way you can also try twice as many different foods!
  6. Be careful with your first sip of Glühwein. There's no warning on the cup, Americans, but it's hot!
  7. Don't forget your camera!

Tomorrow we're off on a bus trip to Bad Wimpfen, where we've never been before. The highlight of our Christmas season is always the Esslingen Christmas and Medieval Market, but we're looking forward to Bad Wimpfen as well. Stay tuned!


  1. Great blog post! It really got me excited for my upcoming Esslingen Christmas market visit. I kind of want to play Mäuseroulette now!

    1. You should! You'll learn about Mausapplaus (regular applause would frighten the poor wee beast), and for your zwei Taler/Euro you get to keep the stone you select to mark the house you choose. :-) The game itself takes about half a second, but the real fun is the woman running the show and the build-up.

  2. We're planning on going to the Medieval Market in Luneburg tomorrow, there seems to be very little information about it online, which either means it's very small, or a very well kept secret. I saw a Mäuseroulette at the Mittelalter Spectaculum in 2013, what a funny idea!

    1. Did you enjoy it? Horb has a small one too. It's quaint, and they try, but it's nothing like Esslingen's!

  3. Oh my goodness, it's real mouse?! That is too dang cute. Now I want to play! Are there treats in each house that has been paid for, and the mouse just chooses one?

    1. If she put treats in the houses where we put our stones, I didn't see it. She tries pretty hard to fill the roulette wheel before the game begins. Karamella was very cute, and had to coaxed out of the house again. I think Karamella has colleagues that switch off so no one gets too tired. :-)

    2. Oops, I mean "it's a real mouse?" Anyway, I'm still having a dense moment in understanding how it works. Is the house that the mouse picks at random the winner? How does the roulette wheel come into play? Either way, I love pet rodents and would have to play this if I saw it.

    3. I didn't get the game either until I played it! :-) The wheel of houses doesn't move. After much introduction, luring other players, explanation of rules, etc., the woman brings out a real mouse from her hidden stash, puts it in the middle of the pile of stones, and it scampers into a house, hopefully - for players' enjoyment of the game - with someone's stone on it. I'm sure there is sometimes no winner.

      You just have to try your luck! I must admit I'm not brave enough for the bath yet, but Mäuseroulette is cute!

    4. I love that the mouse is the basically the roulette ball :) What a clever idea.

  4. We have a medieval Christmas market (well, it's in Durlach) and there's Mausroulette there too! No genuine bath house, though. But it's only a little market.

  5. I think the popularity of these medieval markets must be growing. And why not? I think they're especially fun for kids.