As a passionate footbal fan, I had already managed to put Braunschweig (also known as Brunswick) on the map of Germany thanks to the local team (Eintracht)‘s presence in Bundesliga in the 2013-14 season. However, it is not football which brought me to this city of 250 000 inhabitants located in the region of Lower Saxony, but the presence of one of my childhood friends, Gabriele, who was there for a business trip. I grabbed the chance to meet him and travelled to Braunschweig in the beginning of December. As soon as I reached the main square, Burgplatz, in a cold Friday evening, I was immediately suprised by its Christmas atmosphere.
Burgplatz, which comprises a group of buildings of historical and cultural significance such as St.Blasius Cathedral, Burg Dankwarderode (a 19th-century reconstruction of an older castle) and the Town Hall, is in fact where the local Christmas markets take place. These markets have a long-standing tradition as they were created in 1505 by Maximilian I Archduke of Austria who granted the city the right to organise a yearly market. The 6-metre tall wooden statue named Bruno the Nutcracker (Der Nussknacker) which was brought over from Thailand in 2002 welcomes visitors into the market.
Moving among the small wooden houses, it is difficult to remain unresponsive to the food on sale. The choice is varied: from the ever-present sausages served in a small crunchy bread (brotchen) to several tasty sweets, from sauerkrat to the unavoidable potatoes, from smoked salmon to spätzle (egg noodle). The traditional Glühwein (mulled wine) is the drink everyone seems to favour and whose cinnamon smell wraps the markets like a cloud. Many events such as concerts, the week of culture and the Christmas workshop for children are also arranged to entertain young and old alike. Beside the food and craftsmanship’s stands (about 130 of them), there are as well covered rafts in the Burg Dankwarderod’s moat which serve as favourite meeting place for the locals and a small Ferris wheel which allows nice views over Burgplatz and the city’s symbol, the Burglöwe statue (Brunswick Lion) sitting in the middle of the square.
The magical atmosphere of the Christmas markets seems to spread to the whole city, which registers in this period a number of visitors higher than average. Yet, Braunschweig has more to offer within its modern city centre: historical areas such as Magniviert district and Burgplatz, Altstadtmarkt, Kohlmarkt squares and parks along the Oker river which make this city an enjoyable destination not only in the Christmas period.