Christmas Market Dazzles in Wiesbaden, Germany

I grew up with a lot of German Christmas traditions, and for years I’ve thought going to a Christmas market in Germany, would be fun way to kick off the season. My hunch was right: Germany knows how to celebrate Christmas in an Old World way.

Wiesbaden’s Old Town Square fills with people enjoying the annual Christmas Market. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Wiesbaden, just a half-hour train ride from Frankfurt, hosts the lovely Sternschnuppen Market (sternschnuppe translates as “shooting star”). I was enthralled at its beauty, which combines traditional seasonal décor with contemporary lily-shaped light sculptures above the marketplace. (The lily, or fleur-de-lis, is on the town’s motif.) The whole affair—wooden huts where vendors sell foods and handcrafts—is held in the old town’s historic square, in the shadow of the church, or Marktkirche.

Tree ornaments are just some of the goods for sale at the Christmas Market. ©Laurel Kallenbach

At the annual market, locals and tourists alike gather to hear live music—one night I caught a quartet of alphorns (you just don’t hear that every day in the States!)—to shop, to mingle, and to toast the season with glühwein (hot, mulled wine sold in specially designed mugs that you either keep as a souvenir or return for your deposit).

Tempting Christmas cookies sold at the Sternschnuppen Market, Wiesbaden. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Flavors of Christmas

I quickly discovered that German Christmas Markets and glühwein go hand in hand. When the temperatures drop, nothing warms you more than a mug of steaming red or white glühwein held between your mittens while you sip and chat with friends while admiring the Christmas lights.

And who can resist the aromas of cooking? There are plenty of traditional market foods as well, including bratwurst and other sausages of various kinds and sizes, and potato pancakes (kartoffelpuffer) served with applesauce.

The Germans are passionate about sausages. Giant grills cooked all types of bratwurst, including the long, half-meter brats (cut in half to fit them on a bun. ©Laurel Kallenbach

I tasted these yummy, crisp-fried treats with Wiesbaden’s mayor, who happened to be at the Puffer Christ’l stand at the same time as I was. Owner Christl Glöckner joined us and brought some white glühwein for us to share.

Through my handy translator and guide Yvonne Skala, of Wiesbaden Marketing, the newly elected mayor told me one of the things that makes the city’s Christmas Market so special is that the organizers select vendors who sell handmade or German-made crafts.” No “Made in China” stickers here.

Mayor (Oberbürgermeister) Sven Gerich and Christl Glöckner, owner of Puffer Christ’l potato pancake food truck, toast to the Wiesbaden Christmas Market with some glühwein. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Indeed, as I browsed the huts, I found traditional ornaments, carvings, candles, nutcrackers, knitted gloves and hats, handmade lace, wooden toys, local cheeses and game, and more. For amusement, there’s a colorful, Baroque-style carousel for kids of all ages to ride.

Presiding over all the festivities is the high-spired, Marktkirche church, built in the mid-1800s.

As a special treat, Yvonne took me to the daily weekday 5:45 organ music inside this Protestant church. We sat in one of the pews and gazed at the star-painted ceilings and neo-Gothic arches while the organist pulled out all the stops on the pipe organ. Compared to the revelries outside, it’s a welcome, contemplative timeout for some reflection on the quieter side of Christmas. Visitors are welcome to stay for the following Advent church service, but we continued out into the marketplace.

Wooden incense smokers ©Laurel Kallenbach

Shelter and Relaxation

I stayed in posh digs in Wiesbaden: the Hotel Nassauer Hof, a historic hotel that has hosted the likes of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Tsar Nicholas II, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, the Dalai Lama, and Vladimir Putin. Among the hotel’s many attributes was a location just a five-minute walk from the Christmas Market.

Another plus was that the Nassauer Hof has its own thermal spring, which feeds into the hotel pool. The result is naturally warmed mineral water, slightly salty, which buoys you up. Floating in heated water was the perfect antidote to several hours at the chilly outdoor market.

Another way to warm up during the Wiesbaden winter is in the saunas, steam rooms, and mineral baths at the Kaiser-Friedrich-Therme. This spa is built on the ruins of the ancient Roman baths, and the current baths were built in 1913, and restored for the centenary. I’ll blog more about this later, but it’s a truly unique place to visit and “take the waters.”

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

(Originally posted on December 21, 2103)

Read more about Germany’s Christmas markets:

The stage at the center of the market often has live performances, such as the four alphorn players I listened to. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Shakespeare’s Words Journey Across Centuries on First Folio Tour

Portrait of William Shakespeare in 1609

Portrait of William Shakespeare in 1609

2016 marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and in celebration of the Bard, the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.,  has launched a tour of the First Folio, a book published in 1623 that includes 36 of his plays—18 of which had never been published before.

Why stand in line to see an old (and rare) book published by friends and fellow actors seven years after Shakespeare was dead? By my reckoning, The Bard’s plays have influenced Western culture more than any other written work except the Bible.

Researchers believe that 750 or fewer copies of the First Folio were printed; 233 survive today, of which 82 are in the Folger Shakespeare Library collection.

Shakespeare's First Folio tours the U.S. in honor of the 400th year of The Bard's death. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Shakespeare’s First Folio, a collection of his plays, tours the United States in honor of the 400th year of The Bard’s death. ©Laurel Kallenbach

On the national tour, the book is open to the immortal words of Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy. As I stood over the nearly 400-year-old book—separated from it by security glass—I got chills as I read the whole monologue. Those so-familiar lines ponder questions about life and death.

How far that little candle throws his beams (Merchant of Venice)

The Boulder exhibit includes costumes worn in productions by the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Costumes worn in productions by the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Without the First Folio, some of my favorite Shakespeare plays, such as Macbeth, As You Like It, The Tempest, Measure for Measure, The Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest, Twelfth Night, and The Winter’s Tale could have been lost.

Can you imagine a world without lines such as “Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble” from Macbeth? Or “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”

Shakespeare tackled human dilemmas of yesteryear that are still pertinent today. For instance, racism appears center stage in Othello and The Merchant of Venice. We can learn as much from Julius Caesar’s chilling tale of political ambition today as people did more than 400 years ago.

Sir, I am too old to learn (Midsummer Night’s Dream)

The exhibition, titled First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare brings the First Folio to all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. The 2016 exhibition features First Folios from the Folger Shakespeare Library, whose collection of 82 of these very rare books is the largest in the world.

Anatomy drawing by Vesalius ©Laurel Kallenbach

Anatomy drawing by Vesalius ©Laurel Kallenbach

The First Folio exhibition also includes Renaissance books that were contemporaries of Shakespeare, including an anatomy manual by Andreas Vesalius, Galileo’s drawings of moon craters, a handbook of herbal medicines, Demonology by King James I, and history books and maps that may have inspired Shakespeare when he was writing his plays.

Colorado’s First Folio was hosted at the University of Colorado Art Museum in Boulder. At our exhibition were also costumes and stage weapons used by actors in the annual Colorado Shakespeare Festival, held on the CU campus.

My life, my joy, my food, my all the world! (King John)

Going to see the First Folio here in Boulder (through the end of August 2016) was the literary equivalent of the Holy Grail for me. Back when I was a kid, I used to peruse a heavy, green-silk bound copy of Shakespeare’s plays—an ancient book that was bigger than anything else on my parents’ bookshelves. At first, I trolled Will’s plays for exotic names for characters in stories I wrote.

Hamlet's monologue: To be or not to be. On the right column is the famous line: "Get thee to a Nunnery." Photo courtesy Folger Library

Hamlet’s monologue: To be or not to be. On the right column is the famous line: “Get thee to a Nunnery.” Photo courtesy Folger Library

In junior high, I named our family’s black cat “Hecate” after the goddess of witchcraft, who appears in Macbeth. In eight and ninth grade I read Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As an English major, I took courses in Shakespeare in both undergrad and grad school.

Starting in 1986, I began playing music on the lawn before performances of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival—and have done so every year since. Attending the plays in an outdoor amphitheater under the stars is a magical, annual summer tradition.

Get thee to a nunnery… or a First Folio (Hamlet)

The First Folio sign ©Laurel Kallenbach

The First Folio sign ©Laurel Kallenbach

  • Theatre geeks and Shakespeare fans should flock to the First Folio, which is on display at museums, libraries, and theatres across the country. Click here to see when the First Folio is coming your way in 2016.
  • First Folio at the University of Colorado–Boulder: August 2016
  • A full digital version of one of the Folger’s First Folios (no. 68) can be viewed in the Folger Shakespeare Library’s digital image collection.

Laurel Kallenbach, “I’ll call for pen and ink and write my mind” (Henry VI, Part I)

The Wisdom of Will:

“Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and
some have greatness thrust upon them.” (Twelfth Night)

“Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind. And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” (Hamlet)

I've always been in love with William Shakespeare. ©Ken Aikin

I’ve always been in love with William Shakespeare. ©Ken Aikin

“Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once.” (Julius Caesar)

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” (As You Like It)

“Go wisely and slowly. Those who rush stumble and fall.” (Romeo and Juliet)

“Have more than thou showest. Speak less than thou knowest.”(King Lear)

“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” (Alls’s Well That Ends Well)

“This above all: to thine own self be true.” (Hamlet)

 

 

Have Book, Will Travel

While cruising Maine’s Penobscot Bay on a schooner, this girl was immersed in a Harry Potter book. She could have been me at age eight.   ©Laurel Kallenbach

You can tell a lot about a person by their books: at home and on the road.

I have shelves of uncategorized fiction, including books I’ve read and those I haven’t. There’s a small, poetry-sized shelf for volumes of poems. There’s a delicious space for cookbooks in the kitchen. The sustainable living books are on my loftiest shelf.

And—of course!—I have devoted several rambling shelves to travel guides and travel memoirs and travel histories. All the destinations are mixed up: Egypt beside Ireland beside Singapore beside Belize. I’ve remapped the world.

Going Places

Whether or not a book is specifically about travel, it takes me on a journey—figuratively and literally. Many times, when I look at photos from past vacations, I’ve noticed that the book I’m reading made it into a picture or two.

Antigua’s Carlisle Bay beach was lovely, but my mind was in 17th-century Holland: I was reading Tracy Chevalier’s “The Girl with the Pearl Earring.” ©Laurel Kallenbach

In fact, I often remember the books I read during specific trips, either because they helped pass long hours on the airplane or because I was so mesmerized by the book that it distracted me from the actual destination.

For instance, I read The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan in Fiji. I had plenty of time toward the end of the trip for reading because a hurricane was moving through that part of the Pacific. Although the hurricane remained 500 miles from the Fijian islands, the water got so murky that snorkeling was bad. By afternoon on the remote island of Kadavu, it started to rain buckets. We were staying in a solar-lit, thatched bure; when ours got damp and dark, we huddled in the dining building, which had a metal roof and hurricane lamps. I was happy to disappear into Tan’s magical mother-daughter saga. The next day, we flew back to the main island and stayed at a hotel near the airport. There, Ken and I sat on the bed and gazed out at horizontal rain and wind as they denuded the palm trees. Escaping again into the book, I could almost forget the howling outside.

“The Traveller’s Guide to Sacred Ireland” by Cary Meehan took me to amazing standing stones, like Kilclooney Dolmen in County Donegal. ©Laurel Kallenbach

I read Jurassic Park during my honeymoon on the Caribbean island of Antigua. Ken read it on the flight east—and during our unexpected sleepover in Atlanta due to cancelled flights. Then I read it on the beach and during the flight home. (To help us travel light, we pack books that both of us are interested in. That way we swap books halfway through the trip.)

In Scotland, I read a second-hand Amelia Peabody mystery—one of a series of charming archaeological whodunits set in Egypt during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. When I was finished, I donated this one to a retreat-center library on the island of Cumbrae. (That’s another secret to traveling light: leave it behind for someone else to read.)

In England, I read Pride and Prejudice for two reasons: a) because I never had, and b) because it felt right to be reading Jane Austen while visiting the very manor houses, villages and gardens where the P&P movies were filmed.

Dove è la Toilette? (Where’s the bathroom?)

Where would we be without guidebooks and phrasebooks? Lost, I imagine. In the days before e-readers, I photocopied the pertinent pages before I traveled and then discarded the pages as I moved from place to place.

True confession: I still do this because a) I prefer not to lug expensive electronics around the globe, and b) batteries choose to die and wireless tends to disappear the instant I arrive in way-off-the-beaten-path places.

The Temple of Apollo at Stourhead estate in England, was the setting of a love scene in the 2005 movie “Pride and Prejudice.” I read the book while I was in the region. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Rick Steves’ Italy was my lifeline 15 years ago when I traveled alone for a month in the Lake District and Tuscany. I carried photocopied pages (a Rick Steves–sanctioned method), and everywhere I went—restaurants, cafés, museums, hill towns, lakes—Americans pored over the same book. The Rick Steves guide was an excellent ice-breaker: after all, you know the reader speaks (or at least can read) English. Many times I’d lean over to the adjacent table at a trattoria and start a Rick-related conversation:

“I see you’re traveling with the Rick Steves guide. Are you staying in Varenna or Menaggio here on Lake Como?”

“We got into that cute little mom-and-pop hotel in Varenna. You?”

“Varenna. That hotel was booked, so I’m staying at a nice place on the outskirts. A little pricier, but there’s a lovely garden and a fresco in the breakfast room! How are Rick’s suggestions for restaurants here in town?”

“Outstanding! We’ve been to all of them. ‘Stick with Rick’ is our motto.”

Stick with Rick became my mantra for that trip—half of it anyway. I mostly agreed with his recommendations for pretty medieval villages to visit, and I appreciated his historical background. In May, when tourism was light, seeing others with Rick Steves’ Italy was a novelty. By June, as crowds increased, the thrill had worn off and I had to get off the Rick grid for a little solitude.

For better or worse, at home or abroad, books unite us.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

What books have transported you most? Does a certain type of book work for you when you travel? And how do you read: eBook or paper? Leave a reply below, if you like…

I used the titles of books to create a little “book haiku” about traveling. ©Laurel Kallenbach

 

Shakespeare Thrives in Boulder Summer Festival

William Shakespeare discusses CSF’s production of “Taming of the Shrew” (2010) with picnickers. ©Laurel Kallenbach

To me, it just wouldn’t be summer without the Colorado Shakespeare Festival (CSF), held for more than 50 years in Boulder.

Performed in the Mary Rippon Theatre (a lovely outdoor stage) on the University of Colorado campus, the plays are always quite wonderfully produced, and they are ably performed by a troupe of professional actors.

I personally believe that nothing beats the raw excitement of seeing live theatre under the stars, especially on a warm summer night.

(Yes, there are nights where it rains, and the audience huddles indoors waiting for the weather to clear. It usually does, and the show continues where it left off.)

The Colorado Shakespeare Festival performs in the outdoor amphitheater on the CU campus. Photo courtesy Colorado Shakespeare Festival

The Colorado Shakespeare Festival performs in the outdoor amphitheater on the CU campus. Photo courtesy Colorado Shakespeare Festival

I have a special connection with Boulder’s Colorado Shakespeare Festival: For 30 consecutive summers, my wind ensemble, called the Falstaff Trio (flute, clarinet and bassoon), has performed for the Green Shows before the plays.

Green Shows are the entertainment for picnickers in the Shakespeare Gardens before the show. We musicians get “paid” in tickets to the performances.

Pre-show picnicking is another special memory. Over the years on nights that I’m attending a performance, friends and I have spread our blanket under the trees and dined al fresco while listening to other musicians. Or we’ve listened in on theatre conversations: a costumed actor portraying Will Shakespeare wanders the grounds chatting with picnickers about the play they’re about to see.

A recorder player with the Boulder Renaissance Consort entertains at the 2010 Green Show. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Sharing fresh summer dishes and a bottle of wine is a timeless ritual—and sometimes our Shakespeare festival is the only time in the busy summer that we haul out the picnic basket.

Picnic tip: If you don’t have time to prepare food, the Festival sells boxed dinners, snacks, and beverages, including beer and wine. (It’s illegal to drink alcohol on the CU campus except for inside the Shakespeare Gardens). And, it’s fun to save dessert for intermission.)

Over the decades, I’ve seen so many wonderful plays by the Bard; the Festival also produces some non-Shakespeare plays each season, such as 2009’s excellent To Kill a Mockingbird.

With great affection I look back at all those Macbeths, Romeo and Juliets, Twelfth Nights, Hamlets and Midsummer Night’s Dreams.

Picnicking before the Colorado Shakespeare Festival is a high art. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Picnicking before the Colorado Shakespeare Festival is a high art. ©Laurel Kallenbach

The plays that are rarely done get produced too, though less often: I still fondly remember Coriolanus (1995), Much Ado About Nothing (1997), and Cymbeline (2016) as among the best productions I’ve seen.

Then there are fun quirks, such as the night a family of raccoons walked across the building gutters right behind the stage. Talk about stealing the show! We audience members were pointing at Momma and her four little ones as they ambled through a scene.

Long live the works of Shakespeare, and long live the Colorado Shakespeare Festival!

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor