I'm taking a river cruise from Frankfurt to Nuremberg (sp?) in late November. Can anyone suggest what we should carry to wear at that time of year? Bare in mind that we are from Texas, and not used to a lot of cold weather. Also what are the markets like? Could we end up sick of Christmas stuff after a week?
Oh yes, it can get VERY cold at that time of year - we were there in the first week of December last year and it was perishing!
I would make sure that rather than bringing a few really heavy items, you pack clothes that you can layer, as the interior of hotels, restaurants, shops and museums are centrally heated: thus, you need to be able to 'add and subtract' clothes accordingly. I would also invest in some good thermal underwear which works like a charm: if you can't find this easily in Texas, then go shopping when you arrive (try department stores or alternatively skiwear shops for the 'rolls royce' thermals, which are worth every penny if you're not used to cold weather. Obviously a thick jacket is non-negotiable (we bought ski gear for half nothing on EBay).
Something else to remember is that you can get very cold through your feet. Snow isn't so much the problem as rain (or the slush that snow generates as it melts), so be sure to pack thick socks (or again by some thermal ones), layer with a thinner pair underneath and make sure that your footwear is waterproof - I used hiking boots, and they were absolutely fine, as well as being ideal for a city best explored on foot. Then of course the other usual cold weather precautions: hat (which covers ears), scarf, gloves ...
The Christkindlmarkt is very special - obviously it depends on how much of a Christmas junkie you are, but it's generally held to be one of the best in Europe, and has a separate children's market as well. I particularly like it because the locals come out at night to meet their friends and slug back steaming glasses of gluhwein, so it's not just for tourists. You just need to check when it starts - it started on 26 November last year (see website details - yes, the market has its own website! - on my Nuernberg travel page). Crowds shouldn't be an issue except perhaps for the opening ceremony and then closer to Christmas itself.
However, the Christkindlmarkt is only one of Nuernburg's many charms, so I think there's little chance of being bored. It is a beautifully preserved medieval town, and just walking around is a delight: even better if you duck off into one of the many restaurants and taverns (there's a great deal of good eating and drinking to be done in Nuernburg!)
There are lots of historic buildings and museums - too many to mention, but I particularly like the Toy Museum, which has a very interesting display of tin toys (which were a local speciality). The painter Albrecht Duerer's House is also a 'must', and gives you a good historical perspective as well as showcasing his work.
One of the most interesting aspects of the city is its tortured 20th century history: as you probably know, Hitler particularly favoured it, and you can still visit the remains of the Nazi showgrounds and the Grosse Strasse ('Big Road') along which the troops paraded. The museum in the Nazi archives is fantastic (and not as dull as it sounds) and you can also visit the place where the Nuernburg trials took place after the war. I really admire the impartial frankness with which the city deals with this less savoury period of its history, and it is an interesting counterpoint to the classic medieval aspects of the city.
Lastly, if you get bored, it's only a 30 minute train ride to gorgeous Bamberg - a smaller and beautifully preserved town. The train station is just outside one of the old city gates, so this is a very manageable option without having to go on an expensive tour.
Just a word of warning if you're looking for information on VT for German destinations: the VT website search function doesn't deal well with the 'umlaut' (a 'u' with two little dots on top) and this can be very frustrating for non German speakers. In German, the umlaut can also be written 'ue', so you need to search for Nuernberg.
More on all of these options (and more) on my Nuernberg travel page.
Happy planning and enjoy this very special city!
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The locals use the Christmas markets for buying Christmas gifts in second place only. The most important thing are the food and mulled wine stalls. For a month these stalls replace normal cafés as the place to go for lunch, and after work people congregate there for another cup of mulled wine and something to eat.
That is why you really need, as already recommended, warm shoes. If you have no proper winter boots hiking boots are indeed a very good choice because they have thick soles, so you can stand around on cold ground while chatting, drinking and eating...
If you just walk around for shopping you really get sick of the markets after a week - but with the over-all things on offer at least the locals do not get tired of them. And believe me, you need the mulled wine for staying warm ;-))
In Nürnberg BTW they have a special kind of mulled berry wine, and almost everywhere alcohol-free punch options are available, so you do not stumble around drunken for the entire week ;-)
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We are from Texas as well and have done three Nov/Dec river cruises (last year Passau to Budapest over Christmas in the snow). As to clothes, I would not worry too much. We do not have boots or anything fancy. Wore sneakers and, when very cold, double socks (bring enough socks). Feet got a little damp at times with the snow, but not worth investing in a pair of fancy boots that all of the folks from up north seemed to have. Layered, as someone else suggested -- T-shirt, then long sleeved shirt or sweater, then heavy (for Texas) coat. No long undies, though if you have a set of silk, may be worth taking. On a lot of the tours you will be taking you will probably be outside and inside, so you have to keep in mind not being too hot for the inside part. Wore a knit hat and cheap lined gloves. Check the weather before you leave to see how low the temps will get. We like just walking through the Christmas markets, even though they are a very mixed bag. Large/small; local crafts to imported junk. But the markets for us and I suspect most people are not really a destination, they are just part of the ambiance, like looking at the decorations in NY, that give a flavor to these places at this time of year. Other than places like Nuremberg, Salzburg and Cologne, where there are very big markets, we might spend only 1/2 hours wandering through as we are seeing the town. If you drink, be sure to try Gluhwein. Most of the markets have their own special cups, and you get it refilled when you want a new drink (even if you are at a different stall in the market). Can turn in for deposit when you are done or keep as souveneir. Yummy. Nuremberg has one of the best markets.
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