Old World Heidelberg Christmas Market 2011 opens November 23
by Steffen Schmid

EuropeDec11.jpgPlace this experience high on your bucket list when it comes to immersing yourself in an old fashioned Christmas. From Nov. 23 through Dec. 22, Heidelberg's Old Town will be transformed into a magical scene with Christmas lights against the snow-covered backdrop of the Heidelberg Castle. Welcome to the one and only, world renown Heidelberg Christmas Market.

During the season of Advent. a four-week period, the Christmas Market with over 140 vendor booths is distributed over six areas in the Old Town, and is open every day from 11 to 9.

The gateway to the Christmas Market is Bismarck Square. At this traffic hub of public transportation, a variety of culinary stands tempt passersby. Here begins the pre-Christmas stroll along Heidelberg's Main Street: Hauptstrasse.The first stop along the way is the small but exclusive Christmas Market for handcrafts at the Anatomy Garden, with pottery cups and mugs inscribed in almost every name, amber jewelry from Poland, and wood carvings from Africa.

Next comes University Square, and with 80 stands, it is the largest of the Heidelberg Christmas Markets. In addition to handcrafted artworks, stalls for hot mulled wine, and a wide variety of foods for all tastes is offered here. Meanwhile, a nostalgic carousel of colorful horses sprint to Christmas melodies. Around the Square are grouped the Old and the New University with their institutes of the arts and humanities and the University Museum. An absolute must on University Square is to savor a cup of original "Heidelberg Glühwein", hot mulled wine, from the stand labeled "To the Merry Christ Child".

On the immense Christmas Pyramid, significant figures from Heidelberg's history turn round and round. The fragrant aroma of almonds and cinnamon star cookies waft through the air. In the "House of Father Christmas," Father Christmas himself awaits his little guests and is happy to join them in a photo. The proceeds are donated in entirety for the benefit of social projects. On Market Square will be a stand for non-profit organizations and projects, made available at no charge by Heidelberg Marketing GmbH, "in order to emphasize the aspect of concern for others, especially at Christmas," explains Vera Cornelius, managing director of the event organizational association Heidelberg Marketing GmbH.

Directly around the corner lies the Corn Market with the Christmas crèche. This Square is especially laid out for the joy of children. Little stalls house a children's zoo where the donkeys and sheep may be petted. Stands with bio-beekeeping products,

wooden puzzles, pullovers, and baskets woven on site, offer their wares for purchase. Only a few steps further along, the Grande Finale of the Christmas stroll is found on Karl's Square, where an open-air ice skating rink stretches out below the majestic backdrop of the castle.

Additionally, this year for the second time, from Thursday, December 1 through Tuesday, December 6, a Heidelberg Castle Christmas will transform the castle garden into a market of its own. From 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., this little Christmas Market greets its visitors with selected handicrafts and specialties, musical offerings, and an intimate ambience. Entrance to the Christmas Market at the castle with concerts and activities is included in the regular castle entrance fee of € 5.00, which also entitles the ticket-holder to take the cable car to and from the castle free of charge.

An enchanting stroll leads the wanderer through the most beautiful nooks and crannies of the Old Town, from Market Square to University Square. At each different square along the way, special attractions and artistic craftworks can be admired, while the guide imparts interesting bits of knowledge about Christmas traditions in Heidelberg and the region. The tour's convivial finale is a further highpoint: a steaming cup of Heidelberg's original mulled wine.

Tour dates: the Saturdays of November 26, December 3, 10, and 17, 2011, at 6.30 p.m. Meeting point for tours is at Market Square, at the main entrance to the Town Hall. This tour is given in the German language and can be booked at other times in other languages.

Web: http://www.schloss-heidelberg.de/.

Steffen Schmid is the tourism marketing manager for Heidelberg Marketing, the marketing, cultural and tourism arm that also manages the Christmas Market, Heidelberg Autumn Weekend, and the Castle Illumination.

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