Saarbrücken, the capital city of Saarland, the smallest of the German provinces, sits almost directly on the border between France and Germany, and has switched sides several times. The area, originally settled by a Celtic tribe, was subsequently taken over by the Romans, then the Franks (Germans, sort of), was part of the Carolingian Empire (French, sort of) and then the Holy Roman Empire, where it was mostly independent until conquered by French revolutionary troops in 1792 and Saarland became part of the French Republic. In 1870, Napoleon order the seizure of Saarbrücken at the outset of the Franco-Prussian war. In 1871, Saarland became part of the German Empire, which was founded during the course of the war. In 1920, under the Treaty of Versailles, Saarland was occupied by the British and the French, but was administered by the French. During the rise of the Nazi party, many Germans fled to Saarland, as it was mostly populated by ethnic Germans, but was outside the control of the national government. For this reason, there was a call by many to keep Saarland under French control, but this was seen by the majority of the resident Germans to be somewhat treasonous, and so in 1935, a referendum was held in which 90.8% of the region voted to rejoin Germany. After World War II, Saarland came back under French control. In 1954, it became independent. In 1957, it joined the Federal Republic of Germany. Whew. (Wikipedia)
We woke up on the 23 of Nov in the Mcfit/Mcdonalds parking lot (still lolling). I found out that there is CHRISTMAS MARKET (!!!!) opening here tonight, so we’ve committed to staying here for another day. (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
Yesterday we were too busy being lazy to go to the gym, so this morning, it was time to put some real effort in. Afterwards, I made minestrone soup while Philipp took the dog for a walk.
When he came back, he had a bag full of chestnuts that he had collected in the woods, which was especially awesome since I had thought for sure that we had missed chestnut-collecting-time, and so had already given up hope of having any this season. Bonus.
In the evening, we walked to the old city to see the Christmas market. I was totally elated. As with the chestnuts, I had already given up on getting to see the Christmas markets this year, since we had planned on already being much further south at this time. Even having left Berlin as late as we did, I never expected the markets to start early enough for us to catch them on the way down, but lo and behold, I was about to get my chance after all. Philipp trudged reluctantly behind me as I merrily skipped my way along our 2km walk to the old city. When we got there, I was in heaven.
One of the individualities of the Saarbrücken Christmas market is this Santa-and-sleigh thing on a cable, that zooms from here down to the square twice a day. I admit, this borders on Kitsch, but whatever. It’s Christmas. Shut up.
German Christmas markets (Weihnachtsmärkte) are straight up magical. Every one is charming in it’s own way; picturesque and quaint to the outer limits of acceptable, but never quite reaching nausea- inducing, at least not for me. German Wiehnachtsmarkt staples are things like glühwein, gingerbread, eierpunsch, bratwurst, gingerbread, bratäpfel (baked apples), germnknödel (sweet dumplings), lebkuchen (gingerbread), Stollen (the best thing ever), gingerbread, fruit bread, chestnuts, flammkuchen, and gingerbread as well as various hot dishes like mushroom pfanne, grünkohl und knacker, gulasch, eintopf, etc etc. as well as other various grilled meat and sausages and of course, beer. And the markets themselves are always set up in the nicest part of the city, like in the Altstadt, or in a square in front of a jaw-droppingly grandiose castle or cathedral. This one was scattered about along the alleys of the old city, which is a pedestrian-only zone.
I love this shit so much. I can’t even stand it. To my further delight, we also found a Ditsch in the square where the market was.
For anyone who has never been to Germany, I should explain. Ditsch is a sort of large bakery chain, with locations mostly in train stations and malls. Normally I wouldn’t go for this kind of large-scale operation, because the ingredients are always cheap crap and supporting these kinds of places undermines real bakers who are using good ingredients and traditional methods. But, in my weakness, I make an exception for Ditsch because, get ready….. because they bake pretzels on the spot, all day. Meaning, you go to a Ditsch stand, you see the pretzels coming out of the oven (they are always just coming out of the oven, because that’s how fast they get bought), you point to it, pay 65 cents per piece, and you can eat fucking fresh, hot, just-baked pretzels in the fucking subway or on the street. That is Germany for you. Pretzels are serious business here. Pretzels are another long-standing addiction and obsession of mine, so the existence of Ditsch is, for me, a sign from the universe that I’m in the right place.
The old city was also pretty in its own right; lots of small winding passageways, little shops and restaurants.
On the way back we stopped at a supermarket because I wanted to see if there was any weird beer here. I knew that the Karlsberg brewery was in Saarland, and I had it in mind to buy a bottle, but then I found Bruch beer, which I had never seen before, and which is brewed directly in Saarbrücken. I got a few different kinds, a hefeweizen, a pils, a hopfenperle, and one or two others. Should be interesting. We also picked up some tofu.
After we had walked around a bit more we went back to the bus and drank our own bottle of glühwein that we had brought with us from Berlin while we hung out in bed and watched a movie. Good day.