Naumburg (Saale), located in the southern part of Saxony-Anhalt between Leipzig and Weimar, has many unique features that are overlooked many times by tourists travelling thriough Germany. The town of 22,000 inhabitants has a cathedral (Naumburger Dom) destined to become a UNESCO site. Its historic city center, laden with houses dating back to the Baroque period, is located in the river valley where the Saale and Unstrut Rivers meet. It is in that region where one can find a pair of castles and one of the largest vineyards in Germany. The brand of its sect is named after Little Red Ridinghood (Rotkäppchen). Going west to Bad Kösen, a health spa and museum dedicated to Käthe Kruse dolls will attract a tourist wanting a quiet two weeks off, in addition to biking the Saale and Unstrut bike trails. Until most recently, it was a major junction for Fernverkehr (long distance trains) on the East-West axis Dresden/Leipzig- Frankfurt and the North-South axis Berlin-Munich.
Then there is the Christmas market. Small and located in one place, the Marktplatz, one needs 10 minutes by bike (as the author tried) or by bus, getting there is a maze, and when arriving there, one would only see this and be disappointed…..
If you are a typical Glühwein drinker, this would be the place to try the local specialties and the mulled wine, ride the carousel, have your kids do artwork at the Gingerbread House and then leave after an hour.
Some of you are probably asking the author: “Mr. Smith, what caused you to stop at Naumburg instead of visiting the markets in Leipzig, Erfurt, Eisenach or even at bigger more popular towns.” As Piggeldy and Frederick would say: “Nichts leichter als das…..”
Every Christmas market has its own diamonds worth digging for. Aside what Naumburg has to offer with its historic district and the Dom, I happened to find a couple small but rather significant diamonds worth noting, let alone visiting. 🙂 The market has not only one, but two manger sets: the one in the picture above located under the Christmas tree at the market and this one in the picture below:
Located at the gates of the St. Wenzel Evangelical Church next to Marktplatz, one will find a life-sized manger set, handcarved by wood by Stefan Hutter, a sculptor who started his profession in Switzerland in the 1980s. The project started in 2012 and has been ongoing ever since. One is greeted with church music, allowing time to look at the details more closely. The lone caveat is when you donate money to encourage him to continue its work, for if done, the music stops and you have to make a wish. It happened to me and I have yet to find out if mine will come true….. 😉
Another reason behind the Naumburg market is the legendary Stollen. Similar to the traditional American fruit cake, the Stollen is a raisin bread covered in powdered sugar, sometimes filled with marzipan (almond filling). Prior to my stop, I had learned that the Stollen came from Saxony, and the oldest and most common type of Stollen can be found in Dresden, where according to “official records,” it was first baked in 1474. Only 15 bakers in Dresden make the Dresdner Stollen today.
Common, yes, but oldest……
History takes us to Naumburg, where the first mentioning of Stollen came in 1329, when Catholic Bishop Heinrich asked the bakers in Naumburg to bake two Stollen for the Advent period, to be given to the people of the Catholic Church. The document with the mentioning of the first ever Stollen can be viewed during the holiday season in the city museum. While many historians will debate over when the first Stollen was mentioned, sometimes a little walk into history can discover many things that have the potential for altering what had been written in the history books. 😉
And then there is the Adventscalendar at the market itself. While many Christmas markets have life-sized calendars hung on the facade of the city hall, where firemen with a couple children use the lift to reach it and obtain the gift, this one is big enough to cover the wall of one’s living room. Unique about this calendar? Each day has a quote in connection with Christmas, coming from the windows of the Dom. 🙂
Apart from some murals in the market and some local foods, one cannot find much beyond that, yet when leaving the market itself, one can also find some action elsewhere……
For instance, going south along Jakobstrasse through Holzmarkt, where the market is really empty and solemn, one can find the house where Friedrich Nietzsche grew up. Nietzsche was a philosopher and historian during the Bismarck era. His house is now a museum and study center, whereas a statue of the man can be found at the market square.
As for the market itself, together with the area along Jakobstrasse and around Naumburger Dom, one could try and expand the Christmas market to make it more appealing for the tourist. While the market has events located outside Naumburg, such as the concerts, musicals and a tour of the Weinberger region, where wine and sect are produced, some of events could be shifted to the center of town, to make it lively, especially at night. But with renovations being undertaken at Holzmarkt and some disgruntled storeowners chasing photographers away, chances of that happening can only be done if merchants and locals are willing to let the market grow.
The Naumburg Christmas market is a great venue to learn more about the city’s history and its heritage, but it does have the potential to grow to become a popular attraction. This is despite the declining population and its loss of its Fernverkehr for trains (more on that here). While the market appears to be a typical one, it is located in the middle of town. With some more work, the gap between tradition and history can be closed and its cultural heritage can stick out, making it a magnet for tourists, more so than what it is right now.
It starts off with this scene, behind the St. Wenzel Church. Empty Christmas huts with picnic tables. What would you put in there to make it appealing for visitors? Maybe Little Red Ridinghood and her sect may be a starting point, especially if she want to keep the wolves from purging the huts. 😉