All the holiday fun you can shake a cannoli at

You guys feeling festive?  Christmas is somehow only two weeks away.  W00t!

Still tackling your shopping list?  Check out one of these holiday gift guides:

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(I really feel like I need a fourth gift guide to fill that hole.  Hmm, I don’t have a pet, and it really seems like all other lifeforms fit in those categories.  Gift guide for possible extraterrestrial friend?  Your pet rock?  Maybe next year.)

I found this after the gift guides were published, but Cup of Jo mentions this absolutely brilliant play tape.

On a recent podcast, Meagan and Sarah share the perfect hostess gift.

And Laura Vanderkam lists some book ideas for your literary Advent calendar.  (After I spent 20 minutes wrapping our books, Henry snuck out of his room and unwrapped HALF of ours before I heard the tell tale paper ripping.  I was not amused.)

And and for all the fanciest friends in your life, don’t forget the 2015 Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog.  The language is not for those with delicate constitutions, but I was snort laughing.  GET UP AND GET YOUR OWN GIMLET, BRADLEY.

Looking for some German Christmas market-inspired beverages for your holiday party?  I’ve gotcha covered.  (Curious about the Christmas markets?  Click here or here.)

Want to relive last year’s Christmas fun?

Looking for a kickin’ lights display in (or around) DC?  Look no further:

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For my Roman friends, I’d be super jealous if you visited the live Nativity Scene in Civita di Bagnoregio.

We made it to Bagnoregio last January, but just missed the Nativity Scene.  (Click on over here for lovely pics and parking tips.)

Looking to get something for moi?  Oh, you shouldn’t have.  So thoughtful!  You are just the sweetest thing.  But I would be delighted if you liked Roman Reboot’s page on the Facebook.  Helping you enjoy weirdness and travel-related nonsense since 2014!

Happy weekend everyone!

One Market to Rule Them All*

Continuing our German vacation saga from December.  Don’t worry, I think I only have two more posts on this.  Three, tops.

Germany’s best Christmas market is in Nuremberg.  Full stop.  I have not personally visited all the cities in Germany to compare, but that has never stopped me from making sweeping pronouncements before.

I mean, if this not-at-all-doctored photo doesn’t sell you, I don’t know what will.

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But first we had to get to Nuremberg.  For this, we turned to the ICE (fast) train with Deutsche Bahn.  We were originally going to split our time between Nuremberg and Munich, but decided to just do a day trip to Nuremberg when we realized the ICE would be a little over an hour.  (It turned out to be closer to an hour and a half.)

We ended up paying more than I hoped, but this was because we (1) bought the tickets the day of and (2) did not want to commit to a specific return train.  Trains run from Nuremberg to Munich every 30 minutes, and I didn’t want to pin us down.  If we had booked in advance and/or picked specific trains, the ticket would have been much cheaper.  I didn’t want to book in advance because we were playing the weather by ear.  It would have been nicer to get a cheaper ticket, but I figure we paid a premium for the flexibility and for not having to deal with schlepping all of our stuff to a different city for an overnight.  Twice actually because we would have had to return to Munich for the flight.

We opted for reserved seats on the way there, but we would have been OK without it.  We didn’t have any trouble getting seats on the return.

They have ticket kiosks which are very easy to use, but after having some questions, we opted to speak to a real person.  I was excited that I could have conducted the whole thing auf Deutsch!  I eventually asked the guy if we could switch because it was easier consulting with James in English without first having to translate everything.

I hoped Henry would be more jazzed about the train.  I mean, he was excited, but the countryside looked sort of drab and gray on the way there and pitch black on the way back.  He was more into making his dad walk him all over the train.

I will say, preparing to exit the train with the kids and our day trip gear was a little stressful.  The train doesn’t stop for long at each station.  This is great for speeding along on your trip, but less great when you are like CRAP-I-have-to-grab-all-the-bags-and-stuff-kids-in-coats-and-AHHH.  But it all worked out.

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Munich Hauptbahnhof

Nuremberg on its own is an insanely cute German town.  Cobblestones, river running through it, fachwerk, pedestrian zones.  I don’t think I appreciated just how nice of a place it was on its own when I saw it ten years ago.

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The market completely fills the main square.  There are also a few side markets.

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Don’t stare directly into the eyes of the creepy children on top

We enjoyed the heidelbeer gluhwein.  We really enjoyed the nurnberger bratwurst and hazelnut strudel.

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Here’s the famous fountain, the Schöner Brunnen.

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Spin the golden ring for a wish to come true.

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Kaiserburg, the castle, is a hike up the hill.

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After hunting for some kid-friendly tips on the internets, we had an afternoon tea at Cafe Violetta.  (Nuremberg also has a train museum and toy museum that sounded pretty cool for kids, but we didn’t get to those.)  At first, I worried that we made a terrible mistake.  Downstairs is like a cross between an antique store and a fancy coffee shop. The cafe is kind of like being in your cozy Aunt’s house or maybe a common room at Hogwarts.  Plush furniture that doesn’t match, but it goes.  Nooks and alcoves.  It looked great, but not for kids.

Eventually, we found the train table upstairs.  We stalked the squashy couch beside it and eventually had a great time unwinding after being out in the cold drizzle.  Henry was obsessed with the table.  It may have been his favorite thing of the entire trip.  This is why two year olds make crappy tourists.  I could show him the Sistine Chapel and he would probably be like oooo is that a light switch?  (Mac would probably be like LUNCH.  I remember in either first or second grade, the Sistine Chapel National Geographic one was super scandalous.  It was definitely passed around the room and whispered about.)

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And here is the market stretching as far as the eye can see.

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It was a cold and drizzly day, but I’m glad we went.  It’s funny; when I walked around Nuremberg as a student more than ten years ago, I never really thought ahead to what the future might bring.  I didn’t picture some day returning and trying to show my two kids around this market that I loved so much.  Even though I didn’t picture it, I’m glad we were able to make it happen.  Now I’ll just have to bring them back when they can actually appreciate it!

*Only meant to be a silly Lord of the Rings reference.

Hot drinks for cold days

Now we’re in it.  January and February are pretty bleak.  Christmas cheer has been packed up.  Things can be a bit dreary.  Back home, March is usually just as bad, which is even worse for me because I stubbornly continue to think it should be warm.  March, that should be spring, right?  WRONG, YOU GET A SNOWSTORM.  Hope that parka goes with your Easter ensem!

Things in Rome have been downright balmy compared to DC.  The weather claims the highs are close to 60.  I guess I can’t argue with the weather reporting professionals, but it doesn’t feel like 60.  40s and 50s, yes.  It is a damp cold, but the teens it is not.  Huzzah.

In case you are experiencing mega-cold let’s-build-a-fire type weather, consider these toasty Christmas market inspired drinks to warm you right up.  These drinks were great for walking the markets in Germany.  I think they would also be awesome on a chilly evening tucked up with a blanket.  You don’t even have to worry about paying extra for your cup deposit (pfand) and remembering to get your money back!

Gluhwein

Mulled wine is a staple at Christmas markets.  You can find both white and red, but I’m all about that red.  There are about a million recipes online and I can’t claim to have found the best one, but you are probably looking at some combo of wine, cloves, sugar, and orange.

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If you like your gluhwein with a little more flair, consider trying a . . .

Feuerzangenbowle

With a little help from wikipedia, I can tell you that this fun-to-pronounce drink involves a run-soaked sugar loaf being set on fire and dripped into gluhwein.  The main difference in the markets seems to be that feuerzangenbowle, aka fire-tongs punch, stands are usually covered with flames and fire.

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We tried it.  It was tasty.  I didn’t notice a huge difference from traditional gluhwein.  I was disappointed that nothing was lit on fire in front of me.

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The problem with gluhwein is that it can feel a little too Christmas-y.  If you want to mix up your flavors, allow me to recommend . . .

Fruity Gluhwein

In Nuremberg, we enjoyed some heidelbeer gluhwein.  Heidelbeer doesn’t exactly translate to something in the U.S.; it seems to basically be a European blueberry.  James and I ended up liking this a lot.  You could really taste the fruit.  I think this could be great with blueberry wine, strawberry wine, or any wine your grandmother would probably be really into.  I’m looking at you Manischewitz.

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If you are over hot wine, why not try a . . .

Hot Coconut

We got this on our trip to Tollwood.  I’m not translating here.  We literally ordered the “hot coconut.”  It was served in a half coconut bowl that I forgot to take a picture of.  I’m pretty sure it was just rum and coconut milk heated.  I’ve tried googling to confirm, but all sorts of delicious and more complicated recipes come up.  These sound pretty incredible if you have the time and inclination, but I’m pretty sure hot run and coconut milk together would be a simple win.

I would NOT, however, recommend that you try . . .

Gluhbier

That’s right.  I tried hot beer.  The descriptions sounded amazing.  Beer with additions of vanilla and caramel flavors.  Beer with orange.  James and I both got a different flavor.

Yeeaah, it was still hot beer.  It is not something I would recommend.  I like the concept.  Hated the execution.

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We also tried the Stachelbier.  For this one, they put a hot poker into a cold beer, with the goal of creating hot foam.  The point is then to enjoy the hot foam with cold beer.  It was. . . interesting?  There was definitely hot foam on the beer.  I would not say it created any sort of unique flavor experience, but I’m glad we tried it.

And for the kiddos . . .

Kinderpunsch

That’s right, zee Germans serve a hot punch for kids that looks like they are swigging hot wine along with everyone else.  We only got this once for Henry because it was HOT and there was the mess factor.  Henry can report that he really enjoys french fries dipped in his kinderpunsch.  Also, this is not a hot one, but Henry put a hurting on some apfelschorle, a carbonated apple drink, during the trip.

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Want to elevate your market-inspired drink experience?  Try these authentic market munchies.

Is it super cold where you are?  Do you have any favorite drinks to warm up by the fireside?  Do you have a fireside?  If so, I am definitely jealous!

I like to eat street meat

Granted, this post could have just been named “I like to eat” and it would be completely accurate, but inexplicably I ADORE eating while walking.  Something about food while on the move just makes me happy.  I sometimes joke (not really joking) that I could walk forever if you just kept feeding me things.  This is why I find it so strange that the Italians generally buy gelato and then stand/sit outside the store and eat it.  I supposed they would say they are savoring it.  I say, don’t you know you could take that gelato on the road??  Best. walk. ever.

Christmas markets are the perfect spot to indulge in an eat-and-walk.  And you can drink-and-walk too!  (But we’ll cover drinks later.)  It is pretty much the best thing ever.  It’s like the state fair, but classier and more festive.

Up first, we had plenty of actual meat.  Here, you can see me with your standard bratwurst.  We pretty much avoided the traditional Munich weisswurst, as we are not huge fans.  But we did have plenty of currywurst, which is a sliced bratwurst in a tomato curry sauce.  James also discovered a deep love for the Nurnberger bratwurst, which are smaller and served three or five to a roll.  As James will tell you, there is more surface area for more crispy skin deliciousness.  I thought the Nurnberger ones tasted a tad breakfasty, but very delicious.  There were fish sandwich vendors as well, but we never got around to trying it.

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Up next, the baumstriezel.  This was new to me, but it is not one I will soon forget.  It is basically just dough that sort of looks like it is cooked on a spit and topped with deliciousness.  We tried coconut, but preferred the simple sugar and cinnamon version.

Note the bundled toddler.  Henry will pretty much stay in the stroller as long as he is getting food.  Can't imagine where he gets it . . .

Note the bundled toddler. Henry will pretty much stay in the stroller as long as he is getting food. Can’t imagine where he gets it . . .

We also had a pretty epic strudel experience in Nuremberg.  Here is James with the hazelnut strudel.  When I ordered, the lady asked “apple or hazelnut?”  We opted for hazelnut, but when I went back, the strudel was all gone.  The moral of this story is that if a nice German lady asks “apple or hazelnut,” you should say “yes please!”

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We didn’t seem to take any pictures, but we also enjoyed french fries, crepes, and roasted almonds (both traditional and nutella-flavored).  And probably other things I’m forgetting.  You can ask James; I was constantly darting off, a few euro in my pocket and returning with something to eat.  It was awesome.

Some honorable mentions that we didn’t eat but looked fascinating.

Here, we have the schoko doner.  Instead of meat, you can see the pillar of chocolate that was shaved off into various things.

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And here, middle, you can see the marzipan potatoes.  Zee Germans are a little obsessed with marzipan and a lot obsessed with potatoes so I suppose this was inevitable.  I like marzipan as a sort of condiment to a dessert item.  This is a lot of marzipan.

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And a special note on lebkuchen.  Because you can’t mention a Christmas market and not talk about lebkuchen.  You can see some of them dangling in the photo above.  They are everywhere.  We did try an iced one.  They are sort of like gingerbread, but I like them less.  James seemed to enjoy it.  He brought some for his office and one of his colleagues who lived in Germany before said it took her back.  This is true.  Love it or hate it, lebkuchen = Christmas market.

Do you like a walk and eat?  I say it’s like a Sorkin walk and talk, only better!