Whenever the calendar marks the start of December in a year, my mind and heart automatically switch to a festive mood. Twinkling lights all around, big Christmas trees and discounts in shopping malls signals that Christmas is on its way. It is not only on 25th, but every day in the month of December becomes a celebration in small and varied ways. I celebrate in December mostly by seeing a new place every year. Once I went to Goa in India, once to the leaning tower of Pisa in Italy, once to a Christmas village in Switzerland and another year I explored the Christmas market in Strasbourg in France, which is one of the oldest and biggest Christmas markets in Europe. Today I will share with you all my experience of visiting the Christmas market (or as the French say “Marche de Noel”) in Strasbourg.
Train from Mullhouse to Strasbourg
It was the last week of December, sometime after Christmas on a chilled morning, we caught a train from Mullhouse to Strasbourg, two nearby cities in northeastern France. As I looked out of our train, everything was covered under a thick blanket of snow. The snow was falling incessantly and was imparting a glitter to everything it settled on. It seemed nature was also in a festive mood. I was enjoying the whitened landscape.
After a couple of hours we reached Strasbourg.
Although I was wearing gloves, but still felt a numbness in my hands due to the freezing temperature. It was -10 degree Celsius that day.
But the warmth inside my heart surpassed my logical mind and encouraged me to keep going. I took my camera, collected a map to locate almost 300 stalls spread over the city and started seeing, exploring and clicking.
Christmas market outside the Strasbourg Station
At a stone’s throw distance from the Strasbourg train station, we saw some emblematic wooden huts of the Christmas market, selling various crafts. We meandered our way through the cobbled streets to reach numerous town squares hosting the Christmas market.
On the way we came across many picturesque places. When I reached the Barrage Vauban to cross the river Ill, the sunshine felt delicious.
Christmas market in Petite France
Walking through the Christmas market huts of Petite France, which forms part of the UNESCO world heritage site of Grand Ill, was like walking through poetry. The half-timbered houses dating back to Renaissance were decorated with flowers, some men were playing violin beautifully and happy faces all around were in a soothing harmony.
Strasbourg Cathedral during Christmas
After walking few more yards we reached the cathedral of Notre-Dame or the Strasbourg cathedral, made in remarkable gothic style and was the was the world’s tallest building from 1647 to 1874 (227 years). Victor Hugo described this cathedral as a “gigantic and delicate marvel” and Goethe expressed it as a “sublimely towering, wide-spreading tree of God”.
Just outside the church we indulged ourselves in hot mulled wine, which is a traditional drink for Christmas. After finishing the drink we kept our glasses as a souvenir of the Strasbourg Christmas market.
I was enjoying the whole atmosphere. People were enjoying, tasting wine, buying traditional Christmas gifts, taking pictures and making memories.
How the clock ticked we had no clue; twilight was a few minutes away by then. The facade of the Cathedral was glowing gold at dusk and words are not enough to express its beauty.
After spending some time outside the cathedral we entered inside. It was decorated beautifully with stories from the Bible. I was touched by seeing little Jesus on the portrayal. Instantly I remembered a quote from A Christmas Carol,
For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty founder was a child himself.
Stories from the bible was portrayed inside the Strasbourg cathedral
Christmas tree in Place Kleber
When we left the cathedral, twilight melted into a gorgeous evening and we headed towards Place Kleber, which is the largest square at the center of the city of Strasbourg. I was feeling terribly cold and was taking shelter on and off on the shop premises of luxury brands located on the square. But then when I saw the beautiful and real Christmas tree, with twinkling lights, I was awestruck.
Later on I came to know that this tree comes from the Vosges mountains and is erected every year in Place Kleber where inhabitants deposit gifts for the poor. I was touched by it. After all the true meaning of Christmas is in the cardinal value of benevolence.
After spending a few more minutes on the square we started walking along the road. Small and cozy wooden huts of the Christmas market, streets looking gorgeous with the decorative lights everywhere, smells of various foods and thousands of people everywhere made my Christmas a beautiful one. I bid farewell to the Christmas market after buying a little sculpture of our beloved child of mother Mary and saying adieu to Strasbourg!