Soon after moving to Germany, I found out that a past colleague of mine in Hawaii lives in Zurich, Switzerland. Small world right? From Stuttgart to Zurich, the direct train is about 30-35 euros each way and takes 3 hours, or the drive is about 2 1/2 hours. We planned to meet in December for the Christmas markets in France. From Zurich, the French border is also about a 2 hours or so just like Stuttgart, just to a different part.
Upon arrival at the main station of Zürich, the large hall in the train station is the location of their Christmas market. Small but nice to arrive to. The tree was sponsored by Swarovski and dripping with crystals in a massive display with blue lights. At 9pm the market closes and they are quick to shut off the lights and close up, but we got a different non-lit view of the tree. The streets are no different. Lights hanging high as you walk through the main shopping streets.
We drove the next day to a small town in France called Riquewihr. I loved it, it is above all my favorite Christmas market town we have visited thus far. Loads of local breweries and wineries were throughout the regional drive. We will definitely return for a longer weekend to tour them all when it’s warmer.
The market small but spread out within the towns walls. The small side streets are more than enough keep your interest with Heisse Maronen (hot roasted chestnuts), ornaments, local beer and spiced spirits, honey bee candles, lavender soaps and macaroon vendors as you go. It’s more than enough to take up the whole afternoon.
Sauerkraut with Sausage (more like hot dogs) sliced inside. Watch out for the whole pepper corns!
We saw this in Germany and even in Prague but never tried it. It is a super thin cracker like crust with something like cream cheese, diced smoked ham or bacon, shredded cheese and diced onion cooked in a coal fire pizza oven. Great to share.
Beware, every place doesn’t serve them in the thin French perfection they should be. Restaurants and other markets may say they have it on the menu, but its super thick and much more like a pizza which is not right. I made that mistake in Ulm craving it after having the most amazing one in Riquewihr. Not the same. Tip: see it before ordering it. If it doesn’t look something like the above, try something else.
Stuttgart’s market Flamkuchen comes close. It was served on a big wooden cutting board in the market so we followed people in the crowd with those boards to find it! New goal is to learn the best spots for Flamkuchen Stuttgart in non-market season, or just wait until we go back to France.
The white Gluhwein was also different from Germany, much more anise in it, so good.
Back in Zürich before heading home, I also had my first Raclette dinner. A Swiss traditional experience, a mix between hibachi and a fondue party. Heat the Raclette skillet at the table, everyone has some potatoes, pickles, small corns, Gibson cocktail onions, olives etc. Everyone has a color coded cheese pan to place on the heat. Meanwhile, while the cheese bakes, on top is a grill top for bacon and small sausages. When its ready, pour the cheese on whatever you like. Great dinner party idea to have here for future, I’ll just be sure to have appetizers in case anyone (the boys in particular) is starving since you wait a few minutes for the cheese and sausages to cook. So fun.