STUTTGART , 2 days, Hotel Unger
-arrived from Strasbourg via Kehl, Germany, 2-hour train trip, 3 connections, by noon.
Hotel Unger is in a commercial area a five minute walk from the train station, 1 block from the S-train escalator, and about two blocks from the central plaza/xmas markets. In addition, there's a REVE grocery store within a minute walk. It appears boring from the outside, but the hotel breakfast, along with all the service, was exceptional. I guess Dec 6 is a special day in Germany, so a bag of xmas goodies was hung on our doorknob, and Santa was at breakfast handing out pretzel Santas.
Each city has a special character to their markets. Here, the elaborate decorations on the roofs of the stalls were incredible, one stall seeming to outdoor the next. It was best to see these during some day light to fully appreciate the details, and I believe there were about 170 stalls, but we thought we covered them all in one day. The markets became very crowded as folks left work, especially around the Gluhwein stands. In addition, there are many shopping districts located around the xmas market area.
LUDWIGSBURG- 15 minute S-train from Stuttgart, and then about a 20 minute walk from the train station. We were underwhelmed by these small, Baroque-themed markets, along with the Palace. We missed the English speaking Residence tour, [some of the better rooms are under renovation], so entered the areas we could on our own. Obviously, it was winter, so the gardens weren't spectacular. We did enjoy the Fashion Museum. Took a taxi back to the train station [5 Euros], as we were also going to...
ESSLINGEN - Medieval xmas markets, about 25 minutes returning from Ludwigsburg, otherwise a 15 minute S-train from Stuttgart. The markets were a ten minute walk from the Esslingen train station, located in a picturesque Middle Ages village.
OMG!!!! Where do I start? These markets take the Medieval theme very seriously. In a section of the markets, all of the vendors are in period costume, selling wares as they would centuries ago. The vendors were lit by candles and wood fires. There was street entertainment, fire jugglers, a costumed parade, and stage entertainment. We actually danced in the streets to a Medieval band! In addition, there are hot tubs, to be reserved in advance. There was a children's section, with games of skills typical of the era: e.g. archery, candle-making, axe throwing. This was an incredible experience, and we spent about 3.5 hours there, most of it on our feet. As a result, we over-exerted ourselves for this day.
Mercedes Museum- was on our schedule for the next day, due to its great reviews, but we were exhausted. We needed to sleep in, rest our feet, and travel to Rothenburg.
ROTHENBURG- 3 hour train journey, [with three connections] plus a taxi 7 Euros, to the old town, 2 nights.
Book this town WAY in advance; we had to use two hotels for two nights, when booking in June. Rates are very reasonable, about $100 a night for two, with breakfast.
Rothenburg isn't a natural extension of this trip, but we love this Middle Age town SO much, it was a priority, [almost in spite of the xmas markets,] so we went out of our way to get there. If you don't want to go to Rothenburg, there are many markets between Stuttgart and in & around Frankfurt, with much shorter train rides. [Just ask Mrs. Jo.]
The market area was really packed for Saturday night, but Sunday was fine. In this story-book village, it was peaceful just two blocks from the plaza. We climbed the 200 crazy steps of the town hall, for a panoramic view of the area, but were almost blown off the tower, as a storm was approaching. Nowhere in the USA would they allow- or make you pay [2.50 Euros]- to climb these very narrow and dangerous steps. We loved it! We also walked on the town wall, which is very picturesque, and much safer. In addition to the xmas markets, the small year-round shops are charming with personable shop keepers.