(Pennsylvania Florist’s) Christmas Vacation

Alas, the holiday season is coming to a close. Let’s bid it adieu with a virtual tour of Europe’s famous Christmas markets, courtesy of Kathy Dudley, owner of The Bloomery in Butler, Pennsylvania.

She shared some fabulous photos and observations that Florist 2.0 readers can digest now and use for inspiration in December 2017.

F20: Can you give a summary of your trip?

KB: We left on November 30 and returned December 6. We flew into Munich, rented a car for the day and visited Neuschwanstein Castle. We returned that evening  and headed to the Christmas market on Marienplatz. The rest of the trip was all by train, which was great fun–and inexpensive!

On December 2, after visiting a few churches (including the incredible Saint Peter’s), we went to Nuremberg (Nurnberg in German), where we spent all day and evening walking the old city and visiting the Christmas market. The city has a couple of markets; one has booths from different 2016-12-02-16-53-13countries around the world. The U.S. had a booth that was meant to represent Atlanta.2016-12-02-18-00-34 It sold LOTS of Hershey candy, PopTarts, Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa, Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, Angry Birds, etc.

There was also a separate children’s market, which featured an incredible carousel, confectionary treats and wonderful handmade toys. 

The next morning, we went to Rothenberg, which is a quintessential medieval town. Their market and shops were amazing, with the main feature being Kathe Wohlfahrt’s flagship store. We then headed to Strasbourg, France. A main feature was their Notre Dame Cathedral, as well as the most incredible holiday décor on all of the streets and storefronts. 2016-12-04-11-47-23(We actually liked the general sightseeing and shopping in their shops more than their Christmas market, even though it was full of wonderful vendors and objects.) We were in Strasbourg for just about 24 hours, and then headed to Frankfurt.  

Coming off the train in Frankfurt was like returning from a time travel journey.  We had just spent several days exploring and shopping in an old village (or one rebuilt to look old after all of the bombing during WWII), right in the middle of a modern city. 2016-12-05-18-34-03It was interesting to see how the old and new mixed in Frankfurt, though, as our hotel was older and more charming but located right in the city center just a few blocks from their train station. The market in Frankfurt was all about FOOD – we didn’t have time in Frankfurt to sight-see, but we definitely made time to eat at as many stalls in the market as we could.

The next morning, we headed home – a whirlwind trip!

F20: What was the impetus for the trip?

KB: My college roommate, Jennifer, and I have been best friends since we were paired up as strangers our freshman year. About four years ago, Jennifer fought a tough battle with lymphoma and WON!  Recognizing that life is short and should be enjoyed, she started to do more traveling with her family to “see the world.” One of the items on her bucket list was Germany’s Christmas markets, but her husband really had no desire to go. Taking him up on his suggestion to take a friend, she called me over the summer to ask if I was interested and, of course, I immediately said yes! 

F20: What were your first impressions?

KB: Germany is stunning – lots of wide open spaces, a beautiful countryside, and 2016-12-02-08-40-06friendly people.   We found all of the markets to be full of merriment, warmth, and Christmas spirit, despite the cold temps. Of course, that might have something to do with all of the gluhwein that is sold in collectible mugs everywhere!  Also, I was pleasantly surprised to see so much solar power being used in Germany. That was something that caught me off guard. My first impression of the markets: they REALLY know how to do Christmas there. 

F20: How did the different cities vary in their Christmas decor?

KB: Everywhere uses lots of lights. Munich played up some of its modern storefronts, with lights hanging down several stories, from the rooftop to the street level. Strasbourg, hands down, beat the others on their street and storefront décor with its over-the-top efforts that were jaw-dropping.   In all of the markets and towns, there were tons of fresh greenery, lots of mistletoe, and a strong use of natural products.

F20: Any visual merchandising takeaways florists could use?

KB: More than anything, I wish florists 2016-12-04-08-41-16here would embrace Christmas in their live greens offerings, as well as decorating the outside of their spaces and storefronts. The Europeans’ decor drew us into several shops that we might not have otherwise entered–and we spent $$$!